The York Catholic boys’ lacrosse team, champion of the York-Adams League, features a high-powered offense littered with names that can light up a scoreboard.
Wednesday night, however, it was a name that head coach Shane Harper thinks is sometimes overlooked who provided the Irish with the energy it desperately needed.
“Drew Snelbaker should have his name in the paper 20 times between now and the end of our run,” Harper exclaimed when asked the key to victory. “He won everyone but three face-offs, I think, which in the world of lacrosse, face-offs can mean the world. And Drew was huge for us today.”
Snelbaker’s dominance on the "X" was crucial to the Irish gaining critical possessions during a back-and-forth affair that ultimately saw No. 4 seed York Catholic (16-4) edge No. 5 Hershey (12-7) in a District 3 Class 2-A quarterfinal, 12-11.
With the recent spate of wet weather soaking the grass field the Irish call home, Wednesday’s tilt with the Trojans was moved to York Suburban.
The victory continues quite the successful season for the Irish. After collecting the school’s second league title last week, the Irish locked up their first trip to the upcoming PIAA 2-A playoffs with Wednesday's win. The top five boys' teams from District 3 2-A qualify for the state field.
York Catholic will now travel to face No. 1 Palmyra (19-1) on Monday at a site and time to be determined.
Each time Snelbaker, who won 23 of 26 face-offs, or the Irish defense could win possession was pivotal on a rainy night when Catholic’s offensive prowess was nearly outdone by that of Hershey’s Mark Sickler.
The Trojans’ Nicholas Rizzo charged toward the Irish goal before faking a shot and flipping a pass to Army commit Sickler. The junior then whipped a laser to the back of the net for his fourth goal of the night, giving Hershey a 9-7 lead midway through the third quarter.
Irish start to click: It was at that point the all-league talent on the Irish offense began clicking.
Snelbaker won the ensuing draw and second-team all-league attacker Chandler Hake would score his second of the night before first-team attacker Cole Witman put a series of nice moves on his defender and scored to even the score on the next possession — another one started with a Snelbaker face-off win.
Dmitri Amalfitano, a first-team midfielder, put Catholic ahead 10-9 with 3 minutes, 9 seconds left in the third, before Sickler showed a passing touch, setting up Alex Morgret's tying goal with 1:37 left in the quarter.
With Sickler and the Trojans on the attack half a minute later, the Irish defense forced a turnover and Joey Fiorenza raced up the field with the ball. He slipped a quick pass to the stick of Hake, and a quick dodge wound up with a whistle and the Irish ahead 11-10.
Witman, who also had two assists, scored his second goal of the game to put the game in the hands of the Irish defense with a 12-10 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“I’m very proud right now. We get lined up against Hershey, a team that we’ve obviously never played but we know that they’re a huge lax program. For these boys to come out and play their best and end up with a win is awesome,” Harper said. “I’m proud of the way they played, I’m proud of the way they gave 100 percent the whole way through. They were a very, very good team and we played well to beat them, that’s for sure.”
Holding off Sickler: Sickler and a game Trojan attack would do everything they could to try and force the game into overtime during a tight fourth quarter. The Irish defense, however, proved stout, fending off Hershey for almost the entire final two minutes, limiting Sickler’s shooting lanes and attempts.
Sickler’s fifth goal of the night provided the game’s final margin with 8:50 left to play.
“He has talent, he has talent, that’s for sure, and guarding him is tough,” Harper said. “We tried to lock him off and he scores. He’s got incredible talent, and kids like that deserve to be rewarded. He’s going to Army, which he’s going to have a great career there. He’s a great player.”
Colin Kondracki scored three goals for the Trojans and Rizzo finished with three assists.
Hake finished with three goals and an assist for Catholic. Brennan Witman added three goals for the Irish.
Playing with house money: Not many expected Harper’s squad to have the success they’re having this season. That doesn't matter to the Irish, a team that relishes the underdog role. At this point, the team feels it’s playing with house money after already improving off of last year’s sixth-place district finish.
“We have a tough game against Palmyra. We’re going to be the underdog again. Even though we were the higher seed, we were the underdog today. And we knew that,” Harper said. “We’re going to be the underdog again, and all we can do is come out with nothing to lose. And we’ve got the state berth obviously, so come out and play our best and see what happens.”
Susquehannock 24, Red Land 8: At Glen Rock, the Warriors clinched a PIAA Class 2-A state playoff berth in convincing fashion.
Colin Kernan (five goals, three assists), Ian LeBlanc (four goals, four assists) and Jacob Bedgar (five goals, two assists) powered the Warriors.
Third-seeded Susquehannock (15-4) advanced to District 3 2-A semifinals on Monday and will face the winner of Thursday's quarterfinal contest between second-seeded Trinity (15-2) and seventh-seeded Lancaster Country Day (13-4) at a site and time to be determined.
Sixth-seeded Red Land fell to 13-3.
Penn Manor 9, Central York 8: At Central, the Panthers' standout season ended with two straight losses.
Ryan Fahs had two goals and two assists for Central. The top-seeded Panthers opened the season with 17 straight wins before falling to York Catholic in the York-Adams League playoff title game, and then followed that with a District 3 Class 3-A quarterfinal loss to ninth-seeded Penn Manor (14-5).
Wilson 9, Dallastown 6: At Wilson, the Wildcats' season concluded with a District 3 Class 3-A setback.
Ethan Pickett had four goals and an assist to lead Dallastown. Tanner Haines added two goals.
The sixth-seeded Wildcats finished at 13-5. Third-seeded Wilson improved to 17-2.
Palmyra 15, South Western 1: At Palmyra, eighth-seeded South Western was no match for top-seeded Palmyra in a District 3 2-A quarterfinal.
Braden Dunn had South Western's only score. The Mustangs fell to 11-6, while Palmyra improved to 19-1. South Western dropped into the consolation semifinals on Monday against fifth-seeded Hershey at a site and time to be determined.
Reach Elijah Armold at email@example.com.