WRIGHTSVILLE — It was only a year ago, in the York-Adams League boys’ lacrosse playoff championship match, when a key injury to one of the league’s top face-off specialists completely changed the dynamics of the title contest.
Last year it was Central York’s Kollin Vaught who was forced out of the game with a hamstring injury.
In 2019, it was York Catholic senior Drew Snelbaker, who broke Vaught’s Y-A League record for career face-offs won earlier this year, who suffered a bit of bad luck the day before his team was set to take on the Panthers in the league title game Friday evening at Eastern York High School.
An infection from a leg injury that Snelbaker suffered in football years ago required the University of Tampa recruit into the hospital for surgery that will effectively end his senior season.
Without Snelbaker, the Irish offense was stuck in first gear all night. Panther junior Brady Vaught, Kollin’s brother, dominated the face-off circle, giving his team possession after possession.
The final result was a stark contrast to the last three times Central and York Catholic met. The previous three contests were all one-goal games, but Friday the Panthers cruised to a comfortable 13-5 triumph, handing the Irish their first loss of the season.
“We knew coming in that we would have a hard fight,” YC coach Shane Harper said after his team dropped to 17-1. “Because both teams rely on getting the ball. High-powered offenses need the ball and we couldn’t get the ball. Brady Vaught tore us apart.”
The Panther defense, coming off an impressive showing in a 10-4 victory in the semifinals against Susquehannock, held the Irish to just one goal over the first three quarters.
“I’ve been preaching to the defense for the past 12 months now,” CY coach Ryan Muller said after his team improved to 15-2. “Ever since we lost the last one (against York Catholic), I kind of felt like the defense let us down a bit. And defense wins championships.”
The CY defense owes a big debt of gratitude to Vaught for limiting YC’s opportunities. With players such as Cole Witman, who wore Snelbaker’s No. 11 jersey as a tribute to his teammate, Chandler Hake, Brennan Witman and others, the Irish average more than 13 goals a contest.
Even without a standout such as Snelbaker on the field, Harper was clearly disappointed with his team’s performance through the first three quarters.
“How can none of us be here right now,” Harper said to his team. “I know that one of us (Snelbaker) is not here, but how can none of us be here? So that was the message to them. We’re not a one-person team and we need to start acting like it.”
The Panthers took advantage of YC’s woes with possession by patiently waiting for open looks and taking advantage of them when they got them. Ryan Kilgour finished with five scores, while Matt Hawksworth and Ryan Fahs added a pair apiece.
“We just kind of looked for our opportunities,” Kilgour said.
After suffering some heart-wrenching overtime losses to the Irish in the past two meetings, Kilgour and his fellow seniors weren’t about to allow it to become three times in a row.
“We’ve been talking about this game for four years now,” Kilgour said. “And that’s what we’ve been talking about all week. Those three years brought us up to today and we accomplished what we wanted to. We knew that we could do it.”
Chandler Hake led the Irish with two goals.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.