Playing with heavy hearts, Central York falls in District 3 3-A boys' lacrosse semifinal

RYAN VANDERSLOOT
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From front, Central York's Macon Myers looks to get around Cumberland Valley's Will Crawford while Jonah Burd looks on during PIAA District III, Class 3-A boys' lacrosse semifinal action at Central York High School in Springettsbury Township, Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Cumberland Valley would win the game 7-6 in overtime. Dawn J. Sagert photo

EMIGSVILLE – There were a lot of heavy hearts.

And teary eyes, too.

And none of it had anything to do with the result on the scoreboard.

Lacrosse was the reason that the Cumberland Valley and Central York boys’ teams met at Panthers Stadium on Tuesday evening for a District 3 Class 3-A semifinal.

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The Central York players, coaches and fans on hand, however, all had something else on their minds — the tragic death this past weekend of beloved Central York teacher Erin Walker.

After the contest  a thrilling 7-6 triumph by the visiting Eagles in overtime — both squads participated in a memorial for Walker, who was a social studies teacher at the high school.

“The one thing that I’ve learned over my seven years coaching is that the lacrosse community is great,” a teary-eyed Central York coach Ryan Muller said. “To have (CV coach) Phil (Helms) and his team to come out there with us for our memorial for (Walker) was great, especially to support those boys. That was great to see.”

In pretty much any other circumstance, the Panthers and their coach would be bitterly disappointed with Tuesday’s result, which ended the Panthers’ chances for claiming the program’s first-ever district title.

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On Tuesday, however, a different perspective prevailed, especially for a team that featured many players who were personally influenced by Walker in the classroom.

“Winning or losing … yeah,” Muller said. “The community, the teams and the love that this sport shows you was great. These boys have been through a lot these past couple of days. I can’t even imagine how they could try to get ready for a game, but they came out and gave it their all. We fought to the very end, but we just didn’t have it tonight.”

The Panthers seemed to be in perfect position to earn a last-minute victory in regulation. Gaining possession with more than three minutes left, the CY boys drained the clock to under 30 seconds before mounting a serious attack. With under 15 seconds left, the home team turned the ball over, giving the Eagles a chance to clear.

The game-winner: After winning the majority of draws in regulation, the Panthers were unable to get the initial possession in overtime. CV quickly called a timeout to set up their attack for what eventually became the game-winning goal by Tristan Hall.

“Their faceoff guy dominated,” Helms said. “He’s probably one of the best we’ve seen all year. We did a little bit of a switch up there at the end and we got lucky.”

Having fallen to the Panthers 7-4 during the regular season, Helms wanted to give the home team a new look in the extra session.

“We put in something new the last two practices and the boys seemed to like it,” Helms said.

Eventually Hall, who is Helms’ stepson, broke toward the goal before lacing a shot into the net for the game-winner.

“He’s normally our feeder,” Helms said of Hall. “So, I’m probably the most surprised that he took that shot. But he’s been cutting very well into the middle of late.”

Eagles join in memorial: Hall’s goal set off a brief celebration for the Eagles before the teams shook hands and headed toward the high school for the post-game memorial.

“I’m excited for our kids for the win,” Helms said. “But with the circumstances that Central York has been going through right now, it’s just heart-wrenching for these kids. I know that those Central kids loved their teacher so it’s tough to be too excited right now.”

Dayton Bagwell, Macon Myers and Jimmy Kohr each scored two goals for the Panthers, who will take on Hempfield in the third-place contest at 7 p.m. Thursday at Central York. Regardless of that outcome, the Panthers have already secured a berth into the upcoming PIAA 3-A draw that begins next week.

Reach Ryan Vandersloot at sports@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @ydsports.