The Red Lion boys' lacrosse team needed a mental boost to get through the final leg of its grueling six-games-in-eight-days stretch.
After having a letdown in Monday's 11-10 overtime loss against Palmyra, Tuesday's contest against Central York provided the perfect pick-me-up for the mentally and physically exhausted Lions.
Tuesday's game was a battle for sole possession of first place in the York-Adams League. That fact alone provided Red Lion with the last push it needed to get over the treacherous hump. Despite having a bit of a mental lapse during the third quarter, the Lions got the result they were looking for, dispatching the Panthers 11-8 at home and all but assuring themselves of making the Y-A League playoffs.
"We, as a team, are exhausted," Red Lion head coach Stefan Striffler said. "We are mentally, physically shot. ... We had four games last week and this is our second game this week and it's been a tough grind. (Monday), we just completely laid an egg because we were tired. It was an away game, it was non-league, so I needed to do something. I want to be in first place. I wanted to win it bad."
The two teams traded goals early in the contest, seeing Central (9-3 overall, 7-2 Y-A League) grab an early 3-2 lead midway through the first quarter. But, if there was any point in the contest where either team really grabbed a hold of the game and won it, it was the Lions (11-3 overall, 8-1 Y-A League) over the course of the final 15 minutes of the first half.
After falling behind 3-2, Red Lion went on a 7-1 run over the remainder of the half to take a 9-4 lead into the break. It completely dominated the game, constantly gaining possession off of face-offs and then taking advantage of the Panthers' miscues to build the five-goal cushion.
"They took advantage of every mental error we made today," Central head coach Tom Mayne said. "That's what it was. We really made a lot of mental errors and I don't think we played an unselfish brand of lacrosse when we got our backs against the walls. We had too many guys trying to do it all and it just led to more errors and things just kept building."
If there was any point when the Panthers looked like they flipped momentum back to their side, it came in the third quarter. Out of the halftime break, Central controlled much of the possession during the third 12-minute frame and made it count on the scoreboard. They outscored the Lions 3-0 in the third quarter to make it a 9-7 contest going into the final quarter, putting pressure on Red Lion to try and close out the contest.
"Probably mental fatigue," Striffler said about his team's lapses during the third quarter. "Because we were out of position a bunch of times and we weren't covering the guys that we should."
The Lions quickly snapped out of it, scoring the first two goals of the fourth quarter to regain a comfortable lead. But, they made things difficult on themselves down the stretch, when they were hit with six minutes of penalties at once inside of four minutes, putting them a man-down for the duration of regulation.
However, Central only managed one goal during that man-up time, never truly threatening to make a comeback. Much of that had to do with Red Lion goalie Matt Hale, who routinely came up with timely stops from shots both far out and in close. He finished with 15 saves, a key factor in the Lions' victory.
"He played lights out today," Striffler said. "We've needed him all year and he's been the guy, good and bad."
Offensively, Red Lion got a four-goal effort from Jac Gemmill, with three of his tallies coming in the opening quarter. Justin Dashler and Sam Emig each had two-goal performances, while Emig also contributed two assists.
The Panthers were led by Connor Hoch and Alex Kilgour, who both had hat-tricks. Katon Yantek dished out three assists as well, while goalie Sam Prowell came up with 12 saves.
The Lions are now two games clear of fourth place, which is the final playoff spot for the Y-A League, with just two league games remaining.
As for Central, it now falls back into second place and is now part of a log-jam that makes up the second through sixth positions in the league, all within a game of that final playoff position with just two league games to play.
Susquehannock 14, York Suburban 13: At Suburban, Anthony DeVincent scored five goals and Dorian Faster added four more for the Warriors. Collin Mailman recorded four goals for the Trojans, while teammate Mike Sipes scored three of his own. Susquehannock improved to 8-3 overall and 7-2 in the York-Adams League. Suburban fell to 7-6 and 5-5.
Dallastown 9, South Western 4: At Hanover, Josh Sebastian, Andrew Kvasnovsky, Ryan Dodson and Cade Gold each scored twice for Dallastown, which improved to 9-3 overall and 6-3 in the York-Adams League.
York Catholic 21, Kennard-Dale 2: At York Catholic, Jacob Norton led the Irish with three goals and two assists. Eddie Smith added two goals and two assists for York Catholic, which improved to 10-3 overall and 7-2 in the York-Adams League.
West York 14, Eastern York 12: At West York, Nick Cintron led all scorers with five goals. He also added an assist for the Bulldogs. Cole Witman scored three goals and recorded an assist for the Golden Knights.
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at email@example.com