Four years is a long time to hold on to disappointment, but for the Red Lion boys' lacrosse team, what happened in 2012 has never really faded away.
Nearly a dozen of those Lions are seniors now, but the bitter emotions remain from an eighth-grade championship game loss to York Catholic.
"It's always been a sore spot for them," said Red Lion coach Stefan Striffler, who was not coaching at Red Lion at that time. "There's a lot history with them (York Catholic)."
Yeah, just a little.
"We ended up losing by four goals," Red Lion standout Jac Gemmill said. "We all kind of just dwelled on it until this year."
Come Thursday, the Lion players who played in that game will be eager to finally even the score. The Lions earned a berth into the York-Adams League final at Central York High School at 7 p.m. by defeating Susquehannock, 12-9, in one semifinal. The Irish assured a title rematch that was four years in the making after downing Central York 14-8 in the other semifinal.
"This is so exciting," Red Lion standout Sam Emig said. "We knew that we could (get to the finals)."
Nucleus still the same for both teams: While there are some new faces on both teams' rosters, the nucleus of both outfits remains nearly unchanged from four years ago. Back then, the Irish not only beat Red Lion in the title contest, but also defeated the Lions twice during the regular season.
"We've had pretty much the same group of kids, like 10 of us seniors, that all played on that team," Gemmill said. "And the same goes for York Catholic. They have about 10 seniors that played back then as well."
Gemmill remembers a few details about that contest. He recalls that the York Catholic midfielders played really well. He also remembers that Irish standout Jacob Norton beat them a couple times.
For the Irish players, it was a different story all together.
“It was elation after we won,” said York Catholic goalie Alex Reichart, who played defense back then. “Pure elation.”
Teammate Tommy Bowser, who played in that game as well, recalls a few other things from that showdown.
“I just remember being as nervous as I ever was for that game,” Bowser said. “And, obviously winning. We have a bunch of pictures from back then.”
Gemmill, however, points to one other thing about that contest as a big factor — the fact that Emig missed the game.
"Sam went to the beach so it was just kind of me on the attack," Gemmill said of his high-scoring teammate.
The Irish, however, pointed out that they beat Red Lion in the two other games they played with Emig in the lineup.
Lions have dominated in recent years: While the Lions have defeated the Irish every time they've played since that setback, including a two-goal victory last month, they know that most of those contests were decided by players no longer on either team's roster.
"We beat them every year," Striffler said. "But we want to beat them in the playoffs."
Thus, the pain still exists.
Gemmill and his senior teammates actually figured that it would come down to this match-up before the season started. Many of the events that unfolded this season seemed to mirror the way things turned out back then. This year the two teams shared the York-Adams League regular-season title. As a result, they were the top two teams entering the playoffs — just like in 2012.
"Back at Media Day (in March) we said that we thought (Red Lion vs. York Catholic) was going to happen," Gemmill said. "We knew we were both going to see each other in the championship. They're a very good team."
No bold predictions: One that the Lions can finally defeat to erase four years of disappointment?
Perhaps, although Gemmill isn’t making any bold predictions, at least publicly.
“I know we’re looking forward to it,” Gemmill said. “It’s definitely going to be a very good game.”
Norton, who will miss the game after suffering a leg injury in practice last week, agreed with Gemmill, to a degree. But the Irish senior sounded pretty confident that the Lions wouldn’t get their revenge.
“We know that we can beat them,” he said. “We got off to a bad start when we played them here. We just have to shut down Jac and Sam.”
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at firstname.lastname@example.org.