The York County team in the Scholastic Division at this year’s Keystone State Games Boys' Lacrosse Tournament had some pretty high expectations to live up to.
Last summer's York County team prevailed with a roster loaded with many players who would become 2016 York-Adams League all-stars.
While that team won the crown up in State College, there was perhaps more pressure on this summer’s team, because this year’s competition was being played at Cousler Park in York County. Despite having only a handful of returning players back from the 2015 championship squad, the York team played like it had been together for more than just three practices.
Hours after defeating Lehigh Valley in a Commonwealth Division contest, the two clubs met up again later Sunday afternoon in the Keystone Games finals. Even after Lehigh Valley took a 3-0 lead, the York team never lost confidence. Instead, the Yorkers rallied back before eventually taking the lead for good on a goal by Cody Richter in what was a 6-5 triumph.
The York team finished the event with an unblemished 7-0 record.
“Just a phenomenal weekend,” York coach Dan Ruocco said. “We got down in that game 3-0 after we just beat them a couple hours ago, 5-2. And credit the kids … they never gave up.”
Unlike the high school season, the Keystone Games featured some significant differences in terms of rules. Instead of four 12-minute quarters, the Keystone Games contests featured two 23-minute halves. While the clock stops in high school for many instances, the Keystone Games events were played with a running clock.
Those rules are what allowed the York County team to somehow play five contests on Sunday. Despite the grueling schedule, Ruocco’s side never looked like a tired team.
“They played hard. Every kid played as hard as they could,” he said.
One of the happiest kids on the York side was a player who actually goes to school out of state. Trey Smith, a midfielder, attends Calvert Hall, a prestigious lacrosse high school in Towson, Maryland.
“This was a great experience,” said Smith, who will be a junior this fall. “Playing with all of the guys here that I’ve been friends with was a good time.”
Smith didn’t feel any type of panic on his sideline after Lehigh took the early lead in the first half.
“I know that they had a chip on their shoulders since we just beat them a few hours ago,” he said. “But we always knew that we could come back and compete with them.”
Youth Division: While York captured the Scholastic Division for a second year in a row, the York Junior Division (seventh-and-eighth-grade) squad was nearly as successful. Coached by Frank Corto, a former lacrosse standout at Johns Hopkins University in the early 1990s, the York team advanced to the final against Allegheny.
Despite coming up on the short end of a 6-4 final, Corto was proud of his side, which finished with a 5-1-1 record.
“Most of these kids either play in York or in Baltimore,” Corto said. “So they’re traveling a lot. And what we do is for one weekend, we pick the best all-star players out of the 100-plus that tried out. And most of them didn’t play with each other before. So it’s odd and a little different, but it’s a great way to bring everybody together.”
To underscore some of the unity that took place over the weekend, Corto pointed out three players that will all be freshman in high school in the fall — Quinten Lyons (Red Lion), Austin Sipes (York Suburban) and Connor Kernan (Susquehannock). All three, however, have played together for Team 91, which is based in Maryland.
“This was a lot of fun,” Kernan said. “To get together and play with kids from different schools was fun.”
“And we only had like three practices,” Sipes said.
“And it’s so much different because everyone is from a different school and a different system,” Lyons said. “But after the first practice, you wouldn’t even have known it.”
While the bonding this weekend was certainly uplifting for the trio, Kernan fired off a bit of warning shot to the other two.
“Susquehannock is going to be beating everyone next year,” he said.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.