Nothing about York Catholic's four-goal win over South Western early in the regular season made the Fighting Irish believe that Tuesday's rematch in the District 3 Class 2-A boys' lacrosse opening round would be easy.
Yet, No. 2 York Catholic still came out flat, and, for much of the first half, let the 15th-seeded Mustangs hang around and dictate control of the game. Then, Irish head coach Shane Harper called a timeout with his team down by one. He provided his team with an ultimatum, hoping it would provide a spark.
Based on what Harper told his players, they didn't quite meet his challenge in the designated time frame that Harper allotted, but they met it nonetheless. From that point forward, York Catholic looked like the much stronger team, eventually pulling away for an 18-13 win and advancing into Thursday's quarterfinal round.
"We were flat," Harper said when asked why he called the timeout. "Offensively, we were trying to do everything as individuals. We were not playing as a team. My message for them, when we were trailing 5-4 was, 'You have 50 seconds to get it to 6-5 and winning, or it's going to be a long day,' and it took a minute and 17 seconds. So, they knew what they were in for."
Harper could laugh about it after the game, but at the time, he was hardly thrilled. At that point, the Fighting Irish (14-4) had completely squandered an early 3-0 advantage, were getting dominated on face-offs and ground balls and were letting the Mustangs (8-9) command the flow of the game.
However, after the timeout, York Catholic went on to reel off five unanswered goals leading into halftime, taking a 9-5 lead into the break. The Irish dominance continued throughout all of the second half.
"They did a good job cutting," South Western head coach Gary Harstock said about the Fighting Irish attack. "There were a few times when their middies up top would backdoor our defensive middies and we were caught ball-watching and they would make a good cut and did a good job feeding the cutters and they finished them off."
The Mustangs had a smart game plan in place defensively that worked for much of the day. They put their top defender, senior Cole Shutika, on Irish standout attackman Eli Doyle to limit his involvement in the York Catholic offense. While that plan worked for the most part, what South Western didn't account for was midfielder Dimitri Amalfitano, who torched the Mustangs to the tune of seven goals and an assist to make up for any lost production by Doyle.
"The first goal of the game kind of set me off," Amalfitano said. "I had four at the end of the first half and that's rare, so it gave me the energy to keep going."
With Amalfitano creating problems of his own for the Mustangs' defense, it freed up the rest of the Irish offense to do their thing. Doyle did still register a hat trick and an assist to finish with four points, while Steven Nigro added three goals and Matt Cassidy pitched in with three goals and two assists.
Perhaps even more impressive about York Catholic's offensive display is that it came against the York-Adams League's top goalie, Nick Race. Race, who was voted first team All-County last week, made 11 stops in goal on Tuesday, many of which came from point-blank range. However, the barrage of shots was just too great for him to hold the potent Irish attack at bay for the entire 48 minutes.
"The name of our game has always been offense," Harper said. "We're planning on outscoring people. That's what it comes down to because we do have a solid defense, but our offense is very strong and they play well when they play as a team. ... Eighteen goals against a team like this, where they won the majority of the face-offs and have the best goalie in the county, 18 goals against that is a huge accomplishment for us."
South Western never let York Catholic turn the game into a blowout, but could never really get back to within striking distance after the 5-0 run to close out the first half. The closest the Mustangs got in the second half was three goals, which came at 9-6 when they scored the first goal of the third quarter.
South Western was led on offense by Braden Dunn and Carson Perry, each of whom scored four goals, while Justus Coury added three, Sean Wolfe had two goals and an assist and Sam Slater dished out three assists.
The Irish will now host No. 10 Lower Dauphin in the quarterfinals on Thursday, with the winner guaranteed a spot in the state tournament, while the loser will have to go through a consolation bracket to try and earn the fifth state-qualifying berth. The Falcons upset No. 7 Red Land, 10-9, on Tuesday.
York Suburban 4, Lancaster Country Day 3: At Lancaster Country Day, Blake Wallace led the No. 11 seed Trojans to the District 3 2-A first-round upset victory over the No. 6 seed by making 17 stops in goal. Dominic Corto scored one goal and added one assist for Suburban, while Riley Purcell and Austin Sipes, each scored one goal. Evan LeCates and Matt LeCates each added one assist. Suburban (10-5-0) moves on to Thursday's quarterfinals at No. 3 seed Hershey (13-6), which routed No. 14 Conrad Weiser, 15-4. LCD finished 13-6.
Warwick 10, Red Lion 7: At Red Lion, the seventh-seeded Lions trailed 6-1 at the half and were unable to make the comeback, dropping the District 3 3-A first-round match up vs. the No. 10 seed. Elijah Workinger led the Lions with two goals and two assists. Also for Red Lion, Sam Emig and Mason Gauntt each scored two goals and added one assist, while Zachary Mentzer added one assist, and Ben Hornberger scored one goal. Red Lion finished 12-7. Warwick is also 12-7.
Eastern York 9, Susquehannock 7: At Glen Rock, the 12th-seeded Golden Knights pulled off an upset by eliminating fellow Y-A League foe and the fifth-seeded Warriors on the road in the opening round of the District 3 2-A tournament. The win was the first district triumph in program history for Eastern. The Golden Knights got three goals from Dom Particelli and two from Cole Withman, while Jimmy Kurnik had a goal and four assists. For Susquehannock, Jacob Bedgar and Colin Kernan each netted two goals. With the win, Eastern York (11-7) sets up a date with No. 4 Trinity (13-5) on Thursday. The Warriors' season comes to an end with an 11-6 record.
Carlisle 8, Dallastown 7: At Carlisle, the Wildcats outscored the ninth-seeded Thundering Herd, 3-1, in the final quarter, but it wasn't enough to save their season and overcome a three-goal deficit in the District 3 3-A opening-round game. The loss for No. 8 Dallastown ended its season with an 11-6 overall record. Carlisle is 12-5.
Palmyra 19, Spring Grove 5: At Palmyra, the 16th-seeded Rockets were little match for the top-seeded Cougars, as Spring Grove was eliminated from the District 3 2-A tournament. The Rockets finished the year with an 8-10 mark. Palmyra improved to 19-1.
Trinity 15, West York 14: At West York, the No. 13 Bulldogs carried a two-goal lead into the final quarter, but were outscored by the fourth-seeded Shamrocks, 5-2, over the final 12 minutes to see their season come to a close in the opening round of the District 3 2-A tournament. West York closes out the year with an 8-9 record.
Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org.