MILLERSVILLE — What if?
That is perhaps the most difficult question for the York-Adams League champion Central York boys' lacrosse team to answer after Tuesday's District 3 Class 3-A semifinal loss against Manheim Township.
That question is in direct reference to a very unfortunate penalty assessed to the Panthers between the first and second quarters. A random stick check found a Central player was using an illegal stick.
The penalty was definitely stiff — three minutes, unreleasable.
The Blue Streaks made sure to take full advantage of the opportunity. The Lancaster-Lebanon League power ran off six unanswered tallies to take a commanding lead. Central would only get within five goals once after that and the Panthers left Comet Field in Millersville disappointed after a 13-7 setback.
Central (17-2) will now have to defeat Cumberland Valley in a consolation contest Thursday to earn the program's first-ever trip into the PIAA state tournament. That game will be played at Lower Dauphin at 7 p.m.
Central York coach Tom Mayne declined to fault his player for the unfortunate penalty.
"That's a three-minute, non-releasable penalty and (the score is only) 2-1," Mayne said. "We're hanging in there with them.”
Three goals with the man-up advantage stretched the Manheim Township advantage to 5-1. It didn't stop there. Three more goals were scored before the Panthers finally ended a long scoring drought with just more than two minutes left in the half.
Mayne openly wondered if things would have been different had it not been for that penalty.
“I think that (penalty) was the turning point for me," he said. "I think we came out in the second half and survived. We kind of paced them. We were down six and we ended up losing by six. So we paced them. But that penalty pretty much killed our momentum and the moment then became too big for us.”
Playing against a team with the pedigree of a Manheim Township without a self-inflicted wound is difficult enough. Throw that in and it's a near impossible feat to come back from.
“They're a great team," Mayne said of the Streaks (19-2), who will face Wilson in the district final. "But I would have loved to see, if we had not had that, if we could have kept this close to the end. And we'll never know that.”
While the outcome was certainly sour, there were areas that Mayne hopes his team can build off of as they prepare to face a Cumberland Valley (17-4) squad that handed them their only other loss on the season.
“We have another game to play," Mayne said. "At least we've seen them and we've now seen this team (Manheim Township). And I remember saying to (CV's coach) at the time that we were unbeaten and they had three losses, but they were battle-tested. They've played higher talent than my kids have. So the great part about getting to this point is now we have seen Hempfield, we've seen Township, we've seen Cumberland Valley. We've been tested and I'm hoping that will be a little more of an equalizer seeing them again.”
Ryan Kilgour led the Panthers with three goals while Connor Hoch added two in the loss. Grayson Sallade scored four goals to lead the Blue Streaks while Sean Curcio and Thomas Freeman each scored three for Township.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.