It was a moment Chandler Hake had been waiting a year for.
He and his York Catholic boys’ lacrosse teammates vividly remembered falling to Central York in the 2017 installment of the York-Adams League playoff championship game.
To hear them say it, the Irish were "hungry" for Friday's rematch.
Further fueling their desire to defeat the Panthers was the fact that the Irish suffered a tough one-goal loss in their first crack at exacting revenge when the two met during the regular season.
So, when Hake found himself racing down the right side of the field with the ball in his stick during overtime Friday night at Horn Field in Red Lion, there was little hesitation in his mind.
Hake darted toward Central keeper Blaze Hake and, as a couple Panthers defenders collapsed on him, Hake fired off his fifth goal of the game to give the Irish (13-4) a thrilling 13-12 victory. The win clinched the first Y-A title for the Irish since 2016. It also handed the Panthers their first loss of the year after 17 straight victories to begin their 2018 season.
“We got the turnover, got the save and they threw the ball down. As soon as I got that ball on my stick, and I saw what was in front of me, I knew I was going straight to the goal,” Hake said. “We wanted it so bad. … We were coming into this full force and ready. We wanted this since last year. Last year, we started saying we’re title hungry. And that’s been our motto the whole year.”
Hake’s heroics might not have happened had it not been for a big save from Irish goalie Jarred Kohl just before the Irish pushed the ball ahead to Hake in transition.
Furthermore, it was Central York’s Ryan Fahs who nearly spoiled the night for the Irish all together.
Cole Witman and Dimitri Amalfitano scored two minutes apart to give York Catholic its first two-goal lead of the game with 6 minutes, 24 seconds left to play at 12-10 before the Irish began killing as much clock as possible with each possession.
Fahs potted his third goal of the night with 1:55 left to play that pulled the Panthers to within one. His fourth of the night would tie the game with 17 seconds left in regulation. He also had a pair of assists.
Irish go on a run: York Catholic head coach Shane Harper takes pride is his team's offensive ability to score in bunches once it gets rolling. But even the Irish bench boss couldn’t explain what was behind a critical run Friday night.
With the Panthers up 9-4 late in the first half, that Irish offense got things going with a goal from Witman with 12.7 seconds left before halftime.
That set off a 5-0 scoring spree that culminated with a nice marker from Matt Cassidy. The Irish attacker zigged and zagged his way from behind the net and past his defender to a space in front, where he absorbed contact while ripping home his only score of the game.
“I have no idea,” Harper said when asked what suddenly clicked for his team. “We were extremely flat at the beginning of the game and they were extremely energized and we couldn’t match it. And it took us until the third quarter until we could match it.”
“I’m proud of the fact that we didn’t quit. In the world of lacrosse, 4-1 is a big deficit,” Harper said. “And early in the season we were down 6-2 to Susky and we couldn’t bring it back. (Friday) We didn’t give up, we kept our emotions in check and for us not to give up, that was awesome.”
Panthers lose top talent Vaught: The Irish scoring spree was enabled in part by a bit of bad luck for the Panthers. Shortly after winning the draw to open the second half, Central’s all-county face-off, get-off specialist Kollin Vaught went to the ground with an apparent lower-body injury 15 seconds in.
That allowed Catholic’s Andrew Snelbaker, widely considered the next-best FOGO in the area to Vaught, a little more opportunity to do his thing. That led to the Irish controlling possession throughout much of their offensive outburst.
Vaught did not return to action and was utilizing crutches afterwards. His status for the upcoming District 3 playoffs remains unclear. Thankfully for the Panthers, they have a little extra time for Vaught to heal. They are the top seed in the Class 3-A bracket and earned a first-round bye.
“We don’t know, we’ve just got to wait a couple days and see how it loosens up. We’ll see,” Central York head coach Ryan Muller said of the specifics of Vaught’s injury.
“You saw his brother, Brady, stepped up, and he did just fine. He won us the face-off in overtime and we just didn’t execute. It came down to executing and we just didn’t tonight," Muller continued. "They played a great game, they deserve the credit. They came out in the second half energetic and put some on the board. This game is all about momentum and they had it tonight.”
Alex Kilgour’s hat trick goal gave Central a temporary 10-9 lead after three quarters, but Hake answered with 10:25 left to play, setting up the frantic finish.
Central builds early lead: While dominating its way through the York-Adams regular season, Central was sometimes a team that started slow before an offensive explosion of its own would create the winning momentum.
Not Friday night. Central came out aggressive early before falling a little flat, according to Muller.
The Panthers looked as though they might roll early. Alex Kilgour scored consecutive goals to touch off a first quarter that saw his brother Ryan and Fahs add goals for a 4-1 lead.
Vaught had even gotten in on the scoring act when Central clicked in the opening half, winning a draw and racing down to tally the Panthers' ninth on the night with 34.7 seconds left before halftime.
“We’ve been preaching since the beginning that we’ve got to win together and lose together,” Muller said. “We got a little selfish for about a quarter and a half and let them back in the game. We just got to play together, that’s all, just play together.”
Witman finished with four goals and two assists. Cassidy and Amalfitano each added three assists to their victorious efforts as well.
Districts next: Next up for the league-champion Irish is a District 3 Class 2-A first-round game Monday that will see No. 4 York Catholic hosting No. 13 West York on Monday at 5 p.m.
The Panthers will enter the Class 3-A bracket at the top seed and have a first-round bye. They will face the winner of No. 8 Governor Mifflin (12-5) and No. 9 Penn Manor (12-5) in a quarterfinal contest on Wednesday at 7 p.m. on the turf at Central York.
— Reach Elijah Armold at firstname.lastname@example.org