DALLASTOWN — There was a bit of uncertainty surrounding the Central York boys’ soccer team heading into the 2016 season.
Coming off three straight PIAA Class AAA state berths, the Panthers had to find a way to replace a number of talented players who had graduated.
Finding the right mix of players and positions wasn’t easy, but with the regular season coming to a close, it's safe to say that coach Frank Lenno has found the right formula.
Central battled York-Adams League Division I rival Dallastown on Thursday night to close out the regular season. The Wildcats likely would have preferred that the Panthers had found their mojo a few days later.
The Panthers quickly turned the Wildcats’ Senior Night into anything but a party, quickly scoring two goals in the first 12 minutes to seize control. While Dallastown rallied back late to cut the deficit in half, the Wildcats just couldn't find the equalizer. Central eventually claimed a 3-1 triumph.
The victory secured a fourth straight D-I title for the Panthers (15-2-1 overall, 11-0-1 Div I). It also prevented the Wildcats (10-7-2, 9-2-1) from earning a share of the title.
“At the beginning of the year we had a lot of unknowns,” Lenno said. “We had a lot of moving parts. And as a we progressed throughout the year the guys have made a lot of progress.”
Alex McNair and Zak Kakos each scored goals just more than four minutes apart during Central’s early outburst to stake the Panthers to an early lead. Those tallies were a stark contrast to the previous meeting between the two rivals that ended in a scoreless tie.
“I don’t think we had that togetherness early in the season,” said Kakos, one of the team’s seven seniors. “We started off early in the season slow and had a few losses that we didn’t necessarily (want to have). But we’re at the point of the season where it’s about playing well and that’s what we’re looking to do and build upon.”
While winning the division title was important for the Panthers, taking the clash of rivals was probably more important for the Wildcats. Dallastown’s tie with Central last month marked the first time in the careers of any Wildcat player that they were able to earn even a single point against their rival.
With that history as motivation, the home team did its best to try to pull even in the second half. It took a while, but the Wildcats' pressure earned a penalty kick for Kyle Hennigan with just more than 15 minutes left. Hennigan calmly buried the attempt to draw Dallastown within 2-1.
“We scored there and, yeah, there was a chance,” said Wildcat head coach Matt Zimmerman. “And we were pushing forward and being over-aggressive and trying to get the ball back and score and it’s hard to do that.”
Dallastown found itself on the wrong end of several yellow cards as they tried furiously to pull even. Things got even worse when Central standout Pierrce Miller scored with 10:35 left on a ball that eluded both a Dallastown defender and its goalie.
“I think, especially in the first half, that we played with more emotion than with intelligence,” Zimmerman said. “And they just caught us in a bad spot. If you’re going to lose to a team, I don’t mind losing to Central. They’re a good side.”
While the Panthers prevailed Thursday, there’s a chance that the two could square off one more time with even more riding on the outcome. That would come in the league playoff championship contest next Thursday. But to get there both teams would have to win their first two games starting on Saturday and then in the semifinals Tuesday.
The sites and times for the playoffs have yet to be released.
Northeastern 2, Spring Grove 0: At Manchester, the Bobcats scored twice in the second half. Hayden Seifert had a goal and assist for Northeastern, while Jared Edwards tallied the other goal. Trevor Kern made six saves in goal for Spring Grove.
Eastern York 1, Kennard-Dale 0 (2-OT): At Wrightsville, the Golden Knights scored midway through the second extra time frame to down the Rams. Josh Smith scored the game winner off an assist from Koury Green. Lucas Jowanowitch made 12 saves for the Golden Knights to earn the clean sheet.
Gettysburg 5, Dover 0: At Dover, the Warriors turned a scoreless halftime tie into a blowout win by netting five goals in the second half. Matt Yingling had a hat trick for Gettysburg and Robert Lawson and Ryan David also scored for the visitors. Gettysburg finished 11-1 in York-Adams Division II.
York Catholic 3, Fairfield 0: At Fairfield, the Fighting Irish blanked the Green Knights. No other details were reported.
Susquehannock 2, York Suburban 1: At Suburban, the Warriors grabbed the narrow win. No other details were reported.
Central York 1, Dallastown 0: At Pleasureville, Mia Balderston scored with 7:42 remaining to earn Central the victory. Rachel Szczypinski made nine saves in goal for the Panthers to keep the clean sheet, while Allison Hameier made four stops for Dallastown. The loss means that Dallastown will have to share the York-Adams Division I title with Northeastern. Both teams finished 9-3 in the division.
Northeastern 3, Spring Grove 0: At Spring Grove, Brittany Arentz scored two goals, while Amanda Bentz added a goal and two assists for Northeastern. Rachel Reeser made nine saves to keep the clean sheet for the Bobcats. With the win and Central's loss to Dallastown, the Bobcats earned a share of the York-Adams Division I title at 9-3.
York Suburban 2, Susquehannock 1: At Glen Rock, the Trojans erased a 1-0 halftime deficit. Delaney Gross and Paige Bulgarelli both scored for Suburban, with Bulgarelli finishing a penalty kick with less than four minutes to play serving as the winner. Taylor Tannura scored the only goal for Susquehannock with an assist from Carly Attig.
Fairfield 5, York Catholic 4: At York Catholic, the Irish rallied from a 4-2 defecit at the half to tie the game, but Hannah Logue broke a 4-4 tie when she found the back of the net with six seconds left to give the Green Knights the victory in a showdown of York-Adams Division III leaders. For the Irish, Melanie Matthews scored two goals, while Eden Jahn and Macayla Welsh each scored one goal. Renee Bonner and Madeline Gangloff each added one assist for the Irish. Fairfield finished a perfect 12-0 in D-III action. Second-place York Catholic finished 9-3 in the division.
High Point Baptist 3, Christian School of York 2: At High Point Baptist, the Crusaders received one goal apiece from Mekenzie Smith and Madelyn Kruth, while teammate Kendis Butler added one assist.
Dover 4, Gettysburg 2: At Gettysburg, the visitors doubled up the home team. No other details were reported.
Reach Ryan Vandersloot at email@example.com.