Shortly before its District 3 Class 4-A opening-round contest, the Central York boys' soccer team had its coach, Frank Lenno, befuddled.
The Panthers’ demeanor had their coach unsure about where his team was mentally for the postseason contest.
He shouldn’t have worried.
The seventh-seeded Panthers (18-3-1) scored just seconds into the match and went on to defeat 10th-seeded Mechanicsburg, 4-1, Tuesday night at Central. This year’s York-Adams League playoff runner-up will now face second-seeded Wilson, a 6-5 overtime winner over 15th-seeded Conestoga Valley, in the second round Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at Hersheypark Stadium. Wilson is 17-3-2.
“I don’t know whether coach knew what to think,” said Central’s Pierrce Miller, who scored twice and added an assist to lead the triumph. “But we knew what the expectations were and what we had to do to win. I think everyone was just focusing on what we had to do to win, and that’s why we were so quiet.”
It was Miller who started the scoring. He took control of a free goalie kick from teammate Kam Stoll, worked free in front of Mechanicsburg’s net and rifled a shot past goalie Ryan Alvey.
“I thought we were a couple of minutes into the game,” Miller said. “I didn’t realize it was that quick (just 14 seconds into the contest). But that’s what we try to do, get a couple of early goals and take control.”
It was just the start Lenno, whose squad has just seven seniors, had hoped to get.
"We lost to a quality Gettysburg squad (in the York-Adams title match), who I think is going to make some noise in 3-A. They had a lot of pace and they were tough to handle, but these kids were very calm and cool and confident before this game,” Lenno said. “They were very quiet and I wasn’t sure if I should be screaming at them to get them ready to play or if they knew exactly what was going on, and they did.
“They came out on fire and linked a million passes in a row. They were excited to play and finished balls off early in the game, and when you do that, it puts a lot of pressure on the other team.”
Mechanicsburg would rebound and tie the score at 1-1 on a free kick by Nathan Mayernick 13 minutes into the contest after a foul was called on the Panthers. But that’s all the Wildcats would muster. They were held to four shots on goal — all in the first half.
Miller would put Central in front for good at the 22:42 mark of the first half with his second goal — also unassisted. Five minutes later, Trace Becker would get into the act as he scored on an assist from Miller to give Central a 3-1 halftime advantage.
“We had a lot of chances, and we usually do have a lot of chances,” Lenno said. “The question always is: 'Do you bury your chances and do you make their backs defend on a consistent basis.' If the backs can see in front of them the whole game, then it’s going to be easy for them. But if you make them turn and guys are getting in behind them, then they’ll struggle with our pace up top and that’s what happened.
“I thought Trace (Becker) was phenomenal. He pretty much set the tone of the game with his ability on the ball, but overall I think we did a good job as a group. They know what they have to do, so if everybody pitches in we’ll be successful, and we were.”
Senior Carter Luckenbaugh, the Panthers' top scorer this season, agreed. And after reaching the district final last year, Luckenbaugh didn’t want his season and career to end abruptly in the opening round.
“We expected it to be a tight game … we had hoped for a couple of early goals and that helped a lot. We know it’s just one game at a time now, so that’s the way we’re approaching districts,” he said.
The Panthers’ final goal came at the 29-minute mark of the second half when sophomore Alex McNair scored off an assist from Becker.
“Mechanicsburg is a good team,” Lenno said. “They were dangerous off the throw, and they could score any second off a throw, but we did a good job in the box."
Red Lion 1, Reading 0: At Reading, the 14th-seeded Lions upset third-seeded Reading in a District 3 Class 4-A first-round battle. Cameron Gebhart's penalty kick with 6:31 left in the first half was the difference. Brock Gould had four saves for Red Lion. Red Lion improved to 13-5, while Reading finished 13-5-1. Red Lion will now play Saturday at 7 p.m. at Cedar Crest High School against 11th-seeded Elizabethtown, which upset sixth-seeded Warwick on Tuesday, 2-1. E-Town is 17-3-1.
Cumberland Valley 3, Dallastown 2: At CV, the 13th-seeded Wildcats gave the fourth-seeded Eagles a strong battle, before falling in a District 3 Class 4-A first-round contest. Dallastown finished at 10-7-2. CV improved to 13-5.
Hempfield 3, Dallastown 2 (OT): At Hempfield, the ninth-seeded Wildcats dropped an overtime verdict in a District 3 Class 4-A opening-round tussle vs. eighth-seeded Hempfield. Dallastown finished the season at 12-9. Hempfield improved to 11-6-2. Lillian Jamison had both Dallastown goals. Allison Hameier made 12 saves in goal for the Wildcats.
Central Dauphin 6, Central York 1: At CD, the Panthers' season came to an end with a District 3 Class 4-A first-round setback. Central York, the York-Adams League champion, finished 11-10-1. CD improved to 20-0-1. Central York came in seeded 15th, while Central Dauphin is seeded second.
Gov. Mifflin 9, Red Lion 0: At Gov. Mifflin, the home team overwhelmed 10th-seeded Red Lion in a District 3 Class 4-A match. Red Lion finished at 11-7. Gov. Mifflin, seeded seventh, improved to 15-7.
Lancaster Catholic 2, Biglerville 2 (Lancaster Catholic wins 3-1 in shootout): At Biglerville, the eighth-seeded Canners lost a heartbreaker on their home turf in a District 3 Class 2-A opener vs. the ninth-seeded Crusaders. Carly Stoner and Kendyll Fissel scored for the Canners. Biglerville finished 10-9. Lancaster Catholic improved to 10-9.
Reach George Hammond at email@example.com.