York Catholic had heard it all.
They heard the talk about how they had never won a YAIAA boys' lacrosse title. They heard about how they had never beaten Red Lion in 13 tries. They heard that Red Lion had the best duo in the league while not a single York Catholic player was named to the YAIAA coaches' first-team all stars.
And in the end, it didn't matter. It was all white noise to the Fighting Irish, who spent Thursday night celebrating their first-ever league title with a 16-10 win over No. 1 Red Lion just a year after finishing eighth in the league and missing the playoffs.
"No (lack of motivation), none whatsoever," York Catholic head coach Shane Harper said after being doused in a celebratory Gatorade shower. "Eli (Doyle) was upset for five days after I told him he didn't get first team. He wanted to prove something and he did...We have so many offensive people and our gameplan was to take (Sam) Emig and (Jac) Gemmill out of it. And we did."
How did the Irish so emphatically avenge their midseason loss to Red Lion? The biggest key was their decision to face-guard Gemmill and Emig, who combined for 12 goals and seven assists in the first meeting. The strategy paid off as Red Lion's top duo was held scoreless and limited to just one assist combined.
"The attitude was that you guys (the media) all year called them (Emig and Gemmill) the best duo," said York Catholic goalie Alex Reichart, who made nine saves. "So what we did tonight was shut them off. Make them not the best duo in the league and make them not the playmakers. No. 14 (Justin Dashler) made a lot of goals. We made him beat us, but one player isn't going to score 17 goals to match us or beat our 16."
Tanner Yanick and Luke Brennan each scored four goals, Eli Doyle and Tommy Bowser each added three and even defender Zane Akin jumped in on the scoring action for the Irish. The York Catholic bench spent the fourth quarter peeking over at the scoreboard every few seconds as the time winded down to their first title.
"It's so surreal," Reichart said. "When I was out here, I just thought it's only a game. It felt like just a game, it didn't feel like a championship game with all that pressure because it's just adrenaline pumping. But then the fourth quarter came I got a little nervous and knew this was going to be it. And then banners go up and that's it."
Red Lion, which spent the majority of the regular season at or near the top of the YAIAA standings, struggled to find any momentum after giving up a 4-1 run in the second quarter. While Gemmill and Emig were frustrated at one end, the York Catholic offense made sure the ball stayed at their end of the field.
"We couldn't win faceoffs and they held possession and they're a disciplined offense," Red Lion head coach Stefan Striffler said of York Catholic. "They have very skilled offensive players and they can hold the ball and score goals...They scored one more than they did last time, but we didn't score what we needed to score to win."
A lack of confidence won't be a problem for the newly-crowned YAIAA champs, who will take on Central York for a third time next week in districts.
"They (Red Lion) probably came out here thinking this was going to be like the regular season game and they were just going to walk all over us," Reichart said. "But we knew and I knew that we had the best defense in the league and the best players on the field. Those guys (the defense) stopping them from shooting makes my job so much easier and I love them for that because they don't even have a chance to score on me and that's the best."
2016 — York Catholic
2015 — West York
2014 — Dallastown
2013 — Central York
2012 — Dallastown
2011 — Susquehannock