It has seemed like "a long time ago" for Central York boys' soccer coach Frank Lenno. Seven years to be exact.
His Panthers last won a YAIAA tournament title in 2006, completing back-to-back league championships. Once this year's team finished off West York, 4-1, in Thursday night's tournament final, he could reflect on what it meant.
"We've had a lot of good teams," Lenno said, "but there's something special about these guys. They were together all year. They had a goal, they had a mission and they accomplished what they wanted."
It started with a Division I championship in the league for Central (20-2), which had to fight off defending tournament champion South Western along the way. The journey brought more highs than lows, and Thursday's title match was a reflection of that.
"We're just so much more composed," Lenno said in comparison to previous teams. "We've got guys who can handle the ball. We're pretty dangerous in the back, we're confident and we make it difficult on other teams."
It took a few minutes for the Panthers to make that assertion against West York, which entered as the league's Division II champion. The Bulldogs (14-4-2) thought they had the opening goal nearly 15 minutes into the match before it was waved off. Three minutes later, Erik Rishel kicked in Central's go-ahead goal with his left foot.
"The first five minutes I felt we had the majority of possessions," West York coach Dan Klinedinst said. "We were intense, winning 50-50 balls, and for some reason it just clicked off and that was Central's key. They were able to win the 50-50s. We struggled to hunt them down and get the ball back."
Central maintained possession throughout the half but could not add to the 1-0 lead before halftime. Rishel and Royce Clemens, like West York earlier, thought they had an additional goal before it was waved off for an offsides infraction. In the second half, the Panthers' advantage hardly swayed, and two more goals followed.
"It definitely picked us up," Rishel said of his first-half score. "We got a firm grip on the game, and we just held it strong from there."
The night was just the start of a long one for Klinedinst, who would later report to work as a patrolman in Springettsbury Township. The season, however, has been a rewarding one after the Bulldogs reclaimed their division championship. The run came a year after York Suburban ended their three-year reign as champions.
Up next is a District 3 Class AAA preliminary match Saturday against Northern York.
"Central is the caliber team we're going to face in districts," Klinedinst said. "We have some stuff to iron out."
If they do, Central will be waiting again. The Panthers get Saturday's winner in a first-round matchup Tuesday at Central York High School.
One worry for Lenno is the availability of senior back Kyle Smith, who left Thursday's tournament final favoring his right shoulder. Smith was given a red card during a sequence in which he lost the ball on a tackle and retaliated. His pain showed enough that the official issuing the card checked on his condition before pulling one from his pocket.
Smith also kicks for the Panthers football team, which plays its own big game Friday night at home against Dallastown for the YAIAA Division I lead.
Thursday, though, was a night for Lenno and his players to enjoy as he put gold medals around each of their necks.
"I'm happy for them," he said. "We have so much fun and we're still going. These guys, every time they come to practice, they're excited to be there. That's pretty cool when you can see the excitement way into October."
So excited that Lenno said they would practice again the next day.
Contact Matt Goul at 771-2045.
Central York 4, West York 1
West York 0 1 -- 1
Central 1 3 -- 4
First half -- 1. CY, Erik Rishel (Mitchell Crane), 22:23.
Second half -- 2. CY, Calvin Luckenbaugh (Rishel), 25:42. 3. CY, Rishel (penalty kick), 4:29. 4. WY, Jared May, 3:31. 5. CY, Andrew Starr (Luckenbaugh), 1:50.
Shots on goal -- WY 4, CY 17.
Corners -- WY 1, CY 9.
Goalies -- WY, Darian McCauley (13 saves). CY, Chris Snowadsky (3 saves).