Greg Winter might have been the only person in the stadium Tuesday who didn't know how much time was left in the Public League boys' soccer final.

At one end of the field, Central fans called out the diminishing numbers as they flashed on the scoreboard. At the other, Northeast coaches frantically waved their players forward.

In the middle of it all, Winter, the Central goalkeeper, couldn't spare a look at the clock.

So when the whistle blew to end Central's 1-0 win at Northeast's Charles Martin Stadium and give the Lancers their first Public League title since 2001, his first reaction was surprise.

And then relief.

Top-seeded Northeast (10-2-1), the defending champion, took two corners in the final minute, the last of which was still rolling around in the box when the game ended.

"It was a weight off my chest," Winter said.

The best of Winter's 10 saves came in the closing minutes as he leaped to his right to nudge a head-high shot from the Vikings' Tyler Gormley over the crossbar.

The Vikings kept third-seeded Central (11-7) hemmed in its own end for most of the first half, as they did during a 2-1 regular-season victory in which they scored 10 seconds into the contest.

Central scored on its only shot on goal in the first half Tuesday.

Matt Kelly took a long throw-in from the right side that caught the Vikings flat-footed. Jason Pixley got to the bouncing ball and used his knee to poke it into the net.

"They came out really strong, and I think maybe their defense was sleeping a little bit," Pixley said.

Sleeping was the way Winter described Central's start to the season.

Bringing back many of their players from last year's quarterfinalists, the Lancers thought things would come easily.

But they dropped their Public League opener to Prep Charter, lost two of their first three league games, and went 2-4 overall in their first six games.

That served as an effective wake-up call. Behind a strong defense, Central has won five of its last six games. The Lancers allowed just one goal in three playoff games.

"Our defensive line is the strongest in the Public League," Winter said, crediting backs Joel Kelly and Jakub Zegar.

"I barely ever have to do anything, and when I do, it's just minor things."

Tuesday, at least, that last part wasn't entirely true.

Central 1 0 – 1

Northeast 0 0 – 0

Goals: C-Jason Pixley.

Saves: C-Greg Winter 10; N-Max Dossou 2.

tmcmanus@philly.com

@ByTimMcManus