The most important stretch of the season lies just ahead for Perry Hall's boys lacrosse team. The Gators play heated rival Eastern Tech in Essex on April 24, are off to challenge Loch Raven two days later before finishing the three-game, season-ending road trip in Parkton against powerhouse Hereford, winners of five consecutive state titles.
Hereford, ranked sixth in the area by The Baltimore Sun, stands out to Perry Hall first-year coach Matt Smoot because of all the Bulls' success.
"We know they are the top dog and it will be a good end-of-the season litmus test for us," said Smoot, whose program has lost six in a row to Hereford, including an 11-4 setback last year. "We won't see them in the playoffs because we are in a different division. Going up against them — whether it's a loss, a win or a competitive game — we can base where we have come from off of that.
"We are not going into that game to be competitive," he added. "We are going into that game to win."
The Gators certainly look forward to playing Loch Raven, but they'll be more pumped up to face Eastern Tech because of their familiarity with the Maverick players.
It looks like a favorable matchup for Perry Hall since the Gators have won three straight over the Mavericks, including a 13-12 overtime thriller last year.
Perry Hall prevailed in the previous two contests by six and five goals, respectively.
"Our guys know the other guys on that team," Smoot said. "You are playing against your friends, and the guys you came up playing against."
Smoot, who features seven seniors in the starting lineup, doesn't know what Perry Hall team might show up. After a 3-0 start and wins over Edgewood, Patapsco and Towson, the Gators split their next four games.
They lost to Dulaney, 14-7, beat Catonsville, 13-10 and fell to Franklin, 17-13, before upending Pikesville, 13-6.
"For the most part, we are pretty happy we are carrying a winning record," Smoot said. "But we are not anywhere close to where we want to be, in terms of being in contention with the top teams, like Dulaney. We want to be pushing the upper echelon teams, Dulaney and Hereford"
Smoot said the Gators' progress has been impressive.
"Our stick skills and lacrosse knowledge wasn't where we wanted to be at the start of the season," the coach said. "I think that's something we have worked really, really hard on in practice. And the guys have really done a good job of coming together."
Perry Hall's offense has been as consistent as any part of the team, with seniors Chandler Aversa, Josh Brent, Tyler Link and Jordan Coates the chief threats.
Many other players help share the scoring load, however.
"Those guys lead us, but we spread the ball around so much it could be any number of guys on a given day," Smoot said.
Smoot also has plenty of confidence in a defense anchored by senior Luke Schoennagel and juniors Dan Waldhauser and Grant Kellner in front of senior goalie Josh Schuman.
"Our defense has been getting better throughout the season," Smoot said. "Our team defense is very good. We have worked really hard on it."