If you ask any boys lacrosse coach in Howard County what has made Glenelg so tough to beat in recent years, they might all have the same answer. Anthony Pagnotta.

It’s well known that the Gladiators have one of the most explosive offenses in the area and their defense, led by goalie Landry Marshall, is top-notch. But the cog that makes to Big Red Machine go is Pagnotta.

The senior specialist dominated at the faceoff X in the Class 3A-2A South region title game against Centennial on Wednesday. Pagnotta won 18 faceoffs – including 10 of the first 11 in the contest – to help the Gladiators claim a 13-6 victory and win the program’s seventh straight regional title.

“It didn’t help that after every dead ball and every goal, they got the ball right back off the faceoff,” Centennial coach Nick Kellinger said. “Pagnotta is an incredible talent.

“I always say there are two guys who can affect the game more than anyone else – that’s the goalie and the faceoff guy. Their goalie played fantastic and their faceoff guy was winning them all.”

The duo of Pagnotta and Marshall (14 saves) were enough to keep the offense rolling, while the defense stifled the Eagles’ attack.

“Pagnotta is the difference,” Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker said. “He is so smart with where he wants to put the ball. It’s the one spot on the field that you can’t defend unless you have another guy.”

There aren’t too many guys out there with identical faceoff skills. The Towson University-bound Pagnotta knows that his role on the team is to do the dirty work, but it's a role he relishes.

“It’s huge to get those (faceoffs) because when you have firepower like Nick Forrest, Mark Darden, Tyler Wasson and Kevin Coppinger, you’ve got to get them the ball,” Pagnotta said. “Until it comes to the (extra-man opportunity), then I’ve got to score.”

Pagnotta won the first three faceoffs and Marshall stopped the first three shots that he faced to settle the host Gladiators into the game. Then the offense came alive.

Glenelg received a pair of goals from Darden, and one each from Coppinger, Drew Dziwulski and Luke Cheswick to take a 5-0 lead after the first quarter.

“We were a little upset about how we played them in the first game of the season,” said Darden, referring to a 6-5 Glenelg win back in March. “We had to come out firing on them fast. … We wanted to get on them early and often.”

Mission accomplished. Pagnotta collected all five faceoffs in the second quarter and the lead increased to 8-0 before Andrew Gavlin finished a pass from Teddy Sylvia to put Centennial on the board with 4:34 to play in the period.

The Eagles tried to get back into the contest in the second half with the mindset of getting a goal back one at a time. Freshman Mikey Moore scored twice and Stephen Latona added an extra-man goal to make it 10-4 late in the third quarter.

But Pagnotta again showed his value. This time he did it on the offensive end, scoring the first of two goals on a backside cut with 18 seconds left in the quarter. Centennial never got closer than six goals the rest of the way.

“We wanted to play fast but with a slow mind,” said Marshall, who stopped two point-blank shots on a Centennial man-up opportunity in the fourth quarter. “We had some mistakes after we were ahead 8-1 at halftime but I’m proud of our effort.”

The loss snapped an 11-game winning streak for Centennial, which finished the year with a 14-3 mark and was second in the regular season county standings.

“We just came out flat today against a team who has been there and knows what to expect,” Kellinger said of his Eagles' slow start. “The difference in experience showed itself today. … There was no quit in our seniors though, they fought and never gave up.”

Glenelg – which won state titles at the 3A/2A classification in 2007 (3A/2A) and at the 2A/1A in 2008 and 2011– returns to the state semifinals where it will face Kent Island this weekend at Annapolis High School.

The Gladiators (15-2) fell to five-time defending 3A/2A champion Hereford in the finals last season, so getting back to the title game has been a focus all season.