One team is back, the other never left.
For Mt. Hebron and Marriotts Ridge, thanks to convincing victories Nov. 8 in their respective regional finals, it's on to the state final four.
Marriotts Ridge, which cruised past Loch Raven 6-1 in the 2A North final, has now won four consecutive region titles. The last two years, the Mustangs went on to capture state championships as well.
Mt. Hebron's region championship on the other hand, courtesy of beating top-seeded Stephen Decatur 4-0 in the 3A East final, is the program's first since 2006.
Now that they're returning to the state's biggest stage, though, the Vikings have their eyes on that ultimate prize.
"We're not done … we're out here to win states and get back respect for Mt. Hebron soccer," said senior Josh Palin, who was a seventh grader back during that 2006 season when the Vikings won the programs' third-ever state title.
"People have underestimated us, but that's good. That's the way we like it. We as a team know what we can do and we're just going out and playing."
Class 3A East
Mt. Hebron, seeded 10th, came into the playoffs facing the prospect of having to win four consecutive road games in order to advance out of the region. The players, however, seemed to relish the underdog role.
Victories over Annapolis, 6-1, county-champion Reservoir, 3-2, and J.M. Bennett, 2-0, set up the Vikings' region final match-up with Stephen Decatur.
And, once they got that shot against a Decatur team that had shut out River Hill and Centennial in the previous two rounds, the Vikings made it count.
Emmanuel Wright staked Mt. Hebron to a 1-0 lead in the first half by scoring off a throw-in. It was the first-time this post-season Stephen Decatur had been behind.
"That goal was huge … getting ahead early has been a key for us this entire playoffs," said Mt. Hebron goalie Drew Staedeli. "We haven't conceded that first goal yet."
Palin upped the lead to 2-0 early in the second half courtesy of a penalty kick, then Chris Park and Andrew Tucker tacked on two more tallies late to create the final four-goal margin.
"The first-goal set the tone, but you could see after the second one that their heads started to go down," Palin said. "They started to make bad decisions and the floodgates opened."
Mt. Hebron advances to play the winner of Huntingtown and Chopticon on Nov. 12 at CCBC-Essex.
Class 2A South
After a season-long wait, Marriotts Ridge's offense seems to have found its groove.
Against Loch Raven, the Mustangs exploded for their second highest goal total of the season on the way to a 6-1 victory. That came on the heels of a 5-0 win over Owings Mills and a 4-0 decision against Oakland Mills.
It's been quite the coming out party for a team that had previously scored three or more goals in back-to-back games only once all season.
"This team has grown a lot, probably more than any of the teams the last three years," Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn said. "You're starting to see that when they play well, they can ring up some big numbers like the offensive teams of the past."
It took just six minutes for the Mustangs to get on the board in the region final, as Nick Applegate headed home a pass from Connor Delaney. Then 16 minutes later, Brad Martinelli finished off a feed from Amir Najib to make it 2-0.
"We're always trying to get that good start and get a psychological edge; make the other team believe that they are in for a long day," Flynn said.
Things only got worse for Loch Raven in the second half.
Less than three minutes after intermission, Sean Harrison headed home a corner kick by Martinelli to increase the lead to three. Six minutes later, Applegate scored again to make it 4-0.
It wasn't until 29:10 remained in the game that Loch Raven finally got on the board courtesy of a shot by Young Kim off the hands of Marriotts Ridge goalie Pat Moore (3 saves).
Even then, the Mustangs got the momentum right back on Martinelli's second goal of the game. Marriotts Ridge's Matt Ryan later closed out the scoring with 7:23 left.
"Starting nine juniors, a lot of teams didn't think we were going to be as good as last year so we definitely had something to prove," Martinelli said. "We had a really good game tonight, everyone did their part."
Marriotts Ridge will face South Carroll at Bel Air High School on either Nov. 11 or 12 for a berth in the state championship game.
Chapelgate loses in MIAA C semifinals
After rolling its way to a 9-2-2 record in the MIAA C Conference (Black Division) during the regular season, Chapelgate ended up falling one goal short of a berth in this year's C Conference championship game.
The Yellowjackets, up against a Saints Peter & Paul team they had beaten earlier this fall, ended up on the wrong end of a 1-0 decision in the semifinals. The loss came just two days after Chapelgate had easily defeated Mt. Carmel, 5-1, in the quarters.
Still, the team's 11-4-2 overall record served as a nice bounce-back campaign after going just 6-9-1 last year.