Boys soccer: Hereford bows to Watkins Mill in Class 3A state semifinal

Five times in the past decade, Hereford Mike Lacko coach has been answering questions about the frustration of losing in the state semifinals.

Saturday night, Lacko thought for sure he would be talking about something else when his team played Watkins Mills, of Montgomery County: winning.

"I honestly thought we were going to pull this one out by far because we played so well," Lacko said.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, Ariel Rodriguez scored with 22 seconds remaining to lift Watkins Mill to a 1-0 victory over Hereford in a Class 3A state semifinal at the Community College of Baltimore County-Essex.

Goalie Cameron Thacker got a piece of Patrick Pato's shot on a free kick, but Thacker was knocked down on the sequence by a Watkins Mill player.

That allowed Rodriguez to have an easy tap in.

"When you come this far, it's a bounce of the ball and luck," Lacko said. "It just wasn't our day."

Hereford picked up its tempo in the second half.

The Bulls (12-5-2) registered their first shot on goal of the game 4:34 into the period. Nathan Mattola's header off of Matthew McArthur's crossing pass was stopped by goalie Rolando Alba, who holds the school record for shutouts with 11.

About a minute later, Alba made another nifty save, stopping David Endres' point-blank shot.

Thacker matched the play of Alba.

Thacker, a junior who alternated every other game with Eli Hess, smothered an in-close shot from Will Yougnia.

In the first half, the Wolverines controlled the ball for most of the opening half, testing a defensive unit that included McArthur, Jack Prigel, Zach Bell and Tim VandeWater.

Watkins Mill outshot Hereford, 5-1, in the period.

The best opportunity to score for Watkins Mills (14-2) came in the 34th minute.

But Thacker made a sensational diving save on Pato's blistering shot from 20 yards out.

Hereford's only shot of the half, which was taken by Mattola, went a few feet wide of the goal.

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