The Hereford boys lacrosse team had grown accustomed to visiting UMBC Stadium this time of year and joyously piling up to take the team photo with the championship plaque in the end.
The No. 11 Bulls had never lost a state championship game and won the past six Class 3A-2A state titles and nine overall, both state records, as they tried to further pad the record book on Wednesday night.
But this time the opposition, Kent Island, came with a loaded roster, an impressive collection of wins in the regular season and showing no jitters in its first state title game appearance.
In the end, the Buccaneers from Queen Anne's County made history with an impressive fourth quarter stand to unseat Hereford, 8-6, to capture their first state crown.
For the first time in seven years and the first time in six-year coach Brian King's tenure, the Bulls lost on the season's final day and finished 17-4. There were no sticks flying high in the sky for the Bulls this time. Instead, there was a shocking, unfamiliar feeling.
"What's happened in the past has happened in the past," King said. "Right now, it's just pain for these guys for this season. Hopefully everybody will be able to look at the big picture, and I think we accomplished some great stuff. But for right now, it's just too close for this team to think about anything else."
Kent Island, which got a sparkling, 11-save effort from goalie Dylan Abplanalp, closed a 19-1 season with 18 straight wins.
Trailing 7-6 late in the game, the Bulls had two possessions in which standout senior Jason Ashwood got off shots that were turned away by Abplanalp. On their final possession, senior midfielder Adam Ceribelli came out from behind the cage and sent an errant pass that ended up at midfield with 1:06 to play.
Kent Island's Patrick Garvey finally came up with the fiercely-contested ground ball with 30 second left and got the ball to Johnny Giuffreda, who scored with 18 seconds left for the two-goal lead that would clinch the victory.
Hereford senior goalie Brock Turnbaugh was stellar in goal with nine saves and Ashwood had two goals and an assist.
Tightly-contested throughout, the Bulls trailed 7-5 going into the fourth quarter and their opening possession of that period lasted more than four minutes, but they couldn't get anything past Abplanalp.
After sophomore Matt Lewis (2 goals) was able to cut the lead to 7-6 with 4:18 to play, the Bulls had opportunities but weren't able to capitalize before Giuffreda put the game away.
Rarely have the Bulls played from behind in any of their previous nine state title games, but they trailed early on Wednesday and never led in a first half half that ended tied at 4.
The Buccaneers showed no early-game jitters when Matt Quinn and Giuffreda scored 15 seconds apart for a 2-0 lead with 9:32 left in the first quarter.
Ceribelli got the Bulls on the board to cut the deficit to 2-1 with 7:42 left before Luke Fromert answered with 50 seconds left in the first quarter for a 3-1 lead.
In the second quarter, Ashwood scored consecutive goals for the Bulls to tie the game at 3 and then Lewis tied the game at 4 with 1:37 to play before the half.
"When I look back on it, I don't really regret anything. We worked hard all season," Ashwood said. "Like coach [Brian King] said, we kind of have a target on our back — we got everybody's best game and we just came out to work every day. Kent Island is a great team, they gave us everything. We missed a couple opportunities and they finished their [chances] and that's how it went."
The Buccaneers built an impressive resume this season that included comfortable wins over Arundel and Centennial. Kent Island also defeated Severn, of the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference.
Class 3A-2A state final
(at UMBC Stadium)
Kent Island 8, 11 Hereford 6
Goals: H – Ceribelli, Ashwood 2, Lewis 2, Lavietes;
KI – Quinn 2, Giuffreda 2, L Fromert, Beck, Hager, Eshelman, .
Assists: H – Ashwood, Endres, Tiller, Lavietes;
KI – J. Fromert, Quinn, Garvey.
Saves: H – Turnbaugh 9;
KI – Abplanalp 11.
Half: 4-4Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun