Hereford senior midfielder Ted Demiris has been a dominant faceoff man all season, giving the No. 7 Bulls a decided edge at the start of each possession.
In Saturday's Class 3A-2A state semifinal against No. 11 Winters Mill, his stellar play extended well past the X to help send the four-time defending state champions to another title game.
In addition to winning 15 of 19 draws, Demiris scored two pivotal goals in an eight-second span late in the first quarter to lead Hereford to a 12-7 win over the Falcons at Annapolis High.
Jack Adams and Morgan Pritchett each scored three goals and Joe Seider joined Demiris with two as the Bulls improved to 18-1 on the season. They will take on Glenelg — an 11-8 winner against Kent Island in the other semifinal — for the state title either Tuesday or Wednesday at UMBC. It will be a battle of state champions with the Bulls seeking their eighth crown and Glenelg, which captured last year's Class 2A-1A title, going for its fourth.
Shortly after Saturday's win, Hereford coach Brian King was already looking forward to the challenge that lays ahead against the Gladiators, who defeated Hereford, 6-5, early last season before the teams went their separate ways in winning state championships.
"We're really excited to play Glenelg," King said. It was "6-5 last year in an Easter Tournament and they rushed the field on us like they won the Super Bowl, so we've been waiting. It's been 417 days, so we're excited."
After handling Winters Mill, 15-2, early in the season, the Bulls had a much tougher test Saturday, relying on two three-goal spurts to help pull away.
With the game tied at 1 in the final minute of the first quarter, they scored three goals in 15 seconds, Demiris winning consecutive faceoffs and marching down the field for the last two to give the Bulls a 4-1 advantage going into the second quarter.
"We knew possessions were going to be a big key in the game, so all week my coach had me practicing faceoffs while everyone else was doing their thing," Demiris said. "It was just really big getting possessions and then when we could, push it for a fast break and get some quick goals."
The Falcons, who got a four-goal performance from Spencer Love, trailed 6-4 at the half before the Bulls responded with another key stretch in the third quarter. This time Pritchett, Freddy Bryant and Seider scored two minutes apart for a 9-4 lead with 7:18 to play. The advantage was never threatened afterward.
The Falcons close out their season with a 16-2 mark, going undefeated in Carroll County and winning their first region title since capturing the state title in 2007. Winters Mill coach Sal Picataggi was proud of his team's effort and impressed with the work put in by Dimitris, who he said was the difference.
"We had a good game plan in and knew we could score if we had the ball, but the difficulty with them is that they faceoff so well," Picataggi said. "They don't give you a ton of opportunities, so when you have them you almost have to be perfect."
No. 10 Glenelg 11, Kent Island 8: Mark Darden and Mikey Wynne each scored four goals as the Gladiators (17-2) avenged an early-season loss to Kent Island to reach a state title game for the third straight year.
The Gladiators jumped out to a 4-1 lead and were able to stay a step ahead of the Buccaneers (16-3) the rest of the way to advance. Nick Wynne added one goal and three assists and goalie Landry Marshall recorded six saves and got strong defensive support throughout. Glenelg, which captured the Class 2A-1A state title last year, will be seeking the program's fourth state crown at UMBC next week.
"We're just thankful, past three years in the state title game," said Darden, a junior midfielder. "[We need to ] bring intensity 100 percent, picking up ground balls, winning faceoffs [and] scoring second-chance goals could be the difference."
In Saturday's win, one possession late in the third quarter showed how much the Gladiators wanted a chance at another state title.
Looking to add to their 6-5 lead, they won two ground balls to keep the ball and then Darden ended up on his back behind the cage as the ball squirted free with two Buccaneers in the area. The ball found its way in the stick of Mikey Wynne, who quickly found his brother, Nick, on the left side for a goal with 2:46 left in the quarter that started a string of four straight. Kent Island cut the lead to 10-8 with 3:56 to play, but the Gladiators were able to run out the clock with Mikey Wynne scoring on an empty net in the final second to seal the victory.
Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker was pleased to see a more efficient effort this time against Kent Island, which handed the Gladiators a 10-8 setback on April 7.
"We stayed out of the penalty box and every ground ball was a war," he said. "I thought that was the biggest difference in the game in that we contested every ground ball, we stayed out of the penalty box, and when we had shots we made them and we made them work offensively a lot harder than the last game."
Westminster 14, Churchill 10: The Owls scored the final four goals to break a tie, defeat the pesky Bulldogs and advance to the Class 4A-3A state championship.
The Owls, who have not played in the state championship since 2004, will face South River for the title. That game will be played at UMBC either Tuesday or Wednesday.
Westminster was led by Ryan Drenner's five goals. Louis Dubick led the Bulldogs with four goals.
The Owls took a 10-9 lead entering the fourth quarter, but the Bulldogs pulled even on a Morgan Rhodes goal to deadlock the game at 10-10 with 10:28 left.
Westminster took advantage of a Churchill penalty to retake the lead on a leaping, turn-around shot by Drenner to take the lead, 11-10, with 9:35 left. After the score, the Owls started to do the little things they hadn't been doing earlier — picking up ground balls and winning face-offs — to take the air out of the Churchill offense. The strategy paid off, as the Owls got goals by Jesse Uhlman, Dan Carder and another by Drenner to put the game away.
"We talked about what we needed to do [at halftime]," Westminster coach Steve DeFeo said. "We have some good shooters and we weren't executing. We just did a better job of getting our shots to fall in the second half."
The Owls were kept in the game by the goaltending of senior Nick Doyle. The goalie made several acrobatic saves, especially in the second and third quarters, to keep Westminster in the game.
"Nick has been one of our leaders all year," said sophomore Ryan Hursey, who had three goals for the Owls. "He made some amazing saves. This is his only year starting, and he played great tonight when he needed to.
Fallston 23, Northwestern 3: The Cougars advanced to the Class 1A-2A state championship with a lopsided semifinal win Saturday at Bel Air.
Fallston, which had 17 players score, will meet South Carroll for the state crown Tuesday or Wednesday at UMBC.
"Their kids played with a lot of heart. They were really proud to win the [Baltimore] city championship," Fallston coach Matt Parks said. "It's good for them to get this opportunity, and on the flipside, it's good for us to get these guys in that ... we can see what they can do in an actual game situation."
Scoring 12 first-quarter goals, Parks was free to substitute freely from the first quarter on. Marc Badger scored the game's first goal 53 seconds into the game. He was one of nine Cougars to score in the opening quarter.
Defenseman Zack Esser added two goals in the quarter, as did Kyle D'Onofrio and Jeremy Scranton. Brenden Nolan, who finished with a team-best three goals, closed out the first-quarter scoring for a 12-1 lead.
Robbie Kansler was the only other Cougar to have multiple goals, scoring twice.
Northwestern scoring was handled by three players. Major Livingston scored in the first quarter, while Kylie Tyree and Will Gatling each scored in the second quarter.
"We really had a great year. To make it this far, the final four, was really a great achievement," Northwestern coach Lloyd Carter said. "I'm really proud of the team and what they achieved. But we learned today, we have to work on our skills, continue to improve our skills. Fallston is a great team. I think we learned a lot today."
Fallston played three goalies, with starter Caleb Abney and Mark Wollenweber making two saves apiece. Lucas Crofton came in to make four saves.
Northwestern goalie Maurice Smith finished with seven saves.
Randy McRoberts, The Aegis
Class 3A-2A state semifinals
10 Glenelg 11, Kent Island 8
Goals: G – Darden 4, M. Wynne 4, N. Wynne, Pagnotta, Forrest;
KI – Hager 3, Plumer, Dove 3, Giuffreda.
Assists: G – Offutt, N. Wynne 3, Forrest 2, M. Wynne, Darden, Salandra;
KL -- Plumer.
Saves: G – Marshall ;
KI – Gonzalez .
Half: G, 4-2
7 Hereford , 12 Winters Mill 7
Goals: WM – Love 4, Cullison, Kreimer, Ackerman;
H – Ceribelli, Adams 3, Demiris 2, Pritchett 3, Seider 2, Ashwood.
Assists: WM – Ackerman, Cullison;
H – Seider, Bryant, Ashwood, Reider;
Saves: WM --Peters 8;
H – Cunningham 3; Turnbaugh 6.
Half: H, 6-4
Westminster 14, W. Churchill 10
Goals: WE – Drenner 5, Hursey 3, Uhlman 2, Carter 2, Mangano, Kibler; WC – Dubick 4, M. Moshyedi 2, Leonard 2, C. Moshyedi, Rhodes. Assists: WE – Uhlman, Drenner, McDonough; WC – Dubick 2, C. Moshyedi 2, Leonard 1. Saves: WE – Doyle, 12; WC – Hurd, 7. Half: WC, 5-4.