Since joining the Class 2A-1A ranks in 2012, the Fallston boys lacrosse team has been a step ahead of the competition.
More evidence came in Saturday afternoon's state semifinal against Loch Raven at Bel Air.
The No. 15 Cougars, two-time defending champions, were quicker to the ball and plenty efficient with it as they rolled to a third straight title game appearance with a 16-6 win over the Raiders.
"The boys have been here before so they're ready and know what to expect," Fallston coach Matt Parks said.
Freshman Ben Claffee scored four goals to lead the Cougars, who also got one goal and four assists from fellow freshman Dylan Wolf. Brenden Nolan scored three goals and Steven Ernst, Nick Esser and Justin Williams all scored twice for the winners.
Fallston (14-4) will meet North Carroll — a 17-9 winner over North East in a semifinal game on Friday — in the title game, at 4 p.m. on Tuesday at UMBC Stadium. The Cougars will be seeking the program's fourth state championship since winning their first in 2001 while playing in Class 3A-2A.
"They're a really good team, and they're really scrappy and they play a schedule like we do in our county, so we know they will be prepared," Parks said of North Carroll. "I know they've worked hard the past three years to get here, so it's going to be a fun one."
Loch Raven, which captured the North region, finished the season 9-8. The Raiders got five goals from freshman attackman Kyle Hurley with senior attackman Vasili Sidou assisting on four of the scores.
After averaging just under 12 goals a game in three wins to claim the South region, it didn't take long on Saturday for the Cougars long to show similar prowess.
Wolf scored on the game's first possession in the opening minute and the Cougars scored seven of the game's first eight goals — Ernst and Esser each scoring twice in the run — to post a 7-1 advantage early in the second quarter.
Late in the second quarter, Claffee scored to give the Cougars a 9-3 halftime lead, and then he opened the third quarter with his third goal of the game.
Class 2A-1A state semifinal
(at Bel Air)
No. 15 Fallston 16, Loch Raven 6
Goals: LR – Spruill, Hurley 5;
F – Wolf, Ernst 2, Esser 2, Buckler, B. Claffee 4, Teluk, Nolan 3, Williams 2.
Assists: LR – Sidou 4, Spruill;
F – Wolf 4, McGuire.
Saves: LR -- Kent 5, Parias 1;
F – Wilcox 3, M. Claffee 1.
Half: F, 9-3