McDonogh midfielder Brinton Valis set the tone in the first minute of the Eagles' playoff game against St. Mary's on Friday.
He made a sharp fake to get past a defender and then took a direct path to goal, neatly placing a shot up high for the game's opening score.
No. 3 McDonogh made sure to stay focused throughout, always staying a step ahead of the No. 4 Saints to come away with an 11-6 win in the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference quarterfinals.
Valis and Bobby Austin each scored three times and Jackson Morrill added two goals and three assists as the Eagles improved to 15-4. They will take on undefeated and No. 1 Boys' Latin (16-0) in Tuesday's semifinal at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium.
The Eagles, seeded fourth, came with a lesson learned from Tuesday's regular-season closing loss to Gilman, a 9-7 defeat in which they relinquished an early advantage.
On Friday, they jumped on the fifth-seeded Saints (11-6) with five of the game's first six goals and never let the visitors get within three goals the rest of the way.
"We came off a tough loss against Gilman the other day, so I think once we got the lead today we weren't going let it go," Valis said. "We learned a lot after Gilman, we practiced hard and got after it and I think that's why we got the important win."
McDonogh had a 6-2 lead at the half and the Eagles never allowed the momentum to go the Saints' way the remainder of the game. On three occasions in the second half, St. Mary's pulled within three goals, only to see the Eagles respond with scores.
After Colin McGuire cut the lead to 9-6 with 6:53 to play, the Eagles got goals from Robert Clark (two goals, two assists) and Morrill to close out the win. McDonogh goalie Jacob Stover made timely stops and finished with nine saves.
The complete effort was just what the Eagles needed to prepare for the No. 1 Lakers, who are also ranked No. 1 nationally. On April 22, McDonogh stayed close for more than a half before Boys' Latin pulled away in the fourth quarter for an 11-8 win.
"It's going to take a lot and we know that," Valis said. "But we had a close game against them here earlier in the season, so I think we can come out and play well and have a competitive game against them."
MIAA A quarterfinals
No. 3 McDonogh 11, No. 4 St. Mary's 6
Goals: SM – Robertson 2, Boyles, Woodall, McGuire 2;
M – Valis 3, Young, Austin 3, Morrill 2, Clark 2.
Assists: SM – B. Johnson, Hardy 2;
M – Clark 2, Sutley, Morrill 3.
Saves: SM – Troutner 6; M – Stover 9.
Half: M, 6-2