Last season, the Hereford boys lacrosse team rolled to a record sixth straight Class 3A-2A state championship, capped by a comfortable 13-3 win over Glenelg in the title game.
A seventh straight title for the No. 11 Bulls (12-3) may not come as easy this season.
Hereford, led by senior goalie Brock Turnbaugh and senior attackman Jason Ashwood, shouldn't have any problem getting out of the North region. And while Glenelg and some other Howard County foes from the South region could provide a push in the state semifinals, there's a team that has emerged from the East region and has opened eyes: Kent Island from Queen Anne's County.
"They're loaded and they've played a pretty tough schedule," Hereford coach Brian King said.
The Buccaneers (14-1) have dominated some quality competition: They trounced No. 14 Arundel, 12-2, on the road and handily defeated one of Howard County's top teams, Centennial, by a 16-2 count.
They got past Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference's Severn and their only loss came to MIAA contender and No. 4 St. Mary's, 8-6.
Hereford would meet Kent Island, which has reached the state semifinals the past three years, in the championship game.
King is well aware there's plenty of work to be done before that, and next up is Lansdowne in the North's Section 1 semifinals.
The Bulls have a knack of rising at a higher level come playoff time, and it starts with increased intensity in practice.
"We have a big challenge this year, and the intensity has to be dialed up," King said.
Turnbaugh, set to play at Johns Hopkins, provides a fine starting point in back. The Bullls have limited 10 opponents to four goals or less, including the past five games.
Ashwood is the catalyst on attack with 54 goals and 39 assists, and senior midfielder Adam Cerebelli is the glue in the middle.