In this corner, hailing from Howard County and winners of last year's Class 2A-1A state crown. They have moved up to the Class 3A-2A ranks this season and earned the top seed in the South region. Ranked No. 9 in The Baltimore Sun's Top 15 poll with a 13-2 record, it's the Glenelg Gladiators.
And in this corner, coming from Carroll County and also making the jump from Class 2A-1A to earn the top seed in the Class 3A-2A West region. They are ranked No. 11 with a 13-1 mark, the Winters Mill Falcons.
No. 7 Hereford, winner of the past four state championships and the top seed in the North region at 14-1, is welcoming all challengers this postseason. With Glenelg and Winters Mill moving up in classification, three of the top four public schools in the area find themselves battling for the same state title. .
The regional tournaments begin today, but all three of the top seeds, along with East region top seed Patuxent, have earned byes and will see their first playoff action on Friday.
"It's definitely exciting and different for us," Hereford coach Brian King said. "Glenelg beat us last year [in the regular season], and they have a lot of seniors back, so we're hunting a little bit instead of being the hunted. We're ready to go."
Last year, Glenelg edged Hereford, 6-5, in a highly-anticipated showdown, and both teams went on to win state titles in their respective classifications. In getting there, the Gladiators nipped Winters Mill, 6-5, in the region title game.
This season, Hereford handed Winters Mill its only loss in a big way -- beating the Falcons 15-2 in early April. Winters Mill coach Sal Picataggi, whose senior-laden team has since won eight straight games, expects a much better showing should the two teams meet again.
If all the top seeds win their regions, Hereford would see Winters Mill in the state semifinal round with Glenelg potentially awaiting the winner in the title game.
King said his team will stick to the same plan that has brought years of success. The Bulls like to dominate on faceoffs and win the ground ball battle to control the pace.
"We just have to keep working hard and keep competing every day," he said.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun