Just three days removed from a loss against Towson in the Baltimore County championship game, Hereford got a chance to make amends and made the most of it in the 3A North Region I semifinals Friday night.
In a game that was controlled by great defense on both sides, Hereford senior Niko Hillary scored off a feed from Logan Kaufmann late in the second half for the deciding score in a 1-0 Bulls’ victory.
“I was just thinking about how we need to score and how we need to win this game because we worked so hard this year,” Hillary said. “To win this game against this great team and Logan sent me a beautiful ball and I just hit it up into the corner and I was overwhelmed when I hit it.”
For Hereford head coach Adam Mizell, it was the team’s senior leadership that paved the path to victory — securing a match-up against the winner of City and Franklin on Tuesday.
“We had a discussion today — we have 16 seniors and two of them were unavailable, one on red card — one on injury,” Mizell said. “That left us 14 guys. OK, so there are 14 voices left here, the coaching staff isn’t playing the game. ‘So, the seniors — you guys — have to lead us here.'
“One guy that makes the play, that makes the difference in this game. We’ve played these guys too many times to know anything else. Fortunately for us, Niko was able to get some space and score.”
Towson controlled the pace of play in the first half, but Hereford took more shots. The half would end scoreless and things continued to lean that way in the second.
Both Hereford’s Sinsebox and Towson’s Caeden Fong played exceptionally well at goalie. Fong’s only goal allowed came off the foot of the attacking Hillary with six minutes left in regulation, but he was closely defended by Riley Wagner on the play.
Wagner came charging in for Towson to clear out many of the would-be shots on-goal for Hereford. One clearance came on a missile of a kick from Hereford midfielder Logan Kaufmann that innocently landed into the stands.
“We just finished with the huddle and I said ‘Riley, if there was a game ball today, you would’ve received the game ball,'” said Towson head coach Randy Dase. “He was outstanding on that back left side for us today because No. 20 [Kaufmann] is quick as lightning over there.
“So, he played fantastic. Our goalkeeper, he’s the best around. He’s outstanding. He’s been that way the entire season. Our center midfielder Nick Lewis, he played phenomenally today. But we just didn’t get that one break to get that shot on goal.”
Towson’s season has ended, but Dase was proud of his team’s play, while giving credit to Hereford.
“We played them Monday and we beat them 2-1 in the county championship game,” said Dase. “It looked to me that both teams were a little tight. I think that the emotions were so high on Monday that both teams were trying to find themselves.
“It was interesting. They were the only team that we lost to all year. They are a very good ball club with speed and quickness and great athleticism. No. 7 up front [Hillary] — I call him the chainsaw man, he’s tough and that shot, Superman couldn’t have stopped.”