Fallston picked up its playoff scoring tempo where it left off last year, as it stopped visiting Loch Raven, 4-0, in the first round of the Class 2A North regional tournament.
The Cougars, who ran over four foes in winning last year's state Class 1A title (27 goals, including seven in the championship game), will take on Towson, a 1-0 overtime winner over Overlea yesterday, in the region final. The game is scheduled for Saturday.
It took awhile for the home team to get its game in gear, but once Mike Giuffrida pushed the margin to 2-0 five minutes into the second half, Loch Raven needed some help that wasn't available.
"I thought we did pretty well," Loch Raven coach Sam Nuttall said, "but the defense got tired, and their subs are out with injuries. Fallston has good endurance, traps and passes well, and they wore us down.
"That's a very skilled team, and the better team won, but I thought if we could have scooted a couple in, we might have been able to put some pressure on them."
As it was, the pressure belonged to No. 3-ranked Fallston (12-0-1) against a team that finished 8-5, with all its losses to ranked teams.
Less than a minute after sophomore Brett Birkmire had fed Giuffrida and the junior striker found the open side for a 2-0 advantage, Loch Raven's Jeremy McDonough got loose and launched a shot on which Fallston junior keeper Eric McPhee made a diving save.
That was really the final chance for the Raiders, and the home side owned the field the rest of the way.
On the goals, Giuffrida converted a pass from junior Dave Peterson and senior Fred Sheckells got a foot on the ball out of a goal-mouth scramble, and slipped the ball past keeper Joe Russell.
"That was a shot we had worked on in practice," Fallston coach Len Petrey said of Sheckells' effort. "You work, and you want to see it, and it's nice when it comes about."
Sheckells, moved from a wing to halfback for this season, had one of his best games.
In addition to the goal, there were some excellent passes to the box, and he always seemed to be around the ball.
"I'm more comfortable at the position now than before, and Dave [Peterson] helps me," Sheckells said. "We work well together."