Fallston coach Len Petrey preached to his team that champions overcome adversity. The Cougars found out what he meant last night.
With 7: 27 left in the first half, Cougars forward Jason Wright was given a red card for catching a shot in the crease, putting Fallston down a man for the rest of the game. Then Jason Ruzek and Jay Walker stepped up.
Host and ninth-ranked Fallston (13-2-1) got all three of its goals from senior Ruzek and some excellent goalkeeping from senior Walker to defeat No. 7 Franklin, 3-1, in the 3A North final.
The Cougars advance to this weekend's state semifinals against Thomas Stone at a sight to be determined.
"[The card] pumped us up," said Ruzek. "We knew we had to step it up then because there was no tomorrow."
Franklin (12-3-1) controlled the early action, after Wright's card, but Walker made several key saves until the Fallston offense got going.
Then, with 17: 35 gone, Ruzektook a feed in the middle of the field from his brother Kevin, split the Franklin defense and fired a low shot that beat Franklin keeper Andy Schuster from 10 feet out for a 1-0 lead.
Just 1: 07 later, the Cougars increased the margin to 2-0. Ruzeksettled the ball in the air on a cross from T.K. Frendak and fired a high shot past Schuster to increase the lead to 2-0.
Franklin finally got on the scoreboard with 26: 29 left in the game. Senior Casey Bivens fired an arching shot from 25 yards out that nestled in just under the crossbar to cut the margin to 2-1.
Ruzek, however, put the game out of reach when he chested down a cross from junior Mike Tress and beat Schuster to run the margin to 3-1 with 10: 31 left.
"Give them credit, they played a great game," said Franklin coach Larry Meekins. "The red card fired them up, and they ran it right down our throats."
For Fallston, the victory marks the 10th regional title in the school's history, and advances the Cougars to the game that ended their season last year, the state semifinal.
Petrey thinks this year's team has what it takes to advance to the state championship, and win it.
"That's all the kids have been talking about since Aug. 15," he said.
No. 8 Dulaney 3, Perry Hall 1: In the 4A North final, senior defender Ethan Donoho's first goal of the season proved to be the game-winner as the visiting Lions (14-1) won their first regional crown since 1994 and avenged four straight playoff losses to the Gators (8-4-3).
Hereford 2, Catonsville 1: Kyle McKim and Blake Gunther had one goal each to help the Bulls (9-7) hold off the host Comets in the 2A North final. Dave Washburn assisted on both Hereford goals.