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As the sixth player picked for a penalty-kick shootout, Hereford's Nathan Franz didn't think he would be a factor in Saturday's Class 3A boys soccer state semifinal against Atholton.

But with the shootout tied at 3, Franz got a chance to win the game. He fired a shot into the corner of the goal to give the Bulls the 4-3 victory after 100 minutes of scoreless play at CCBC-Essex.

Hereford returns to the state title game for the first time since 1989 and plays the winner of Clarksburg/Northern next week at UMBC.

"We practiced this all day, but I didn't think it would come down to me because I'm the sixth guy," Franz said. "I don't really get nervous."

The teams played tight early, with each wary of making a critical mistake. Atholton (10-6) won most loose balls in the midfield and had several dangerous crosses.

After a scoreless first half, the teams relied mostly on long balls, direct kicks or long throw-ins to develop scoring chances.

"Both teams focused on defense, because whoever scores ... that was it," said Hereford coach Mike Lacko, whose team is 12-2-1.

"We played a defensive game and went after the one-goal win. The boys are psyched. The parents are psyched."

The Raiders had a free kick from 20 yards in the 75th minute, but Hereford goalie Mike Warns stopped a shot by Subir Nigam.

Atholton's Tyler Parker came within inches with three minutes left in the first overtime, but his shot from 30 yards hit the crossbar.

"We played hard and with a lot of intensity, but we're a little bit young," Atholton coach Roch DeFrances said.

"Three of our shooters [in the shootout] were sophomores. They needed to see this pressure to be able to do something next year."

Saves: H-Warns 6; A-Forbes 5. Half: 0-0.

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