Simply put, the Class 4A-3A state boys lacrosse bracket is loaded with quality teams coming from every direction.
But it's the North region, particularly Section 1, that draws immediate attention as the playoffs get underway Wednesday.
That's because defending state champion Westminster and upstart Howard -- ranked No. 8 and No. 9, respectively, in The Sun's poll and each 14-0 -- will meet Monday if they get past opening-round opponents. Westminster takes on Linganore on Saturday, while Howard waits to play the winner of tomorrow's Reservoir-Tuscarora game either Friday or Saturday.
With the regular seasons both Westminster and Howard enjoyed, the potential matchup would seem more fitting for the state title game rather the regional section final. But Howard coach Jimmy Creighton sees tough competition across the board in the 4A-3A, so his Lions, who moved from the South region this year, aren't concerning themselves with whom they play when.
"We just have to keep playing smart lacrosse and we can't look past anybody," Creighton said. "It's not easy for any team, so that's why I don't worry about where they put us in our region. You're going to run into great programs eventually, so you know it's going to happen."
Elsewhere in Class 4A-3A, the East region's Section 1 is stockpiled with talented teams from Anne Arundel County. State runner-up and No. 12 South River (12-2) earned the top seed in the section and will have to contend with the likes of No. 13 Broadneck (10-4), No. 14 Arundel (12-2), Annapolis (10-4) and Chesapeake-AA (10-4).
In the South, No. 10 Bel Air (12-2) is the top seed in Section 1 and the clear favorite to reach the state tournament, with Dulaney (12-3) likely to provide the Bobcats their toughest test.
In the West, Montogmery County foes Winston Churchill and Thomas S. Wootton own the top seeds in the two sections. Both teams have made regular appearances in the state tournament in recent years, with both still seeking a state crown.