Thomas Stone found itself in an unfamiliar position in the second half of Friday's Maryland 3A semifinal against Fallston at Magruder High School in Rockville.

For just the second time this season, the Cougars trailed in a match. And for the second time this year, it looked as though they would make a comeback. After yielding three first-half goals on three shots, Thomas Stone narrowed the score with two late second-half scores but got no closer as the Cougars' season closed with a 3-2 loss.

"It's tough to win a game when you play only one half," Cougars Coach Mike Emrick said. "I thought we had the intensity, but we made some mistakes in the back."

In its first game of the season, Thomas Stone fell behind St. Mary's Ryken but rallied for a 3-2 overtime victory. It appeared the Cougars might do the same Friday.

Thomas Stone (15-3) came out sluggish in the first half, and Fallston made the Cougars pay. Juniors Kevin Ruzek and Matt Britton put Fallston ahead with goals in the 24th and 31st minutes, respectively. Ruzek then added a score on a free kick from just outside the penalty area--the shot sneaked past goalkeeper Ryan Tomasko, bounded off the right post and rolled across the goal line.

Thomas Stone created a number of scoring opportunities early in the second half, resulting in as many near-misses. With 38 minutes remaining, Moroz sent a blast from 25 yards out that just sailed over the crossbar. With 36 minutes left, senior Jimmie Dade took a cross from senior Aaron Breeds but sent it just over the crossbar from 10 yards out.

The Cougars barely missed on three more scoring opportunities before senior midfielder Jimmy Tagert converted a floating cross with a header that bounced past Fallston goalkeeper Jay Walker with just under 10 minutes left.

Moroz put Thomas Stone within one after collecting a loose ball and tapping it into the net in the 75th minute.

With less than two minutes left, Thomas Stone got its best opportunity to tie the score--a free kick by Moroz from just outside the left corner of the penalty box. The senior hooked the ball around the Fallston wall, but it sailed just high.

"I thought he had put it in the corner," Emrick said of Moroz's shot. "He's pretty lethal anywhere around the box."

Thomas Stone "deserved two goals. They played well, I thought," said Fallston Coach Len Petrey. "I thought they put a lot of pressure on us . . . at the end of the game."

The season ends Thomas Stone's run at a second straight state title--the Cougars were co-champions with Linganore last season. Fallston will next take on No. 3 River Hill, a 3-0 semifinal winner over Thomas Johnson.

Said Emrick: "We learned a lot, but unfortunately, it's too late."

Fallston 3 0--3

Thomas Stone 0 2--2

GOALS--F: Ruzek 24th, 33rd minutes; Britton 31st; T: Tagert 71st; Brian Moroz 75th.