County rivals Centennial and Mount Hebron ended last season in identical fashion, dancing on the artificial turf at UMBC Stadium in celebration of state championships, the first time both teams won the title in the same year.

A year removed from that milestone, the teams are beginning the season under significantly different circumstances.

While Centennial reloads with its eye on a second consecutive Class 2A/1A championship, Mount Hebron is rebuilding after its 3A/2A title around senior goalkeeper Will Sepich, the only starter back for the Vikings.

Last year's state championship "is mentioned, but it's not talked about a lot," Sepich said. "We won states last year. That's last year. We are more focused on this year because we have a whole new squad. It feels different, but we have to adapt to everything."

It's a short trip from Mount Hebron to Centennial, which explains the unique lacrosse rivalry that exists between the Ellicott City schools. One of the teams has won every county title since 1991, but at least for this year, the Eagles have a different attitude than their crosstown adversaries.

With five offensive starters returning, anything less than a state championship would be a disappointment.

"Basically we mention that every day at practice -- before and after," Centennial senior attackman Sean Dougherty said. "We know how we can't really slack off because everyone will be after us. Last year was great, but we don't really have much of an excuse to do worse with all the people we are returning."

In addition to Dougherty, who scored nine goals in the Eagles' championship game win over Southern and finished the season with 59, seniors Mike Down (47 goals), Evan Calvert (27) and Pat Davis (33) and sophomore Brennan Dougherty (22) form the most feared offensive unit in the county.

Together, they scored 186 goals last season, but the seeds of the current unit's success began to germinate two years ago, when Down, Calvert, Davis and Sean Dougherty were sophomores. They struggled that season but recovered to win a regional title before losing to Pikesville in the state semifinals.

After losing that game, their immediate focus shifted to winning a state title as juniors, and things didn't change after the championship win over Southern last season.

"Last year at the end, we said, 'Remember this. This is what we are going to do again,' " Calvert said. "There is a little pressure to repeat, but it's more excitement. The offseason has been exciting because everyone asks, 'How are you going to do,' and we have our offense back, and we have the same guys and the same chemistry."

The one thing Centennial doesn't have back is its defense, but replacing all-county selection Jimmy Plank will be senior Nik Beckman, who will work with other experienced seniors in Connor Maley, Sean Garroway and P.J. DiMartino and senior Mark Nakasone in goal.

The team also doesn't have a second consecutive championship wrapped up yet.

"Usually we just say it's in the past," Sean Dougherty said. "Great, we did it. You can talk about it all along, but if you don't do it again when you have solid players, it basically means nothing."

While Centennial is fine-tuning, Mount Hebron is still finding its footing.

Senior attack Brenden Moore (14 goals, six assists) is the only player back who had much success on offense last season. Coach Tom Minard said junior Mike Stokes could develop into one of the best defensemen in the county.

Sepich already proved himself last season during the team's state championship run, but the Vikings roster is otherwise dotted with question marks, where last year there were certainties.

"We had such good seniors and such experience last year, the difficult thing was having them buy into a new system and having them trust and believe in us," Minard said. "This year the kids trust and believe in us, but it's just getting that game experience."

But it's not likely the Vikings will be pushovers.

"I have heard it from four or five county coaches already that they are going to beat us," Minard said. "We won't be dodging anybody."

Nor will any of Minard's players, who have a long tradition of lacrosse pride to uphold.

"We don't want to be the year to pull it down," Sepich said. "It definitely means something to us."

Nik Beckman, left, defends against Centennial teammate Sean Dougherty. Dougherty is one of five returning offensive starters for the 2A/1A champions.Senior Pat Davis, who scored 33 goals last season, runs between Sean Garroway, right, and Ryan Spence. The Eagles' returning offensive starters combined for 186 goals last season.Connor Maley, above, reaches for the ball as he plays defense during a practice at Centennial. Below, Eagles Coach Mike Siegert offers advice to his defending champions before practice.