Already in possession of the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference title, the Northern boys' team will open its run toward the state tournament tomorrow when it hosts McDonough.

The Rams (6-8) defeated Leonardtown, 2-1, in the opening round of the Maryland 3A South Region tournament Thursday, and top-seeded Northern had a bye. The Patriots (11-2-1) beat McDonough, 3-2, during the regular season.

"We had a great run, and we were able to win SMAC, but when all is said and done, that really doesn't mean much," Patriots Coach Jaime Webster said. "McDonough has been playing really well, and we know in the playoffs it's either win or go home."

Although it lost to Northern in the regular season, McDonough can take some confidence from its playoff win and an Oct. 21 victory over Lackey, one of two teams that beat the Patriots during the regular season.

Tough End for Raiders

A strong season ended in disappointment for Leonardtown. Despite maintaining possession for a large portion of the game and creating several scoring opportunities in the second half, the Raiders fell to McDonough.

"Our players played well," Coach Bruce Henderson said. "We were stringing together passes, but their keeper came up with some big saves."

Leonardtown (8-4-2) thought it had tied the score in the second half when a Raiders player headed in a corner kick. But the referee called a foul on a Leonardtown player, negating the goal.

"High school athletics is about much more than playing a game," Henderson said. "The idea is you have to be able to deal with adversity, and my students did. They were right back in the classroom this morning."

Lackey's Lineup Shuffle

When the Lackey girls' team travels to Chopticon on Monday for a 3A South Region quarterfinal, it will be a slightly different team than the one that lost, 2-0, to the Braves early in the season.

"We weren't doing much offensively" in the first half of the season, Lancers Coach Po Artes said. "In the second half, we changed our lineup a bit, and everyone was feeling comfortable. Each player settled into their niche."

Ashley Queen, who started the season at goalkeeper and also played striker early in the season, became the Lancers' sweeper and has neutralized opponents' top players for Lackey (4-8-2). Senior Brooke Good left her stopper position and now plays forward.