Last year, when the Maryland 4A/3A state golf tournament was expanded to two rounds, Northern found itself ahead after one round, only to be caught on the second day, finishing runner-up to Churchill.

This year, Northern sat six strokes behind Churchill after the first round at the University of Maryland golf course, poised to make the same kind of run Churchill made in 2004.

The Patriots never got that chance, however. Tuesday's rain postponed the first round of the 2A/1A tournament to yesterday and shortened both that event and the 4A/3A tournament to one-day affairs.

It left Northern in second place for the second straight year, with the second change in the tournament's structure.

"We were certainly within striking distance," Northern Coach Rob Halstead said. "Churchill is certainly a good team, but we thought we had an opportunity to catch them on the second day, and now we won't get that opportunity."

Northern senior Sam Hoffer was one of five golfers -- along with La Plata senior Vincent Hancock -- to card the day's low round, a 1-over 72. The individual champion was going to be determined after the 2A/1A tournament was played. If nobody could shoot lower than 72, then the five golfers would share the title.

After finishing seventh in his first trip to the two-day event last year, Hoffer figured both he and Northern could challenge for the top spot this year.

"Churchill had the chance to come back and get us last year," Hoffer said, "and we wanted the chance to do that to them this year. Any [solution] really would have worked except this way."

Hoffer and his Northern teammates -- Chris Speaker (79), Jeff Kingsbury (80) and Josh Yodichkas (81) -- played the first round more conservatively, a lesson they learned last year when Churchill's more aggressive play in the second round was 19 strokes better that day than the rest of the field.

"The first day, you're just trying to make the cut," Hoffer said. "The second day is when you want to make your move."

Top Seeds in Soccer

If the seeds hold to form, four Southern Maryland soccer teams will be playing in state tournaments.

When the brackets for the regional tournaments were revealed Monday, McDonough's boys' team -- the SMAC champion -- and conference runner-up Westlake drew the top seeds in the 2A South and 3A South regions, respectively. Thomas Stone is the only boys' team to win a state title, winning 3A championships in 1996 and '98.

In the girls' tournaments, SMAC-champion Leonardtown is the 3A South's top seed, while the top spot in the 2A South went to Patuxent. Leonardtown won the SMAC's only girls' state title with the 1998 3A crown.

Last year was the first time since 1990 that no Southern Maryland soccer team won a regional title.