Severna Park midfielder Allison Behringer and forward Hayley Rausch earned their way onto the varsity field hockey team as sophomores this year, a fairly rare occurrence for a squad with the depth and winning tradition of Severna Park, they of the 14 state championships since the late 1970s.

And the two had arguably their grandest moments of this season Monday afternoon against No. 9 South River. With storm clouds looming and darkness about to cover the field, Behringer made a picture-perfect crossing pass in overtime to Rausch, who had already scored twice. Rausch tapped it in for the hat trick 2 minutes into overtime, giving her a county-best 27th goal of the season to lift the second-ranked Falcons to a 3-2 win in the county championship game.

"It's just awesome," said an out-of-breath Behringer moments after the game. "You know, we were down [2-1] at the one point and then we came back. It's just so exciting because we worked for this game. That makes it so much better."

When South River took a 2-1 lead in the second half on Kellie Dress's penalty-stroke goal, "we got angry," Behringer said. "We just wanted to win so badly we weren't going to let being down change anything."

Rausch scored off an assist from Melanie Pettit three minutes later.

"We were just trying to force it in and do whatever we can to keep it on our side, take the advantage, and it worked," Rausch said. South River did not move the ball into its offensive zone in overtime, and a penalty corner set up the winning goal.

"They were so determined. They said, 'We're going to win this,' " said Severna Park Coach Lil Shelton, now in her 31st season, "and they are firm believers that they're going to win. They are never-say-die."

Severna Park (14-1) has won all 11 county championship games dating from 1995, and has outscored opponents in those games 36-6. The Falcons begin the 3A East playoffs today hosting Wilde Lake. Last season Severna Park reached the state championship before falling to Bethesda-Chevy Chase, 2-1.

Twice the Fun

South River has lost to Severna Park in the county championship game the past four seasons, but Monday's thrilling overtime contest marked the only time in the game's 11-year history that a Severna Park opponent scored more than one goal. The game marked a big turnaround from the 3-0 defeat Severna Park handed the Seahawks on Sept. 16.

Several Seahawks players had an outstanding game, including midfielders Molly Gregoire and Toni Lee, both of whom consistently hit booming drives down the field. Lee's perfect crossing pass to Adrienne Hunt tied the score at 1. Later, when officials awarded South River a penalty stroke because Falcons goalie Corinne Manuel knocked down a Seahawks player near the goal, Kellie Dress scored for a 2-1 lead.

"I thought our girls played phenomenal. They didn't give up for one minute in that game," said first-year head coach Katie Corcoran, who served as former coach Laura Hoffner's assistant before taking over this fall.

Severna Park was awarded possession of the ball to start overtime, and Corcoran said that made all the difference. "When you have the ball first, you have an advantage, but I don't think we were on our heels. They were pumped up, but I don't think we ever backed down to them. I've got to give credit to my girls, because every second they put their hearts out there."

South River (11-3-1) had a chance to go ahead late in regulation, but Hunt could not get the handle on a ball near the post after a fine hit from Gregoire.

"I don't think we let down, but in the overtime they were just on fire," said Lee.

South River, the defending 4A state champions, begins its state title defense by hosting a 4A East quarterfinal today against Thomas Stone of Waldorf.

Severna Park's Allison Behringer, right, assisted on the winning goal in the county championship.