Maryland 3A Boys' Soccer Championship Game
Who: River Hill (14-1-1) vs. Towson (10-4-1)
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m., today, UMBC
How River Hill Got Here: The three-time defending state champion Hawks won their fifth consecutive Howard County title and earned the second seed in the 3A East Region tournament, where they shut out Edgewood, Long Reach, J.M. Bennett and Mount Hebron. The Hawks cruised to a 3-0 victory over 3A West champion Seneca Valley in the state semifinals and are playing for their seventh state title since the school opened in 1996.
How Towson Got Here: After the Generals lost three of their first four games, they finished 9-1-1 to advance to the state tournament for the third time in four seasons. Towson shut out Catonsville, Patapsco and Franklin to win the 3A North Region tournament before blanking 3A South Region champion Westlake, 3-0, in the state semifinals.
Outlook: The last time these teams met, they shared the 3A state title in 2003 by playing to a 1-1 draw after 100 minutes.
River Hill has outscored opponents 42-6 as senior goalie Matt Moss has posted 11 shutouts and allowed more than one goal just once this season. Matt Stara leads the offense with an attacking mentality and long throw-ins. He has 17 assists and three goals, with senior Tyler Meade posting a team-high 11 goals, seven of them game-winners.
Defensively, the Hawks are led by seniors Justin White and David Waschak and have not allowed a goal in the postseason.
The Hawks will be tested by Towson, which has also blanked opponents during the playoffs. Sophomore forwards Wils Halpern (nine goals, two assists) and Michael Baller (seven goals) lead the Generals' offense and senior goalie Andrew Gisriel has been impressive.
"Their two guys up top are very tenacious and very bothersome to a defense because they take the ball and put their heads down and run right down the field," River Hill Coach Bill Stara said. "It's a little scary."
But history is on River Hill's side. Stara has guided teams to 13 state titles -- seven at Centennial and six at River Hill -- and has lost in the state final just twice. The Hawks are also looking to become just the second team to win four consecutive state titles, joining Wilde Lake, which won four Class C championships in 1981-84.
"Everything seems to be starting to line up for us," Stara said. "Now we just have to be sure we don't go out there and lay an egg."
-- JON GALLO