No. 13 Hereford runs past Towson for another Baltimore County boys lacrosse championship; Bowen and Furman combine for 6 goals (VIDEO HERE!)

Hereford’s Grafton Griffey (right) is defended by Towson’s Leighton Bechdel during Saturday’s Baltimore County boys lacrosse title game. The No. 13 Bulls shutout the Generals in the second half, claiming an 11-5 victory at the US Lacrosse Complex in Sparks.

by Derek Toney

With a young roster, Hereford High boys lacrosse has been a work in progress this spring. If Saturday’s an indication, the Bulls are ready for another deep postseason run.

No. 13 Hereford claimed the Baltimore County championship with an 11-5 victory over 14th-ranked Towson at US Lacrosse’s Tierney Field. Junior attack Jake Furman and sophomore attack Jay Bowen each recorded hat tricks for the Bulls (10-3 overall).

The Parkton school broke open a tight match late in the first half and carried it through the final 24 minutes, winning its 11th league crown in the last 12 seasons. Hereford has won 10 outright in the stretch, sharing the 2017 crown with Towson.

After outlasting the rival Generals (9-4) in double overtime last month, Bulls coach Sal Picataggi saw his squad put together a near flawless effort Saturday.

“We’ve had games where our defense has really stepped up. We’ve had games where our offense has been really good,” said Picataggi. “Towson can win the 3A state championship so this is a good team and we put this complete game together to beat them by six goals.”

Led by senior goalie Nick Balducci, Hereford’s defense kept Towson off the scoreboard the final 28 minutes. In addition to Balducci, Picataggi commended Sam Furman, Josh Goodwin, Gino Pisano, Aden Johnson, Will Rider, Blaine Karotko, Grafton Griffey and Nico DiNenna.

Balducci, whose only real work in the second half may have been trying to outrun his teammates who pursued him after the final buzzer sounded Saturday, said the Bulls made the necessary adjustments from the first match – a 8-7 decision Apr. 19 in Towson.

“Some of the plays Towson ran, we knew where some of the kids were going to be and able to get guys there,” said Balducci. “We just shut down their offense.”

Senior midfielder Jack Callis and Cole Gibbons each tallied twice for the Bulls, who accounted for eight of the game’s final nine scores. Griffey, a senior co-captain, added a goal and two assists.

Dunay provided the jolt with back-to-back faceoff victories for quick scores. After being bested by Towson FOGO Mitch Boudreau in the first meeting, Dunay won 11 of 19 at the X Saturday.

“Last time we played them he was getting all the clamps on me and I really buckled down this time and made sure I was getting that clamp, really rotating,” Dunay said. “I just played my game. I told myself I know what my potential is, I’m confident in myself and I just did it, ran down the field and looked for the open man.”

The Bulls gained the lead for good at 5-4 with 5 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the second quarter after Dunay streaked down the middle after a faceoff win and passed to Jake Furman who deposited the ball into the net. Eight seconds later, Gibbons finished a break off Dunay’s pass.

Callis, Griffey, Gibbons and Bowen each tallied in the second half with Jake Baldwin assisting three times. Baldwin was the hero in the Bulls’ win at Towson, scoring the walk-off goal in the second overtime.

The rematch Saturday had the makings early for another thriller. The Generals led 4-3 after Leighton Bechdel’s extra-man goal in the second quarter. Towson answered Dunay’s faceoff run with sophomore attack Evan Jones beating Balducci with 4:13 remaining before halftime, after the latter deflected two close attempts.

It would be the final score for the Generals, who lost for the second straight in the Baltimore County final. Jones and Grant Kuehn  each had a goal and an assist.

Towson coach Shawn Burke was mystified afterwards.

“I saw us do things in the riding and clearing games that I’ve never seen us do, offensively same thing, and defensively we had some breakdowns that were inexcusable. And that’s on us as coaches,” said Burke. “You’re going to give up some good plays in a big game and that’s part of it, but you can’t give away things against a good team and we did way too much of that today.”

The Generals will look to regroup in the Class 3A North Region playoffs. Towson reached its first state semifinal since 2015 last season, losing to eventual state 3A champ Westminster.

Hereford next has the 2A North playoffs, looking to reach the state semifinals for the 12th straight year. The Bulls lost to Marriotts Ridge in the 2A final last season.

Nick Balducci (left) and Connor Dunay was solid in goal and faceoff circle for Hereford Saturday. Dunay won 11 of 19 faceoffs and Balducci finished with 12 saves as the Bulls won their 11th Baltimore County boys lacrosse title in 12 years.

Hereford hasn’t won a state title since its record run of six straight from 2008 to 2013.

“We feel like we’re always going to be there, the question is do we cash in this year wth the opportunity,” said Picataggi. “We heard all the chatter, ‘they lost a lot of guys…they’re not going there.’ Teams are going to be foolish if they overlooked us.”

Baltimore County boys lacrosse championship

at US Lacrosse

No. 13 Hereford 11, No. 14 Towson 5

Goals: Towson – Bechdel, Burkett, Dugan,Jones, Kuehn; Hereford – Bowen 3, Furman 3, Callis 2, Gibbons 2, Griffey.

Assists:  Towson – Jones, Kuehn; Hereford – Baldwin 3, Dunay 2, Griffey 2

Saves: Towson – Turner 9; Hereford – Balducci 12

‘Towson 2 3 0 0 – 5

Hereford 2 5 4 0 – 11