The problem with competing in the playoffs, as the Broadneck boys soccer team has discovered, is there isn't much time to savor a victory.
Get past Severna Park in the Region IV semifinals and start worrying about North County. Dominate Thomas Wootton in the 4A state semis and begin planning for Bowie.
"We can't rest on our laurels for too long," Broadneck coach Kevin McMullen said Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after his Bruins had shut out Wootton, 3-0. "We have to start cranking it up for Bowie."
Broadneck's first-ever trip to the state finals, at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Old Mill, leads to a confrontation with the team ranked second in the nation in a USA Today poll.
"They're obviously a very strong team," McMullen said of the top-seeded Bulldogs (15-0). "We'll have to have an exceptional game to be competitive with them. Our guys have to pick up their game another level, but I think they're capable of doing that."
McMullen believes the second-seeded Bruins (9-2-4) are "peaking at the perfect time."
"We're playing the best soccer we've played all year," he said, "and (Monday) night certainly was a culmination of that."
Senior Brad Reinhart scored all three goals in the victory over Wootton, his second hat trick of the season. He now has eight goals, three fewer than team-leader Rich Aftoora.
Broadneck endured a highly publicized offensive drought midway through the season, when the Bruins played to three consecutive scoreless ties. At one point, they were 2-1-4 and a long-shot even to qualify for the regions, let alone the state finals.
"Oddly enough, I think things really started turning around against North County (Oct. 12)," McMullen said. "Even though we lost, 2-1, we did some good things that night. We finished the regular season with four wins (in a row), and now we have three more in the playoffs. We play a little better each time we go out."
The Bruins' overall performance Monday was enhanced by the stellar defensive work of midfielders Johnny Williams and Jeff Vincent, who completely shut down Wootton's two leading scorers, Stefan Triandafilou and Ted Sherburne. And senior keeper Sean Tettemer was at his best as well, making eight critical saves.
McMullen needs a similar effort from the Broadneck defense Saturday to thwart a Bowie team that has scored 19 goals in three playoffs games. But keying on just two individuals, as the Bruins did against Wootton, is not likely to deter the Bulldogs.
"Bowie can hurt you a lot more ways," McMullen said, comparing the two opponents. "We had two players on Wootton who we zeroed in on, but Bowie is very well-balanced. They have more ways to hurt you."
The most lethal method involves junior halfback Todd Hicks, who leads Bowie with 16 goals. But if he's off the mark, Bowie coach Rick Kirkland can turn to a number of productive scorers, including Mark Jonas (15 goals), Seth Brannon (13) and Andy Moore (nine).
Kirkland, in his second year, returned nine starters from last year's team that fell to eventual state champion Walt Whitman in the 4A semifinals. The Bulldogs are pursuing their sixth state title Saturday.
Overall, Bowie has totaled 88 goals, 60 more than the Bruins. Its defense, which overcame the death last summer of projected starting keeper Donnie Zukowski and the academic ineligibility of backup Jason Spring, has yielded eight goals.
"We're not intimidated by them," McMullen said. "The kids can't go in feeling that way."
McMullen received an early look at Bowie during a preseason scrimmage, which the Bulldogs won by the slightest of margins, 2-1. But much has changed since then, particularly on the Broadneck side.
"We certainly have our work cut out for us," McMullen said. "But the kids are very confident. They're ready to take their best shot at Bowie."
Nothing less will suffice.