In the state semifinals, Patapsco needed overtime to gain a 2-1 win over Montgomery County's Bethesda-Chevy Chase, winner of three state titles in the 1980s. Perry Hall trailed 1-0 at halftime of its 3-2 win over B-CC's county neighbor, Whitman, winner of four championships.
But Sparrows Point took an easier route, hammering Williamsport, 7-2.
Together, the trio achieved a first for Baltimore County -- three state finalists in boys soccer -- while Montgomery County -- with five-time champion Churchill losing to Bel Air in a 3A semifinal shootout -- was shut out of the finals for only the fifth time in the tournament's 25-year history.
Patapsco, under fourth-year coach Dave Ingle, reached the state title game for the first time since 1977, when it won it all.
Sparrows Point's appearance, its first since 1975, when it was runner-up, has taken on a special meaning for athletic director Mitchell Moon. Two of the three state titles the Pointers won in 1973-75 came on Moon's birthday.
Moon, who will turn 57 tomorrow, said: "It's been a while, so that [state title] would be a nice gift."
Perry Hall coach Ed Wolfe, whose Gators will be making their first 4A state title game appearance, said he'll be rooting for his school's county rivals when No. 7 Patapsco takes the field against Wilde Lake in the 2A title game at noon at Old Mill, and when No. 15 Sparrows Point plays Pocomoke in the 1A game at 2:30.
"We feel now that we're supporting the other two teams," said Wolfe, whose No. 14 Gators (13-2-1) will face Northwestern of Prince George's County at 7:30. "I think we all want to make a statement for Baltimore County."
Wolfe's Gators are led by sophomore striker Joe Capone (17 goals, eight assists), midfielder Alan Batac (two, six) and sweeper Adam Nastalski (eight, eight).
Wolfe has a strategy worked out for Northwestern, a speedy team that has no American-born players. Figuring into it are the 6-foot-3 Nastalski, keeper Bill Foos (6-0), Kyle Zimmer (6-3), John Bornman (6-1), Sal Benevega (6-0) and Brian Schekemeyer.
"Northwestern's very fast, and we'll have to counter that with conditioning and our height for an air-ball game," said Wolfe. "Practicing has been a problem with the weather, but the kids are up for the game."
Patapsco, owner of an 8-0 record at home, six shutouts and a 0.94 goals-against average, split with Perry Hall and Sparrows Point during the season. After losing the season-opener, 3-2, to the Pointers, Patapsco enjoyed an eight-game winning streak that included a 5-2 rout of the Gators.
The Patriots (15-2-1) also notched victories over last year's 4A state runner-up Dulaney, North Harford and Howard -- a team that tied Wilde Lake.
Striker Dino Pusinsky (nine goals, 13 assists) and midfielder Heath Adkins (15, five) have been involved in all but two of the Patriots' 44 goals, with Mike Mosmiller (seven, four) being the next highest point-earner.
Patapsco keeper Mike Griffith has stopped 167 of 189 shots. But it helps that Griffith's sweeper, 6-3, 190-pound Josh Campbell, is a good friend and a goalie on the Columbia United club team.
"It's not just confidence that helps us win games, but our closeness and communication," said Campbell. "We've been in situations lately where everyone's just willing to work hard and do what has to be done."
Patapsco's last five victories have included two straight shootouts, a 4-3 decision and a come-from-behind, 2-1 win.
In the regional title game -- a 2-1 victory over North Harford after trailing 1-0 at halftime -- Pusinsky scored the game-winner unassisted, putting in a wind-aided corner kick that "seemed to have some magic to it."
The Bethesda-Chevy Chase also was magical, both goals being scored by unheralded sophomore Mike Brown, who had just two goals and an assist before the game. The game-winning assist came from Pusinsky with his back to the goal. Brown, also with his back toward the goal in the penalty area, scissor-kicked the ball into the net's upper corner.
Sparrows Point (11-4-1) has had no trouble in the playoffs, having obliterated its opposition by a combined 33-6 score in four games. Coach Bob Hallet attributes the surge in scoring to the switching of two players five games back.
Striker Sean Volz (28 goals, 10 assists) moved from the midfield, and 6-1, 190-pound Chris Butler (14, six) from striker to midfield. In the playoffs alone, Volz, a Calvert Hall transfer, has scored 14 goals and two assists, and striker Joey Wilson has had eight goals with nine assists.
"Butler does a nice job dominating the midfield. He's a big, blue-collar player," said Hallet, an eight-year assistant to Bill Karpovich at Calvert Hall. "Volz is finesse and knows every move in the book. He and Wilson get things going up front for us."
What makes Sparrow Point's success so interesting is its lack of depth: It had a 14-player roster until junior varsity players were brought up recently.
"We survived a pretty strong league, proven by having three teams in the playoffs," said Hallett. "I'm really happy for Patapsco, which is from our area of the county. And with Perry Hall in there, also, it's just great for all of Baltimore County."