The South River boys lacrosse team knew it needed a fast start to Wednesday's Class 4A-3A East regional title game against surging Annapolis to disrupt the momentum the visiting Panthers had built in their impressive postseason run.
Senior attackman Dylan Luiza said coach Paul Noone asked his Seahawks to think back to all the games they started strong.
The Seahawks can add another one to the list.
Dominating at both ends, South River scored the game's first three goals and never let up, handling the Panthers, 12-4, to capture the program's fourth region title.
The Seahawks (15-3) advance to play Wootton at 8 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals hosted by Arundel with their sights on the program's second state title.
On Wednesday, the Seahawks' precise finishing on attack was simply too much for the Panthers. Sophomore Ben Chisholm finished with four goals and two assists, Joey Papetti scored three times and Luiza had two goals and two assists.
They outshot the Panthers 19-5 in methodically building a 6-1 halftime advantage that was never threatened.
"Coach told us the hard effort in the first quarter will pay off because once you get a team down, their confidence lowers and then it's easy to boost your own team," Luiza said.
Despite the setback, the Panthers (9-9) made significant strides after starting the season 3-7. They moved past the .500 mark with Monday's upset win over defending state champ Severna Park, but they weren't able to maintain the same high level of play against the Seahawks.
"I'm really proud of these guys in what they were able to do this season," Annapolis coach Dustin McConnaughhay said. "Early on, we were 3-7, and we won six out of seven games and avenged two early season losses and beat the defending state champ at their home. These guys played real hard, but I have to give all the credit in the world to South River — they were the better team today."
The Seahawks, who captured their only state title in 2009, are looking forward to the opportunity to bring home another one.
"Being knocked off in the region final last year really hurt," Luiza said. "I was close with all the seniors, and knowing you lost the last game you played with them killed me. So being a senior and getting the chance to go to states again is a big confidence booster. We love everyone. We know the defense will step up, the attack has to do its job to get goals and then the midfielders just have to do the things they have to do between the lines and we'll be set."
Goals: A—Russell, Bayline, Robinson, Bullen; SR—Gibbs, Papetti 3, Chisholm 4, Wagner, Luiza 2, Graham.
Assists: A—Shackleford 2, Zingler; SR—Luiza 2, Carr, Wagner, Lee 2, Chisholm 2, Gibbs.
Saves: A—Pastrana 12; SR—Sumpter 6.
Half: SR, 6-1.