Jun. 17—Hereford didn't give up hope, even when it seemed as if there wasn't any.
Glenelg led 6-1 in the first quarter, and its attack was electric. The host Gladiators were winning every face-off and the raucous home crowd was creating a pre-pandemic playoff atmosphere.
However, the Bulls fixed their defense, dominated the third quarter and came back to beat Glenelg 13-12 in the MPSSAA Class 2A semifinals on Wednesday.
"This is incredible," said Hereford coach Kyle Leppert. "These guys have been working and pouring into this for a long time before we even knew if we'd have playoffs. It's great to see."
Owen Cogan's goal with just under four minutes remaining was the game-winner, and Logan Bush's save late in the contest sealed the victory.
"This is amazing. I feel wonderful. It was awesome to put these guys on my back there," Cogan said. "We didn't let down. It was only four goals. We knew we could come back. We made sure to keep the motivation up and keep high hopes."
The win avenges the Bulls' loss to Glenelg in the same game two years ago. The Gladiators ended Hereford's season in the 2A state semifinals in 2019 and went on to beat Century in the championship.
"We really wanted to come back this year and beat them," said Trey Gibbons, who led the Bulls with a hat trick.
With the triumph, No. 7 Hereford (7-2) advances to the Class 2A championship on Saturday. The Bulls will face off against No. 4 Kent Island.
No. 6 Glenelg (9-2) looked like itself to open the game, and the Gladiators were playing as if they would go on to win another playoff game in blowout fashion.
After going down 1-0 early, Glenelg scored six straight goals in the first quarter, including two scores from both Kevin Doughty and Evan Whatley. Face-off, get-off specialist Connor Iannirano was dominant at the X in the first period, winning all but one face-off.
A goal from Trey Gibbons as time expired stopped the Gladiators' large run. After an even second period, Glenelg led 8-4 at halftime.
In the third, Hereford's defensive adjustments of mixing in zone and man continued to work, and the Bulls took advantage of multiple Glenelg turnovers as well as a few face-off violations. Hereford outscored the Gladiators 6-3 in the period, including a streak of three straight goals, to trail by only one entering the final period.
"Defensively, the guys just stepped up," said Leppert. "Everyone hustled, and we raised our level to the level of that team. Our guys were up to meet that challenge."
Connor Kyger opened the third with a goal and scored another nine minutes later, while Trey Gibbons, Chase Gibbons, Logan Sinsebox and Gavin Taylorson all chipped in during the comeback quarter.
To open the final period, Taylorson and Trey Gibbons scored 19 seconds apart to give Hereford its first lead since a 1-0 advantage 4:30 into the game. Whatley and Doughty — a duo that combined for eight goals and five assists — connected for a goal less than a minute later to tie the score at 12 apiece.
Cogan then scored the game-winner with 3:46 remaining on his first shot attempt of the game.
"He's put in more work than most guys out here," said Leppert. "To see him come through in a moment like that, you could see what it meant to his teammates and to him."
Glenelg had multiple chances to score late, but the Bulls' defense remained stout and forced the Gladiators into multiple mistakes.
"We just made too many mistakes in the second half," said Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker. "They made adjustments, but we didn't adjust quick enough to their adjustments. Defensively, we were going to the right spots, but we just didn't get to them quick enough. Offensively, they ran a good zone, but that last save on Whatley was a game-changer."
Despite the loss, Hatmaker said he was "proud" of his 14-member senior class, headlined by starters Doughty, Whatley, Buch, Haney, Iannarino, Kevin Pak, Cam Sedlack, Charlie Wendel and Stephen DeSantis.
"They're awesome. This wasn't the ending we wanted, but they fought," Hatmaker said. "They fought just to be here. I'm going to miss these seniors because of how close I've been with them for four years."
Hereford's game against Kent Island, which defeated Parkside 5-4 in the semifinals on Wednesday, is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Saturday at Loyola University's Ridley Athletic Complex.
No. 7 Hereford 13, No. 6 Glenelg 12 (2A semifinals)
Goals: H — Trey Gibbons 3, Connor Kyger 2, Chase Gibbons, Gavin Taylorson 2, Jason Bowen, Ryan Woods, Logan Sinsebox, Owen Cogan; G — Kevin Doughty 4, Evan Whatley 4, Colin Buch, Wyatt Haney, Jon Nagle, Rocco Buscher.
Assists: H — Bowen 4, Taylorson, Sinsebox, Kyger, Max Traska; G — Doughty 3, Whatley 2, Buch, Haney, Connor Iannarino.
Halftime: 8-4, G.