After Hereford gutted out a 5-4 triumph over Kent Island in the 2021 Class 2A boys lacrosse state championship game, the Buccaneers have become a lot more difficult to handle in their next two meetings with the Bulls.

In last year’s state semifinal, the Eastern Shore contingent flattened Hereford, 13-3, on the way to claiming the program’s third state title.

Wednesday night at Stevenson University’s Mustang Stadium, Kent Island (17-2) used an impressive defensive effort to blank the Bulls (14-3) for more than 40 minutes in a 9-3 verdict.

Things began to really go awry for Hereford when senior attackman Trey Gibbons was injured early in the second quarter and never returned to the game.

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The offense, which failed to convert on a whopping six extra-man opportunities, was out of sync against an athletic Kent Island defense and demonstrative senior goalie Kasey Heath.

“That was a personnel change that was something that we really couldn’t prepare for,” Hereford coach Kyle Leppert said. “it was a matter of thinking things out on the fly, and something the guys put a really good effort toward, but that was a really tall task.”

The Bulls started in good shape, getting goals from senior midfielder Connor Hartlove, senior attackman Baylor Davis and junior attackman JP Revitte to take a 3-2 advantage with 4:10 left in the first period.

However, they were never able to crack the Kent Island code for the rest of the game while the Buccaneers struck five times in the third quarter to jump ahead, 7-3.

Hereford had four man-up situations in the third quarter alone — and were stymied every time.

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Kent Island's Mark Reese (10), who scored a game-high three goals, works against the Hereford defense during the Bucs 9-3 win in the Class 2A Boys Lacrosse state final. (John Bowers)

“A couple of guys shifted around,” Leppert said. “We just didn’t have enough flexibility. And you know what you’re up against in the goalie, so you’re already a little selective. But then they clamped down the pressure, and that makes it even harder when you’re behind — that pressure, they ratcheted it up.”

“It threw the flow off (when Gibbons was sidelined),” Davis said about the offense. “Trey’s a big shooter, a big scorer….taking him out of the equation. We just don’t get enough reps with the other guys.”

Davis added that the Baltimore County champs had a tough start to the season before catching fire in mid-April and reeling off 10 straight wins.

“It’s pretty amazing how jelled our starting six on offense are,” he said. “And how jelled our starting six on defense are. It makes practice so fun. They’re your friends, not just teammates, but friends and brothers, so you’re happy to win with them and happy to lose with them. We were able to get it together and make it here.”

Micah Quinn (2) and Owen Wynot (7) celebrate one of Quinn's two scores in Kent Island's 9-3 victory over Hereford in the Class 2A Boys Lacrosse State Championship game, Tuesday at Stevenson University. (John Bowers)

Kent Island coach Robert Woolley said that losing Gibbons worked to his defense’s advantage.

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“We didn’t have to slide quite as early,” he said. “They were a little less powerful, if you will, and that fell into our favor.”

He lauded his man-down ‘D’ for pitching a shutout.

“We’ve been working hard on our man-down defense,” he said. “We had a couple of guys injured, so we had to move some guys around and get creative. The guys played lights out.”

KENT ISLAND 9, NO. 15 HEREFORD 3

Kent Island 2 5 0 2 — 9

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Hereford 3 0 0 0 — 3

Goals: Kent Island-Mark Rees 3, Micah Quinn 2, Tucker Claxton 2, Keegan Green, Eric Hofmann; Hereford-Connor Hartlove, JP Revitte, Baylor Davis.

Assists: Kent Island-Micah Quinn 2, Tucker Claxton; Hereford-Jay Goetz.

Saves: Kent Island-Kasey Heath 8; Hereford-Cole Jedlicka 10.

The Kent Island boys lacrosse team celebrates its 2023 2A state championship victory over Hereford with a team photo on the turf at Stevenson University's Mustang Stadium. (John Bowers)

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