By Aaron Kasinitz
After erasing a four-goal second half deficit to send Wednesday night’s game into sudden death overtime, the Winston Churchill Bulldogs lacrosse team found itself one goal away from a program changing victory. They were one goal away from finally beating the six-time defending regional champion Wootton Patriots. They were one goal away from securing the school’s first-ever division title. They were one goal away from snatching the throne as the county’s best team.
Just sixteen seconds into the overtime frame, however, Wootton senior Chris Cornelius picked up a groundball in the Churchill zone and fired a shot past Bulldog goalie Peter Hurd to score one goal that gave the Patriots a 10-9 victory and that put Churchill’s aspirations just out of reach.
“We would have been undefeated in the division and won our first division title,” said Churchill head coach Jeff Fritz shaking his head in frustration just minutes after Cornelius’ backbreaking goal, “But this was one game, luckily it’s not the end of our season.”
Cornelius’ goal didn’t end anyone’s season, but it did end one of the most wildly entertaining and intensely emotional regular season lacrosse games one could imagine. The goal was also critical because it put Wootton and Churchill in a three-way tie for the Montgomery 4A south lead along with Walter Johnson.
“I’ve never hit a bigger goal, especially against a rival like Churchill” said Cornelius, “it was a hell of game.”
It didn’t seem like the Patriots would need any late game heroics after a Myles Romm goal put Wootton ahead 7-3 early in the second half. But Churchill responded with a pair of goals from Cameron Moshyedi and Matt Leonard in the third.
An issue with the clock negated a potential Churchill goal at the end of the frame and could have demoralized the Bulldogs moving into the fourth quarter if not for the sensational play of freshman Louis Dubick.
Dubick scored twice in the first three minutes of the final frame, tying the score at seven. Then, after a few minutes of tense play on both sides, Dubick raced through the Patriot defense and found teammate Matt Moshyedi for the go ahead goal with just under six minutes to play.
“A lot of our offense goes through [Dubick], he is really cool and calm with the ball and he did a nice job tonight,” said Fritz.
The six-time defending championships wouldn’t back down from the Bulldogs, and two quick goals from Cornelius and Danny Weinstein put the Patriots back on top with under a minute and a half remaining.
Wootton head coach Colin Thomas said, “It shows a lot of character in the guys to be resilient like that and to see them come back and weather it like we did.”
But Churchill didn’t lack any resilience either. A mere minute after Wootton regained the lead, Dubick scored off of a rebound with just 26 seconds left, fittingly sending the game into overtime, which set the stage for Cornelius’ game-winner.
This may have been the most significant game in the county all season, and its result means that the perennial county power Patriots remain at the forefront of the playoff picture.
“There was no doubt this was a huge game,” said Thomas, “they’ve been playing well and it’s good to win and good to win a rivalry game.”
Meanwhile, Churchill is faced with the task of moving past a missed opportunity at a potentially monumental victory.
“We will use this as a chance to refocus and get things going in the right direction,” said Fritz.
The way Wednesday night’s game was going, Churchill would have undoubtedly responded had the overtime not been sudden death. And Wootton probably would have responded back, leaving a vital game up for grabs.
But overtime is sudden death, and everything rested on one goal.