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ROCKVILLE – The afternoon of April 5 arrived with a spring chill and a waning drizzle; a drizzle that caused several high school sports games to be postponed or rescheduled.
For an emotionally charged lacrosse game between Northwest High School and Wootton High School, however, there was no postponing a matchup that carried an asterisk, a footnote of that caliber. The game was originally scheduled as a Northwest home game, but less-than-ideal field conditions necessitated a bit of a scheduling tweak. Instead, the game was to be played at James A. Coles Field, home of the Patriots.
That’s also the former home of current Northwest Head Coach Jonathan Powell. He was in charge of the Patriots for one tumultuous season before leaving the team in the summer of 2018 amidst talk of turmoil between players and coaches.
The shared history between Powell and Wootton resulted in a highly emotional and very physical matchup as both teams were penalized multiple times throughout the course of the game. In the end, Wootton emerged victorious, with a final score of 12-5.
The Jaguars displayed an aggressive playing style from the very first faceoff, occasionally running over opposing players or knocking them off of their feet. Wootton soon matched Northwest’s physicality and the referees stayed busy as yellow flags littered the field every few minutes.
“In the first half, the penalties really hurt us, but we overcame them and played better,” said Wootton junior midfielder Zane Cohen. “This game meant a lot to us and it showed on the field with our effort and dedication.”
Cohen, who registered a career-high five points from three goals and two assists, was one of two Patriots to finish the evening with a hat trick; the second player was senior attacker Hunter Band.
However, the gravity of taking the field against Wootton’s old coach weighed on Cohen prior to the game and he stated that he hoped the situation wouldn’t cause his teammates to feel overwhelmed.
For first-year Wootton Head Coach Ralph Bernardo, though, the game was more about proving a point.
“They wanted him to know they’re fine without him,” said Bernardo. “They had to keep their heads straight. We also have a lot of fun and a lot of enthusiasm, so we’re a high-penalty team.”
The penalties persisted for most of the evening and opposing players often found themselves in the penalty box at the same time as both teams were penalized on the same play on more than one occasion.
The Jaguars certainly weren’t lacking in enthusiasm as they kept the game close in the first half. Seniors Vasilios Mantzouratos and David Rosenberg led the charge as both players registered two goals apiece. Rosenberg gave Northwest its first goal and then provided the assist for Mantzouratos in the second period.
Early in the second half, though, Wootton started to pull away despite another goal from Mantzouratos. Four different Patriots scored in the third period, including a man-up goal by junior midfielder Evan McLaughlin at the tail end of the quarter.
The Patriots led by six as they entered the final period. Band and McLaughlin combined for another pair of goals and Band completed his hat trick by circling behind the net and slipping the ball past Northwest goalie Kenny Yeaher.
Rosenberg got the last word and one final goal for Northwest with just 49 seconds remaining on the clock, but the battle of attrition belonged to Wootton.
“I expected a tough crowd and a tough game from these guys,” said Mantzouratos. “I think a lot of people just got really heated in the moment. There was just a lot of chipping away.”
The Jaguars had entered the game riding the momentum from an 18-2 offensive showcase against Clarksburg that gave 1-4 Northwest its first win of the season.
Mantzouratos explained that due to multiple players graduating last year, the Jaguars are still working on their chemistry as a unit.
“We’re trying to get the ball around more because this season we’ve got a lot of young kids and we’re trying to get to know each other and get the chemistry going. It’s kind of a new team,” he said. “We’re trying to get the ball around and that’s something we’ve been lacking in the first few games of the season.”
Next up, the Jaguars are scheduled to play Gaithersburg and Wootton will visit Clarksburg on April 8.