ROCKVILLE – All it took was one goal during the overtime period for Richard Montgomery High School boys lacrosse to overcome a relentless Wootton and win 6-5 in the third round of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association state playoffs on May 13.
Both teams came in looking for something more than a victory. Richard Montgomery (13-2) saw the opportunity to remain on top of the Montgomery County Public Schools’ lacrosse leaderboards as well as move toward the state championships.
Wootton (9-5) was looking to avenge a previous loss early in the season, a nail-biting 5-4 result against the Rockets on March 29.
Both teams saw the value of defense coming in, and what they lacked in scoring they made up for in rigid defense. Each attack included surgical shooting that was carefully planned out, knowing that turnovers could mean a loss of valuable momentum.
The first goal came from a sneaky shot around the back by Richard Montgomery attacker Jared Scheinberg. His goal would be the only one made in the first quarter, in large part because of Wootton’s senior goalkeeper Seamus Graham’s stellar performance in front of the net.
“I’m so proud of all these guys. We really came together, and it went to overtime, and it was going to be a flip of the coin at that point,” said Graham.
Graham was the driving force in Wootton’s defense, and he was challenged often when Richard Montgomery’s shooters got past the defenders surrounding him: the Rockets learned quickly that to get past Graham, they would need to take a risk and get close. All six Richard Montgomery goals were scored at very close range — a few feet, if not inches, away from Graham.
“It was very difficult; a lot of these games you can take some of those outside shots, but if you take an outside shot on Seamus, it’s almost a giveaway, it’s almost a turnover,” said junior Richard Montgomery midfielder Jimmy Muha.
Junior midfielder Aidan Fonseca scored the second goal for Richard Montgomery off of an assist from senior attacker Kaden Hoffman. Wootton then broke a 22-minute scoring drought with three goals in under a minute, shifting the momentum immediately and going into halftime with a one-goal lead. Senior attacker Hunter Band scored twice, and junior midfielder Evan McLaughlin scored once in a devastating minute of play against Richard Montgomery
“What we were talking about at halftime is that the second half is what’s going to win this game,” said Richard Montgomery Head Coach Steve Poole. “Whether we were up or whether we were down, that’s what was going to determine this game.”
Graham braced himself for a third-quarter onslaught of shots, none of which went into Wootton’s relief. Senior midfielder Alec Yassin scored the only goal of the third quarter to give Wootton a two-goal lead.
Richard Montgomery freshman midfielder Marcus Pedone cut the lead to one in the fourth quarter with a scrappy goal amidst a crowd of Patriots.
Yassin would render Pedone’s goal moot with a long-range shot that took junior Richard Montgomery goalie Mac Diop by surprise. His goal would bring back Wootton’s two-point lead.
Fonseca scored, followed by Hoffman, in a little over two minutes for the Rockets to equalize at five goals apiece. A last-minute rush for a goal by Wootton was for naught, and the game went to the wire.
“It’s crazy. Wootton always comes out and competes against us; they’re a great team. I got to give all my guys the credit. I made some mistakes, other guys made some mistakes, we came all together to get it done,” said Fonseca.
A short back-and-forth later in a single overtime period and Muha delivered the last blow to Wootton with another close-range goal, ending the defensive battle in favor of the Rockets.
“Tough one, you know. Tough losses like that happen; build on it, get past it,” said Wootton Head Coach Ralph Bernardo.
With the win, only the regional final on May 15 against Churchill stands in the way for Richard Montgomery to become the last Montgomery County School remaining in the 4A playoffs.