‘Firing on all cylinders’: Dominant first half leads Churchill boys lax to 8th straight regional title

POTOMAC – The Winston Churchill High School boys lacrosse team arrived on Monday night looking to continue its dominance over 4A opposition on its way back to another Maryland state 4A title.

Taking on Wootton in the west regional, the Bulldogs faced few problems, steamrolling past the Patriots 15-4 to secure the school’s eighth straight regional title.

“It’s unbelievable,” Churchill head coach Jeff Fritz – who had led the Bulldogs during their dominant run – said after the win. “The kids come in each year buying in, and they know the standard we have and the standard they need to hold up to keep our program where it is.”

Churchill controlled the game early and often, securing a 13-2 lead over their archrivals by the end of the first half. Alex Caraballo had another stellar performance with five first-half goals for the Bulldogs, while Xander Frey finished with four tallies.

“I’m surprised, to be honest,” said Fritz. “I thought it would be a real tough game here. We got a nice little roll there in the second quarter and got it done.”

“We came out firing on all cylinders,” said Caraballo. “We filled up the net really early, and they had really no chance of coming back.”

In the first quarter, Churchill jumped out to a 4-1 lead, as Caraballo scored twice, while Frey and Reed Drummond also put the ball in the net. Jake Hoffman had the lone goal for Wootton.

“It feels special, for sure,” said Caraballo. “It almost feels like a dynasty at this point. Churchill lacrosse is very well known around here.”

The Bulldogs went all out in the second quarter with nine goals, as Caraballo added three more tallies, Frey and Jack Thompson each scored twice, and Drummond and Taigh Merola each had a goal.

“It feels great,” said Frey. “But at this point, greatness is expected. We’ve gotten it done so far this year, but it’s not over yet. We’ve got to keep going.”

Alec Fleischer led the Patriots with two goals – one in the second quarter and the lone goal in the third quarter. His second-quarter goal had cut the deficit to 5-2 before the Bulldogs scored eight more goals.

In the fourth quarter, Frey scored his fourth goal, and Jack O’Donnell also found the net for Churchill, while Ryan McGraw had the lone Wootton tally.

“We just had a few things we weren’t quite ready for,” said Patriots head coach Ralph Bernardo. “Our young goalie was a little overwhelmed. But I’m still proud of how we bounced back in that second half.”

Bernardo, a Wootton Class of 2013 graduate and head coach since 2019, is still proud of his team.

“They were absolutely true brothers,” said Bernardo. “They hang out outside of school; they’re best friends; they sit together at lunch. They love each other.”

The Bulldogs now advance to the state quarterfinals, hoping to repeat as Maryland 4A state champions.

“Everybody’s put in so much work like from the fall,” said Frey. “Even from the last season till now. As long as everybody is piecing everything together, we’re moving the ball well, and defense is playing the way they did, we can go far.”

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