BY GENE NARDI
The Wellington High School boys varsity lacrosse squad defeated crosstown rival Palm Beach Central High School 14-4 on Thursday, April 18 to claim the district crown. This marks the second consecutive year that the Wolverines have won the district title.
The two teams battled earlier in the season for the local Outback Rivals Cup, which Palm Beach Central seems to have a lock on, but it was the Wolverines that managed to grab the district championship.
The Broncos got on the board first, just three minutes into the contest. Wellington quickly responded, indicating that it was to be a fierce and physical rematch between the rival schools.
Both teams went shot for shot, and Palm Beach Central had the tight 3-2 lead near the end of the first period of play. Bronco goalie Shawn Chanutin came up with three mammoth consecutive saves as the Wolverines peppered the Bronco goal at the end of the period, eventually tying the score 3-3.
Palm Beach Central attacker Nick Griffin scored early in the second quarter to retake the lead, but it was not to last, as Griffins’ score was his team’s final goal of the game.
Wellington tied the game yet again with a goal by Patrick Oporto. Thomas Oporto scored shortly thereafter, to give Wellington its first lead of the match, which would not be compromised. Palm Beach Central threatened several times before the end of the half, but both goalies combined for 10 saves before the half’s end. The Wolverines closed out the half with a two-goal lead.
Wellington would go on to score a total of 11 unanswered goals on the Bronco defense to win the district title by a final score of 14-4.
The Wolverines went to their man-to-man defense earlier in the game than they did in their previous contest against the Broncos. “We spent less time in the penalty box this time,” Wellington coach Joe Calby said.
The Wolverine defense appeared to completely shut down Palm Beach Central’s attack anytime they presented a threat. “We played more offense than defense tonight. We played slower and patient, and had good dodges, which made the difference,” Calby said. “They’re not ready to end their season, and they weren’t going to let anybody end their season tonight.”
“We didn’t play crazy this time,” senior defensive captain Ryan Smolchek said. “We played smarter passes up field, and played more man defense than zone.”
Senior attacker Tyler Kuhlman and Jason D’Aoust combined for 8 goals and 2 assists. “We were able to spread them out more this time, and our middie’s stepped up,” Kuhlman said. “We made a lot of cuts and dodges that went our way.”
Wellington goalie Logan Masta is credited with 7 saves on the night. The Oporto brothers combined for 5 goals and 3 assists, and senior Hunter Dietz scored.
Wellington traveled to St. Andrews on Tuesday for the first round of the state regional playoffs, losing 17-6.
ABOVE: Palm Beach Central defender Matthew Liermann cuts off an attack from Wellington’s Jason D’Aoust.