Austin LaBorwit crouched down with his right knee on the grass, eyes fixed on the white midfield line.
As soon as the whistle sounded, he pounced. The Churchill senior scooped up the ball and dashed downfield to score the opening goal Thursday night. Only seven seconds had passed, but already the tone had been set for the Bulldogs in their 19-10 victory over Wootton in Potomac.
“I just felt it. This game brings out the best in everyone.” said LaBorwit, who broke Churchill’s all-time faceoffs record (478) in the win. “I just took it, and I just felt it from the beginning.”
No. 9 Churchill (10-0, 5-0 Montgomery Central) leaned on its faceoff specialist against the Patriots, much as it has all spring.
LaBorwit has been giving the Bulldogs extra possessions the past two seasons, taking the faceoff reins from former record holder Steven Stillwell after his sophomore year.
Each spring he has improved his timing and added new tricks to his faceoff repertoire. At 5 feet 11, his combination of size, strength and quickness has helped him in the center circle.
After notching the opening goal, LaBorwit continued dominating from the center circle and helped the Bulldogs establish an early lead.
The Trinity commit entered the game with 459 faceoff wins, seven short of Stillwell’s mark. He added 19 against Wootton and broke the record midway through the first quarter, recovering a loose ball and setting up a Jimmy Rubino goal.
Despite graduating All-Met Louis Dubick, the Bulldogs’ offense hasn’t skipped a beat. Rubino, Ryan Sorkin, Chris Higgins and Spencer Knife were all part of an early scoring barrage that gave Churchill an 8-1 first-quarter cushion.
“It was a big change in the offseason, and we had to adjust to that. But a lot of younger guys are stepping up,” Knife said. “It was definitely a huge loss losing [last year’s seniors], but it’s something we worked past.”
Joseph Montesano scored three consecutive goals late in the second quarter, getting the Patriots (6-4, 3-2) within 13-5 at halftime. Wootton went on another run to cut the deficit to 16-10 heading into the final period, but the Bulldogs pulled away in the fourth.
Churchill, a Maryland 4A/3A state finalist last year, extended an unbeaten streak in county games that dates from a 2014 playoff loss to the Patriots.
“No matter what happens before this game, nothing matters. We both play our best game; we both bring it,” LaBorwit said. “That’s what’s really great about this game.”