Wootton Coach Colin Thomson and the Patriots are hoping this will be the year they break through at the state level. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

It’s early in the high school lacrosse season, too early to draw too many conclusions from any one game. But in one of those early season games this week, the Wootton Patriots gave Maryland public school lacrosse fans something to think about.

With a 12-7 win over perennial Howard County and state power Glenelg in a game they controlled the entire way, the Patriots backed a theory they hope will still be standing with a year’s worth of evidence behind it: Montgomery County is no longer the state’s sleeping boys’ lacrosse giant, but rather a legitimate contender on the state stage and a true challenger to Howard and Anne Arundel County competition.

“It’s a big win,” Wootton Coach Colin Thompson admitted, cautious given the early season date, but optimistic given the historical magnitude of the win. “We scheduled them to test ourselves. It’s nice to come up and come away with a win. We feel like Montgomery County is catching up. We have teams that are doing very well.”

Montgomery County has never yielded a Maryland boys’ lacrosse champion, but according to Wootton players buoyed by their early season out-of-county success, play in the county has improved a great deal throughout their careers.

“There’s lots of starter programs now, every school, they have a feeder program, kids are ready when they get to all these schools now,” senior midfielder Jake Dunlop said. “They’re coming out — every school around the county — with kids ready to play.”

The Bears beat on the Rams, leading to a 15-1 final score. (Julian Toliver for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

Dunlop won 23 of 24 faceoffs against Glenelg, a performance that sparked teammates Myles Romm and Max Coonin to three-goal performances. He also added two goals and an assist in the game as a crucial part of a strong offensive showing that made goalie Patrick Cornelius’s 18-save performance stand up against the Gladiators, annual state tournament attendees.

Still, it’s early, and no one on Wootton is ready to proclaim themselves Montgomery County champs — let alone state title contenders — yet. Asked for their biggest in-county competition, Cornelius and Dunlop agreed simultaneously: Churchill.

The Bulldogs (3-0) may be the favorites to emerge from Montgomery County this season, having won from the 4A/3A West region in each of the last two seasons. They feature one of Montgomery County’s best players in attackman Louis Dubick, who has scored 14 goals and tallied 12 assists in three games this season.

Just how far Montgomery County lacrosse has come will be tested again April 29, when Dubick and the Bulldogs face off with No. 2 Landon (7-1). But for now, thanks to an early-season Wootton win over a Howard County foe, Montgomery County has as much hope as ever that this season is the year one of its teams finally knocks off a member of the traditional elite when it counts.

Gonzaga bounces back

Four-time reigning Washington Catholic Athletic Conference champions Gonzaga knew coming into this season that things might be different: the Eagles graduated 20 seniors, had to incorporate new talent, and do so against an ever-improving WCAC league schedule and a grueling out-of-conference slate generated by their past success.

But given the Eagles’ pedigree and the tremendous talent still filling their roster, last week’s 17-2 loss to consensus national No. 1 Boys’ Latin (Md.) shocked most area lacrosse fans. After a win against Good Counsel, Gonzaga fell again to national No. 4 McDonogh, matching last year’s loss total in a single week.

But Eagles Coach Casey O’Neill was far from worried about the losses after his team bounced back with a 17-2 win over Ireton Tuesday.

“I think the kids are so young, and all we worry about is us and getting better every day,” O’Neill said. “They’re going to be there, they’re going to be ready. They didn’t hang their heads, it just gave us a lot of film to watch. They’re getting so much better.”

In league play, his Eagles are still unbeaten (3-0), and they still have big non-league wins over then-No.5 St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes as well as close losses to Canadian power Hill Academy (12-10) and New York juggernaut Fordham Prep (7-6). Georgetown Prep and Landon still loom on the Eagles’ brutal schedule, and a regular season finale date with DeMatha on April 29 will likely provide their biggest WCAC test.

O’Neill is confident that as the season goes along, mistakes of inexperience will yield to the energetic talent he sees all over the field led by stars like junior Timmy Monahan (24 goals) and junior defenseman Michael Borda.

“Guys are trying to pick it up and figuring out they’ve got to be leaders sooner than they thought,” O’Neill said. “It comes down to finding a toughness and meanness in ourselves. I don’t want it to come off as being overly aggressive, but we’ve got to be tougher, meaner from the first whistle. Because they have to realize just how not nice other teams will be to us.”

The Post Top 10

Georgetown Prep earned a 10-7 win over Gilman Friday to solidify its position as one of the top teams in the area and beyond. . . . Landon won its two games against Penn Charter and Robinson this week by a combined score of 28-3. . . . DeMatha went 3-0 on a California swing before returning to beat WCAC rival St. Mary’s Ryken 11-3 Monday to move to 9-0. . . . With a 7-5 win over rival Robinson last Thursday, Chantilly has won 20 of its last 21 games dating back to last season.

1. Georgetown Prep (7-0) LW: 1

2. Landon (7-1) LW: 2

3. DeMatha (9-0) LW: 4

4. Gonzaga (6-4) LW: 3

5. St. Stephen’s (4-3) LW: 5

6. Howard (4-0) LW: 6

7. Arundel (3-0) LW: NR

8. South River (2-1) LW: 9

9. Chantilly (3-0) LW: 10

10. Churchill (3-0) LW: NR

On the bubble: Broadneck (2-1), Wootton (3-0), Bullis (5-2)

Records through Tuesday.