Welcome to the club, Middle Creek. The Mustangs’ boys lacrosse program has joined the blue bloods as a state champion in what is still a relatively young high school sport.
Middle Creek beat Lake Norman 17-8 to win the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4A state title Saturday afternoon at WakeMed Soccer Park.
It was Middle Creek’s first trip to the state finals against a program with a history. The Wildcats lost in last year’s finals, but their tradition dates back to winning the 2012 state title and finishing 2013 as the runner-up. Middle Creek’s high-scoring roster also knocked off defending champion Cardinal Gibbons, 17-4, in the semifinals as another step to an unbeaten season of 22-0.
The title shows other schools it’s possible to catch up to the established programs that had a head start when the sport was sanctioned in 2010. There was just one boys division before splitting into 4A and 3A/2A/1A titles in 2014.
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“You hope when you come in as a coach you can establish some positive traditions,” Middle Creek coach Nicholas Holota said. “This is a result of that, but more than that I’m proud of how we’ve established a high quality of work ethic. These guys are doing amazing things in the classroom and the community. I hope we can build on that.”
Saturday’s championship is Middle Creek’s first state title in an NCHSAA-sanctioned sport since baseball in 2012. The Mustangs might be known for baseball and a powerful football program that has flirted with runs to the state finals, but now it has a lacrosse identity.
“A lot of people think we’re a football school, but we’re good at lacrosse, too,” said junior Owen Caputo, who finished with four goals, three in the second half when the Mustangs pulled away from an 8-4 lead. “We’ve been good for a while, but we were really solid this year.”
Senior Jared Medwar led the Mustangs with five goals and senior Tanner Patrick joined Owen Caputo with four goals each. Senior Charlie Doetzer and sophomore Jake Caputo added two goals each.
But the MVP of the match was a player who didn’t score a goal or record a save. As the public address announcer noted that distinction, a confused hush fell over the crowd.
But the awarding of MVP to sophomore Graham Schwartz was met with applause. He was recognized for winning 19 of 25 face-offs, which allowed Middle Creek to dominate possession and momentum.
“I was very surprised,” Schwartz said. “Everyone on our team played a great game.”
Overall, Middle Creek won 25 faceoffs to six for Lake Norman and had 45 ground balls to 21. The Mustangs outshot Lake Norman 47-25. Lake Norman goalie Ricky Bokavich recorded 17 saves to keep it closer than it might have been otherwise.
After Lake Norman led 3-1 midway through the first quarter, Middle Creek outscored the Wildcats 6-1 in both the second and fourth periods.
“We had a great season,” Lake Norman coach James Brugger said. “It’s tough to lose in the state championship two years in a row, but no one expected us to be here. Middle Creek played great; they got the ground balls. They were the better team today.”