Between Gulf Breeze and Catholic, the will to win the District 1 lacrosse championship seemed to outweigh everything else in Santa Rosa County on Friday night.
The Dolphins and Crusaders collided for four quarters of explosive offense and helmet-rattling defense in the first ever all-local district title game.
The Dolphins produced a 12-7 win, trailing just once (1-0) during regulation — despite a tremendous effort from Catholic goalie Jack Bartkowski, who finished with a whopping 25 saves.
It was four-year letterman T.J. Durst who scored first for the Dolphins, ultimately rounding his night out with five goals and one assist.
“I’ve been playing (at Gulf Breeze) since the first team. To come all this way and win the district championship just feels amazing,” Durst said. “Offensively, we just had to be ourselves (Friday night). We knew we had better one-on-one dodges (than Catholic). We just had to keep doing that until we could wear them down.”
Midfielder Clark Couget was anything but hesitant when it came to contact during Friday’s win, and concluded his night with one goal, two assists and four ground balls controlled.
“(Contact) is my favorite part of the game,” Couget said. “Catholic is a great team, but it always feels good to come out here and beat them — especially when it is for a district championship. (Catholic) beat us the first game, but we came back and got them twice now. Defensively, we wanted to make sure they couldn’t get past us. We played real-close, man-to-man defense. We were just trying to cut their second passes off.”
Nick Frazier seemed to be everywhere for the Dolphins, scoring and assisting twice while controlling six ground balls.
“(Gulf Breeze lacrosse) is like a bunch of brothers, and coach (Matt Dorf) is like a dad to us,” Frazier said. “We come out and play as hard as we can and try to get the ‘dub.’ Practices are always good. We get better but they are always fun.”
For Dorf — who started the first rec lacrosse team (GBSA Dolphins) in the area eight years ago and has coached the Dolphins since the program’s start — Friday’s win created “euphoria.”
“This is a biggie … to see how far lacrosse has come, and to be a part of this win is just amazing. Now I can sleep at night,” Dorf laughed. “Moving forward, we’ve got to focus on our offense and moving the ball more. We need to be more aggressive on that side of the ball. Our young defense did such a great job (Friday night). We won the ground ball and the face-off battle (Friday night). If you can do that, you are gonna be in good shape.”
Though Dorf and the Dolphins got past Catholic in the most significant game of the season, they fully expect the ‘Saders to come back hungry next year.
“We came out strong and showed that we belonged — even if we were the No. 2 seed,” Dorf said. “Catholic is a great team with great kids and great goalie (Jack Bartkowski). The district will come down to Catholic and Gulf Breeze for a while. They’ve got Bartkowski for another year, and we’ve got (our goalie) Cole Foster coming back. Next year should be interesting too.”
The Dolphins advance to the first round of regionals, where they play host to Tallahassee Maclay on Friday.
District 1 Championship
At Gulf Breeze
Gulf Breeze 12, Catholic 7
GB – Nick Frazier 2 goals, 2 assists; Patrick Smith goal, T.J. Durst 5 goals, assist; Noah Haas 2 goals, 2 assist; Clark Couget goal, 2 assists.
Catholic – Face-offs: Will Butler 10-of-23; Butler goal, Eric Buer 2 goals, assist; James Trulock goal; Alex Knight 2 goals, Casey Glazer goal, Will Knight goal, assist; Saves: Jack Bartkowski (25).