The loudest cheer from Westminster's boys lacrosse players came when coach Steve DeFeo informed them they didn't have practice Saturday.
The Owls roared, with arms and sticks raised, and a few teammates embraced in their post-game huddle. Call it the spoils of a county champion.
Westminster dispatched city rival Winters Mill 20-7 on Friday at Ruby Field and clinched the Carroll County Athletic League title, the program's fifth in the last six years.
The Owls (9-1, 5-0 in the county) have one Carroll opponent remaining in the regular season, next Thursday at South Carroll. The Cavaliers have more than one county loss already, and even with Century and Liberty, the next two teams in the standings, each having only one, Westminster holds the tiebreaker over both of those foes.
The Owls' ninth consecutive win was a balanced effort, with senior attackmen Patrick Stewart and Alec Kozlowski each netting three goals and junior midfielder Christian Etchison doing the same.
Junior attackman Bubba Love led the way with four goals; Stewart and Etchison each had two assists.
"It's great, it's a one-of-a-kind feeling," Stewart said. "Winning this … and who knows what the season holds after that, you know?"
Westminster reeled off six straight goals to close the first quarter and take control of the game early. Winters Mill (2-6, 0-4) had some momentum when Will Tobias and Reid Stewart each scored on patient possessions to start off, but the Falcons couildn't keep up with the Owls' high-powered offense.
And the Owls' defense stood tall as well — senior Matt Banks joined juniors Andrew Burns and Noah Baugher on the back line with sophomore goalie Tre Price, who filled in for regular starter and fellow sophomore Logan Covey. Baugher started the year as a midfielder, but DeFeo said he gave his player the choice when Baugher brought up the idea after a scrimmage of moving to the back.
The transition has been smooth, said DeFeo and Patrick Stewart — Westminster's defense has allowed a mere 5.6 goals per county game.
"It's hard work from [DeFeo] — he's the bread and butter of the team," Stewart said. "He tells us what to do and we follow it. It's as easy as that, really."
The Owls led 13-5 at halftime and stretched it to 18-5 after three quarters. With a 12-goal lead, Westminster enjoyed some running clock during parts of the second half.
Winters Mill got three goals from Reid Stewart and two from Kaden Ross, who added three assists.
Westminster doesn't play again until the South Carroll game at Parker Field, but has home games remaining against C. Milton Wright and Fallston, with a road game at Kent Island as well.
Plenty of games to go, which is why DeFeo felt fine with giving the Owls a bit of a break at this stage of the season.
"It's a good time to let them have some time away, not only physically to heal up but also mentally," DeFeo said. "Re-energize the batteries, so to speak, and have a weekend off just to enjoy themselves. We're together a lot, so it's nice to have to time away to get ready. And who knows if there's going to be opportunities down the road to have weekends off."
Goals: WM-Reid Stewart 3, Kaden Ross 2, Will Tobias, Jansen Pusateri; W-Bubba Love 4, Patrick Stewart 3, Alec Kozlowski 3, Christian Etchison 3, Chase Buckwalter 2, Conner Covey 2, Brendan Huey 2, Matt Banks.
Carroll County Daily Headlines
Assists: WM-Ross 3, Grayson Lehr; W-Stewart 2, Etchison 2, Buckwalter 2, Love, Max Nave, Andrew Burns, Levi Brodman.
Saves: WM-8 (Colin Smith 4, Justin Toney 4); W-5 (Tre Price).
Halftime: Westminster, 13-5.
JV result: Westminster, 15-2.