If the old adage “defense wins championships” has any validity, and history suggests that it does, than Wootton High School lacrosse coach Colin Thomson is the perfect man for what might be the best public school program in the county. You see, Thomson is a man who’s dedicated his career to defense.
Thomson grew up in Ashton, Maryland, and went to school at Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring. A defensive back and linebacker in football, and a defensive midfielder in lacrosse, Thomson learned and understood the importance of the defensive side of the ball, and found a passion in teaching and coaching both.
After high school Thomson found a home in Greenville, North Carolina at East Carolina University, where he played club lacrosse on his way towards a Master of Science in Athletic Administration. While he was still in school Thomson was a middle school football coach, and helped out with receivers and defensive backs on the junior varsity at Greenville Rose High School. Thomson eventually found himself coaching on the varsity level at Greenville Rose, working in a powerhouse program that in his final year (1998) sent 8 players onto Division I football rosters.
Thomson resigned from Greenville Rose after 1998 for family reasons, and decided to move back to Montgomery County, landing a position as physical education teacher at Lakewood Elementary School. Thomson discovered that Wootton High School was looking for a junior varsity defense coordinator and head coach, and he was named both. In the spring, Thomson also started working with the lacrosse team.
During the next 3 years Thomson worked in three different football programs: Quince Orchard in 2001, Sherwood in 2002 where he coached the undefeated Junior Varsity team, and as the varsity linebackers and receivers coach for the 2003 Northwest State Championship team.
During this time (2002), Thomson became head coach of the lacrosse program while he remained at Lakewood for teaching. In 2004, once again for family reasons, Thomson decided to discontinue the football side of coaching, and focus solely on lacrosse.
The early 2000’s in Wootton lacrosse were difficult. “We had a strong program, but not a good feeder system in place,” said Thomson as we talked after practice on Friday. Once he took on the program as the head coach in 2002, things got even more difficult. “We had a lot of graduations of good players, and had to rebuild the program. Most of the guys we had coming back had very little playing experience.” The 2002-2003 years were a struggle, and in 2004 the program finally climbed up to .500 for the season. However good news, in the form of strong players coming in from the Rockville Youth Lacrosse program run by Dave Hafer, was on the way. “The players coming up were guys that started at a young age, had been playing together for a long time, and were well coached.”
In 2005 the system paid dividends as Wootton went to the regional championship, losing to a powerful Walter Johnson squad on a goal in, literally, the last second of the game. The program was now back on it’s feet. According to Thomson ” that game was a turning point in the program.” In 2006 Wootton turned the tables on Walter Johnson, beating them in the regional semifinals on a last second goal, and in 2007 the team became the first Montgomery County team to make the Maryland State finals after beating powerhouse Dulaney in the semifinals, before losing to Severna Park in the finals.
At this point, the goal is no longer just an appearance in the finals, but a win. And Thomson has built the program up to the top of the county. But he quickly acknowledges that he has not done it along. “We have hard-working guys in the program, and they put in a lot of time and have a lot of desire. The coaches also work hard, and try to communicate with the players as much as possible. The guys believe in themselves and the program.”
Another factor in the success is the scheduling: Thomson will play anyone at anytime to get his guys experience and a run against the best. “We can and will play in Annapolis or Baltimore. It really helps us.” Wootton’s early season schedule bears out Thomson’s claim, as the Patriots will play Bullis, Severna Park and Annapolis in March, and Gonzaga in early April. The games will be a huge test for what is expected to be a very strong Wootton team.
Thomson’s team includes three bona-fide Division I players in senior defender Reid Shepard (Colgate), Michael Brailovsky (Delaware), and Gordie Gold (Michigan). The team also features one of the most dynamic attacks in the county with Jeff Zifrony, Tim Lenardo, and Chris Doran. “On paper we should do well,” says Thomson. “The question is how will we execute?”
Given Coach Thomson’s focus, the team’s preparation, and the program’s continued state of growth and excellence, I suspect that they will execute well, and a run at a first ever Montgomery County based Maryland State Lacrosse Championship is entirely possible.