New boys varsity soccer coach Brendan Kennedy takes over at Catonsville High and his squad will be thrown into the fire right away.
The Comets open the season today at Oakland Mills in what will be the first of seven games in the first two weeks.
Included in that stretch are games in the Catonsville Invitational Tournament against Mount Hebron and Mount St. Joseph.
Catonsville plays Hebron on Friday, Sept. 8 at 3 p.m. at Spring Grove State Hospital and they play St. Joe at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 9 at Catonsville High.
Fortunately, Kennedy inherits 17 returning Comets back from the squad that won its second straight Baltimore County title last fall under head coach Chris Hastings.
Hastings moved to Ohio after producing a 39-9-3 record in three seasons, including a 10-3-1 mark last year.
He is now coaching the girls’ soccer varsity squad at Lake Catholic High in Northeast Ohio.
The entire starting midfield returns, led by senior central back McKenzie Ali, an All-State player last season.
Senior Dale Boring and junior Ethan Clark are attacking midfielders and seniors Jaylen Clark and Zebb Eshetu add to the midfield strength.
“I expect a lot of our goals to come from the midfield,” Kennedy said.
In a recent scrimmage, senior striker Mike English and junior David Plumer scored goals as the Comets had four goals from four different players.
“He [Plumer] is very dangerous on the outside as far as crosses and shooting,” said Kennedy, who was the JV head coach at Beth Tfiloh the past three years, but is in his second year teaching at Catonsville High.
Junior Fabian Campbell is another offensive weapon.
“He’s a good playmaker,” said Kennedy, noting some other players have followed suit. “We have a lot of speed to work with and a lot of aggressiveness. In 1 v 1 situations, I love what our guys can do when they are just going at it.”
The defense will be anchored by senior center back David Owens.
Senior Ben Stauffer will be one of the starting wingbacks.
Junior Eli Miller starts in goal after splitting time with Kevin Deitz last year.
Kennedy has 25 players on his roster and expects them all to contribute.
Seniors Van Hmung, Adnaan Dasoo and John Dugan and juniors Tim Delaney, Jack Lowe and Will Ford have varsity experience.
Newcomers to the varsity include: Emmett Aler, Jack Eiswert, Liam Horch, Nate McMahon, Will Miller, Danny Morton, Andrew Stone and Ansoumane Traore.
“We have some awesome depth and not just the 17 guys coming back,” Kennedy said. “We’ve pulled up a handful of guys for us that have already got a lot of half-decent minutes and we expect them to be a big part of the team going down the stretch of the season.”
Besides the depth, he expects the skills to be at a high level.
“It’s a possession-based aggressive team,” Kennedy said. “Everyone plays outside of school on a pretty high level of club, so they are all very technically skilled.”
Despite appearances in the past three Baltimore County tournaments, the Comets did not reach the regional finals in any of those seasons.
They lost to Dulaney in a game decided by penalty kicks in the 2014 regional semifinals and lost in overtime to Perry Hall in the same round in 2015.
Last year, the Comets were eliminated by Bel Air, 3-1, in the regional quarterfinals.
“They are definitely hungry for more success and expectations to not only win the county, but make a further push in the state playoffs,” Kennedy said.