Catonsville senior Matt Rehder kept his hands up for an assist on the first goal of the Baltimore County boys soccer championship game and his head down when he scored the game-winning goal with 1:48 left in regulation to lift the No. 10 Comets (10-2-2) to a 2-1 victory over No. 9 Towson (11-2-2) at Franklin High Wednesday night.
Rehder scored the game winner after a corner kick by classmate Drew Meyers.
“No one was covering the back post and in practice, we have been practicing our runs, and so I just went to that spot and hoped for the ball to come there,” Rehder said. “We’ve also been practicing keeping the ball down so I just looked at it, kept my head down and put it in the back of the net.”
It was the second straight county crown for the Comets (10-2-2), who defeated Perry Hall, 1-0, last year.
It was the third straight county title game appearance for Catonsville, losers, 1-0, to Dulaney in 2014.
Catonsville coach Chris Hastings was glad to see Rehder take his advice.
“He finally listened to me after three years and took a great angle at the ball, which allowed for a great shot on goal and he headed it down and he ended the game,” Hastings said.
Rehder’s throw in with 35:17 left in the second half assisted Wyatt Ahern for the first goal of the night.
Ahern’s first career goal came after he missed a scoring opportunity.
“He tripped over the ball and his trip led to a throw-in and he heads it near post which helped us tremendously,” Hastings said.
The early second half lead didn’t last long because Thomas Lewis scored from 30 yards out less than a minute later to tie the game.
“They had a guys dribble down the middle and he hit a brilliant shot,” Hastings said.
“I think that might be the first time this season that we’ve answered a goal that quickly,” Towson coach Jon Becker said. “That was about as nice of a goal, build up and finish that we have scored all season. It was a great response.”
Becker was the assistant coach at the start of the season, but took over the team when head coach Randy Dase took medical leave due to prostate cancer.
Dase was on the sidelines to cheer on his team and Becker, who played at Towson from 2006-2009 and was a central midfielder for the 2009 regional championship team.
“They were phenomenal,” Dase said. “I’m so proud of him [Becker] because he is an ex-General.”
The first half was a defensive struggle, similar to the game played Sept. 14 when the Comets and Generals played to a 0-0 overtime tie after 100 minutes.
Catonsville had several throw-ins in the Towson zone, but defenders Adam Coplai, James Thorne, Jack Baker and Brooks Bennassi were there to repel them.
Bennassi’s hustle stood out on a play he dove near the sideline to keep a ball in play and cleared it. Austin Kirts was also a constant threat in the midfield.
Confident of the defense of Liam Llorin, Jordan Llorin, Rehder and Dave Owens, the Comets pressed forward early in the second half and it paid off on Rehder’s throw to Ahern.
“I saw Wyatt making the run across and that’s how we score a lot, from people running across and flicks on, so I always aim for someone there to hit and he put it in the back,” Rehder said.
“We got real excited after we scored that goal and dropped our pressure a little bit,” Hastings said.
After Lewis scored for Towson, the Comet attack picked up the intensity, thanks to strong midfield play from Mckenzie Ali, Jaylen Clark, Dale Boring and Meyers and key ball control from forward Luke Palmisano.
Palmisano had a shot in close that was blocked and Owens just missed on a wide shot with 30:10 left.
With 3:52 left, Meyers bent a shot inside the far post that was saved by diving keeper Austin Wenck (four saves).
Just over two minutes later, hustle by Palmisano set up the game-winning corner kick.
The Comets were playing without key players Ethan Clark (thigh injury), Ethan Alioto (knee) and Fabian Campbell (knee).
“Ethan (Clark) is probably our most technical finisher that we have and without him we suffered through the midfield a bit,” said Hastings, noting Clark should be back for the regional playoffs next week.
Alioto may return and Campbell is out for the season.
“We’ve had a lot of injuries this year and it’s caused a lot of people to step up and it’s made the best of our team,” said Rehder, who played in his third straight county title game along with the Llorin twins, Meyers, Ali, Boring and Owens.
But, he wants to go farther.
“We always try to get the county title because we think we always deserve it, but the big goal is states this year and hopefully, we can make a good run towards that,” Rehder said.
Towson coach Becker hopes this game will make the Generals better as they head into the playoffs as the top seed in Section II of the Class 3A North Region.
“I couldn’t be more proud of what our guys did,” Becker said. “Both teams played really hard and one team wins and one team loses and that is just how it goes. We’ve got some stuff to do for the next couple weeks and we are looking forward to it.”
The top-seeded Comets will host the winner of Dulaney and Bel Air on Nov. 1 in the Section I Class 4A North Region after a first-round bye.
Goals: C-Wyatt Ahern, Matt Rehder; T-Thomas Lewis
Assists: C-Rehder, Drew Meyers
Saves: C-Kevin Deitz 1, Eli Miller 1
T-Austin Wenck 4