The winners of the past three Baltimore County boys soccer championships faced off on Tuesday night at Franklin High and Perry Hall (10-3-2). dethroned defending champion Catonsville, 3-0.
The physical and fast Gators (10-3-2) outshot the Comets (11-2-2) by a wide margin and they never let up and they captured their third county title in the past four years.
Senior Alex Holschnieder converted Rob Allman’s’ assist from a tough angle for a 1-0 lead with 23:23 left in the first half.
“He’s a relentless worker and his hustle on the first goal when Allman crossed it was just outstanding,” Perry Hall coach Pete Eibner said.
The Gators tacked on two more goals in the second half.
Sophomore Justin Ornelas assisted James Canoles for the second goal on a perfect cross with 34:31 remaining and Ornelas rolled in a penalty kick with 14:29 left.
“I just always know when Justin is going down the flank that he is going to look for someone coming in and I saw the middle of the field was wide open so I just made my run,” Canoles said.
Ornelas, Todd Brendel and Jason Stump anchored a defense that faced some spirited hustle from Catonsville forwards Cody Scott and Emmanuel Amihere, but the Comets only mustered up one shot on goalies Austin Kroll and Zac Dunkerton.
“Justin Ornelas in the back is a top notch player, one of the best in the state,” Eibner said. “He’s a rare individual who works tirelessly and he never runs out of gas.”
He also practices what his coaches preach.
“In practice, as soon as you lose the ball, the mentality is to run like a mad dog to get it back and as soon as you win it back, we are right back down their throats and that was the game plan today and it worked,” Ornelas said.
Catonsville’s game plan has changed since they lost senior scoring machine Jose Moran, who suffered a fractured foot earlier in the second half of Catonsville’s 2-1 win over Perry Hall on Sept. 24.
Moran had 23 goals in the past two seasons before he was injured and he was an All-Metro and All-County striker last season.
That loss to the Comets made a deep impression on the Gators.
“We had to come out with a chip on our shoulder like they did (last time),” Canoles said.
Meanwhile, the Comets never got its patented passing game going because of the relentless pressure.
“We couldn’t get any rhythm at all,” Catonsville coach Vic Vega said. “Credit to them, they were definitely the better team tonight.”
Vega praised the play of defenders Ben Croom and Drew Carlson, but knows the midfield play has to improve when the top-seeded Comets host the winner of Paint Branch and Westminster in the second round of the Class 4A North Region playoffs on Tuesday, Oct. 30.
Catonsville earned a first-round bye, just like last season, when they defeated Franklin in the county championship, but lost to Westminster in the second round of the regional playoffs.
“We’ve got to regroup because the next three games are important,” said Vega, who has lost five players to injury this season.
Should the Comets win two games and the third-seeded Gators advance, they could meet again in the regionals finals and Perry Hall's Eibner know they have earned his respect.
"Catonsville was defending (county) champions and they had beaten us during the season," Eibner said. "They are a very hard team to play against and we wanted to make sure, win or lose, we left it all on the field tonight."