This season, the Catonsville boys soccer team doesn't have any natural goal scorers like recent years, which has the Comets scratching and clawing for offense with everybody needed to chip in.
In Wednesday's Baltimore County showdown against Perry Hall, it was reserve junior midfielder Michael English who got the job done.
Fittingly, it was extra effort that produced the game's only goal in the No. 9 Comets' 1-0 win over the visiting Gators.
After taking a pass from Luke Palmisano to get behind the Gators defense, English had his first shot turned away by goalie Ayden Crew. When the rebound came right back to him, English found the lower right corner from 10 yards out to put the Comets ahead midway through the second half. In control for most of the game, they were able to fend off all of Perry Hall's limited chances the rest of the way to secure the win.
Catonsville, which won the Baltimore County championship behind graduated forward Jake Parrott last season, improved to 4-1-1, while Perry Hall, the defending Class 4A state champs, fell to 4-4.
"It was a good ball by Luke out at the 18 and the first time it didn't work out, but I got the rebound on the second try," said English, who now has two goals this season. "It's harder for us this year, obviously without a talent like Jake, but we're getting everybody together, all working hard and getting more even scoring."
Last season, Catonsville claimed a 1-0 win over Perry Hall to claim the county title. The Gators came back to avenge the loss with a thrilling 2-1 overtime win in the Class 4A North region playoffs on their way to capturing the program's first state crown.
The Comets brought back more returning talent and it showed for most of the game. In the first half, they dominated possession and flooded the Gators' penalty area with long throws, corner kicks and other free kicks. But they couldn't break through with Perry Hall senior forward Jack Muller dropping back and dominating in the air to thwart the chances.
In a more evenly played second half, the Comets were finally able to solve Crew, who finished with seven saves. Since a 2-1 season-opening loss to Mount Hebron, Catonsville has gone 4-0-1 with no goals allowed.
Having lost eight starters to graduation from last year's state title team, the Gators are a work in progress. After the difficult first half Wednesday, they made halftime adjustments and played a stronger second half.
"Obviously Catonsville is a very good team," Perry Hall coach Pete Eibner said. "The second half, I thought our guys played a lot tougher and we adjusted to their speed. I thought while they still had more possession and obviously got that goal on one of their opportunities, we showed a lot better. We've got to do a little more on the offensive sides of things, but hats off to Catonsville. They played a great game."
9 Catonsville 1, Perry Hall 0
Goals: C -- English
Assists: C -- Palmisano
Saves: PH – Crew 7; C –Deitz 2