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Catonsville boys soccer advances in playoffs with win over Perry Hall on penalty kicks

Catonsville junior goalie Eric Sheppard thought about diving one way, but changed his mind and dove to his right to make the final save and give Catonsville a 5-4 victory in penalty kicks after the Class 4A sectional semifinal game Tuesday.

The game was scoreless after 100 minutes of field play that included 80 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtimes.

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Catonsville (12-3) advances to play at Dulaney on Friday at 3 p.m. for a chance to play in the regional championship game.

Catonsville's Liam Llorin, Jake Parrott, David Owens, Mike Gagnon and Ray Rada had successful PK's for the Comets.

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Justin Spencer, Colin Weyant, Connor Gwin and Andrew Yu made the kicks for Perry Hall (9-4-1).

Sheppard had a plan before Luke Still stepped up in the bottom of the sixth round to try and tie it for the visiting Gators.

"The last one I was able to read his feat, but I also thought he was going to go to the left side because I kept going there and I thought they might think I was going to switch it up, so I just decided to stay with my instincts," he said. "All practice this week we've been doing PK's, just getting experience. When my brother (Kevin) was in his junior year, they went into PK's as well, so that's all I've been working on this week."

Comet coach Chris Hastings thought the Comets had it won in the first overtime when Llorin sent a ball into Nathan Kesavan, who flicked it to Parrott, but his shot was swatted away on the line by Gator keeper Ayden Crew and the rebound shot went wide.

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"We almost scored there at the end," Hastings said. "The keeper makes a great save and we have somebody there to put it in and it bounces the wrong way."

Gator coach Pete Eibner thought he might be watching the game winner with a minute left in the second overtime, but a rocket off of Colin Weyant's foot was saved by Sheppard.

"I've been coaching here four years and every time I've ever played Catonsville, it's been a dogfight and they are a very fast team," said Eibner, who squad lost to Catonsville 2-1 early in the season. "They are very aggressive and we couldn't crack 'em and Sheppard played great, he played absolutely great."

Although Hastings appreciates Sheppard's offbeat personality off the pitch, he knew he was all business Tuesday night.

"He walks to his own beat," Hastings said. "He makes the kids laugh in school, but when he's focused you can tell and he was focused tonight."

Sheppard became even more focused when leading scorer Danny Kim went down with a shoulder injury midway through the first half.

"The rest of the game was for Danny," Sheppard said. "I told him that right after he got hurt and everyone just picked it up a notch. That's what you want. When your captain goes down every one picks it up."

Right after Kim went out, Nick Eff's free kick bounced off the post.

"If it's three inches in, it's in," Hastings said.

Eibner knew his team had missed opportunities because his Gators outshot the Comets 9-3 in the second half and they had two goals nullified by offsides.

Catonsville outshot the Gators 3-2 in the overtimes.

"Give Catonsville credit, they defended hard, they played well and they won in PK's and that's the way it goes," said Eibner, who also got strong defense from Evan Eibner, Ryan Bohli, Matt Goodall and Weyant.

Catonsville's defense of Llorin, Freddie Duffey, Matt Rehder and Brian Holmes held up strong against a Gator attack led Denis Mabonga, Spencer and the booming kicks of junior midfielder Weyant, who is being recruited by Loyola, UMBC, Penn, Penn State and Duke.

"Number 7 (Weyant) is a [Division] I player," Hastings said. "He's a junior and I don't know where he's going to go, but he's a player."

The coach also has a potential Division I player in Kim, who will most likely be out for the Dulaney game.

"We are in an uphill battle without Dan Kim," Hastings said. "I said before, he is the heart and soul of our team and he wins head balls. We were missing his presence."

Co-captain Sam Khan held his own in the midfield and Owens, Kesavan, Eff, Rada, Gagnon, Colin Barnes and MacKenzie Ali gave them solid hustle all around.

But early in the second overtime, Khan left with an injury and never returned so they lost him for the shootout.

He was replaced by Rada, who calmly made the penalty kick that put the Comets ahead for good.

"The last one I tried was Ray and he happened to be there for the game winner," said a relieved Hastings. "It's a good win. It's good to win on our home field. For me, it's nerve-wracking. As good as we were this season I wanted to get through this game."

"It's just an evil way to end the game," said Eibner, who had encouraging words for his team in the end. "You tell them that they played their hearts out and you tell them to keep their heads up and all we ever ask of our players is their best effort and that's what we got."

Catonsville's only two losses to Baltimore County teams came against Dulaney, including a 2-1 loss early in the season and 1-0 defeat in the Baltimore County championship game on Oct. 22.

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