Catonsville junior Bryan Barrientos had a goal and assist in the second half to help the No. 3 ranked Comets remain unbeaten with a 3-1 victory over visiting Franklin on Tuesday night.
The score was tied at 1 when he flicked a pass to sophomore reserve Musa Kholti Yamana for the go-ahead goal with 19:35 left in the second half.
Barrientos admitted he didn’t see his teammate.
“I was actually going for the ball,” he said. “I don’t think the defender saw him either. He came out of nowhere and he just banged it on goal.”
Exactly eight minutes later, Barrientos added an insurance goal off an assist from goalie Brian Ruppel after a long punt.
“Every time he punts the ball I’ve always been there,” Barrientos said.
Ruppel said it was his first assist in soccer as a goalie.
“I was trying to punt it as far as I could and he’s pretty fast and he’s pretty good,” Ruppel said. “The punts weren’t going too far in the first half, but then the first one went pretty far and then he was there, so I just kind of banged it as hard as I could and it bounced over the last guy’s head and he just finished it, and it was a good finish.”
Ruppel also had a game-changing play in the first half when he made a leaping save to preserve a 1-0 lead. A free kick by Evan Valer from about 40 yards out sailed over the wall and was headed for the top shelf when Ruppel swatted it over the crossbar.
“It was a free kick and we had a good wall set up and it was a good shot. I just kind of read it all the way through and just kind of went up and tried to make a save,” Ruppel said.
Catonsville coach Brendan Kennedy was relieved.
“You could tell he was a little surprised, but it was still a good save,” Kennedy said. “I wasn’t expecting that either. That was a great free kick. [Valer] was their go-to guy on dead-ball scenarios, so he’s clearly got some skills.”
The Comets (7-0-1) took the lead with 17:17 left in the first half on a goal by Noah Gregory that was assisted by Haines Milnor. The scoring chance was set up by outstanding hustle from midfielder Johnny Bolster, who made several strong runs.
Catonsville outshot the Indians 21-3 in the game and nearly gained a two-goal advantage after a cross by Tyler Mikalaski to Milnor deflected off the post with 14:13 left in the first half.
The Catonsville defense, led by Harris Linsenmeyer, Mason Lober, Andrew James and Kai Khual, was stellar throughout the game.
“They are very good in those one-v-one situations and building up from the back to give us an offensive opportunity forward,” Kennedy said. “They are just so good at knowing where the best option is, what to do with the ball, what kind of ball to play, and I’m very thankful for it.”
The Comets also got solid midfield play from Nick Sirasky and Mikalaski.
But the Indians (3-3-1) surprised the Comets early in the second half when they created some pressure in the box that resulted in a penalty kick from Valer that tied the score at 1 less than two minutes into the half.
It proved to be a wake-up call because the Comets took 12 shots in the second half and seven were saved by goalie Dean Carr, who tallied 11 saves.
“We definitely knew we couldn’t take a tie or a loss in this game, so we had to make sure we at least put one more in there, and when we did the floodgates started opening up,” said Ruppel, who had three saves.
Kennedy wasn’t surprised his team perked up after Franklin tied the game.
“They are just good with adversity,” he said. “A lot of these kids have been playing their entire lives. A good number of our seniors now have been with us since they were sophomores and we didn’t have a very good year two years ago and they’ve been through that grind and this is their last chance, and they want to do everything they can to make it work and to have some success.”
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Catonsville won’t have long to cherish the victory as the Comets play again Wednesday against visiting Perry Hall at 5:15 p.m.