Despite the fact that Hereford defeated Catonsville by 11 goals earlier this season, the Bulls didn’t let down in Monday’s Baltimore County championship game. The Bulls used an early-five goal spurt to build a lead before holding on for an 11-10 victory.
Junior Brenden Kittner had three goals and three assists, senior Baylor Davis had four goals and senior Trey Gibbons had three goals and one assist to lead the Bulls. Catonsville got three goals each from Noah Kennedy and Nate Wess, two from Eric Kaplan and one each from John Gorski and Colin Fox.
Kittner used a pair of one-goal losses last season to Catonsville, including the county title game, as motivation and didn’t dwell on the blowout earlier this season.
“Hereford vs. Catonsville is always a back-and-forth game,” Kittner said. “We knew coming in the first game was a fluke and we needed to have energy. We needed everybody and we needed the bench, we needed the coaches, we needed the fans and it worked out for us.”
The Bulls (11-2) got solo goals from JP Revitte, Gibbons and Kittner and two from Davis to take a 5-0 lead after one quarter.
“They switched to a zone early on us and we moved the ball well and rotated and just found ourselves inside and finished the ball,” Kittner said.
The Comets rallied with a pair of unassisted goals by Kennedy and Wess in the first two minutes of the second quarter, but Kittner assisted Gibbons and the lead was back to four before the Comets answered with three consecutive goals.
Long-stick defenseman Gorski converted a Maxwell Gentner feed and Kaplan and Wess scored, making it 6-5 with 4:10 left in the half. In the final minute, Kittner wove through two defenders and scored an unassisted tally with 37 seconds left in the half.
The momentum didn’t carry into the second half as Fox converted a Wess pass with a flag down 25 seconds into the second half, making it 7-6. The Comets failed to score on an extra-man opportunity and the Bulls capitalized with consecutive goals by Gibbons, Davis and Kittner for a 10-6 lead late in the third quarter.
The Comets weren’t done.
Wess, who won 4 of 5 faceoffs over Cole Wallner in the third quarter and 12 of 22 overall, was the catalyst for a three-goal run that cut the lead to 10-9 with 9:26 left in the game. Toby Eveleth fed Kaplan for the first goal and Wess and Kennedy scored the others during the comeback.
“They made some adjustments,” Hereford coach Kyle Leppert said. “They picked up offensively and individually a couple of our defenders would like a couple of plays back, but they dug in they were on the move they were passing sharply and they were taking good shots. So they definitely got on a little tear their and they started to pick up momentum and we had to find ourselves more ways to get back into that.”
Wallner won the final three faceoffs in the fourth quarter and the Bulls capitalized with Davis converting for an 11-9 lead with 8:28 remaining.
“I’m sure [Wess] won a higher percentage than we did today, but I couldn’t have hand-picked some better times to get some key [faceoff] wins,” Leppert said.
Catonsville didn’t fold when they got a possession as Kaplan fed Kennedy from behind and he scored to make it 11-10 with 6:24 remaining.
Wallner won the next faceoff, but back-to-back failed clears gave the Bulls the ball back and they controlled possession until Wess had a shot that sailed wide with 1:45 remaining and Kennedy had a shot that was saved by goalie Cole Jedlicka 15 seconds later.
Hereford ran out the clock the rest of the way and earned its first county title since 2019.
The Comets didn’t get their second straight title, but the comeback pleased coach KR Schultz, whose squad fell to 8-4.
“They’ve been battling all year and I’m super proud of them,” Schultz said. “They are a great group of kids. It’s fun to watch them grow throughout the season. Our focus is getting better every day and they are doing just that.”
Leppert was happy to see his team avoid a letdown after the earlier 15-4 victory.
“You get that good of a result against a good team you are almost nervous to see them,” he said. “You have to get your guys refocused and to work as hard as that coming into a rematch is almost a challenge of its own.”
Kittner knew the Bulls wouldn’t have a letdown.
“I was on the team last year and it hurt losing by one both times bad, and it lit the fire under us and we came out this year and swept them,” he said. “We brought the title back to Hereford and we are looking for more hardware.”
Hereford will get two byes into the regional championship game when they will play the winner of Lansdowne-Randallstown on Monday, May 15.
Catonsville will get a first-round bye and host the winner of City-Digital Harbor in the second round on Friday at 7 p.m.