Whether he was goalie on the lacrosse or soccer field or running the point on the basketball court, Catonsville senior Brian Ruppel played with a highly-competitive energy and yearning desire to win.
And for the second year in a row, the three-sport standout was named the Catonsville-Arbutus Times Male Athlete of the Year.
Ruppel, who shared the award with James Azbill and Josh Williams last year, will continue his education and lacrosse career at the University of Maryland.
Even though his natural position was goalie, Ruppel played midfield on the lacrosse team as a freshman because they needed offensive help. He was the team’s second-leading scorer with 25 goals and six assists.
His sophomore season was canceled because of the pandemic but he returned to goal for his final two years and the Comets went 28-2. They were 10-1 in 2021 and lost to Severna Park in the state championship game and finished 18-1 this spring, with the only loss coming against Severna Park in the state semifinals.
He was named to the All-Metro first team, All-County first team and he won the C. Markland Kelly Award for Class 3A after winning it in 4A last year.
He was also selected to play in the Under Armour Senior All-Star game which will be held at Johns Hopkins University on July 30.
“That is the biggest honor one can get in lacrosse,” Catonsville lacrosse coach KR Schultz said, noting he was named to the All-State first team public and private school team and played in the MSLCA Senior All-Star game. “It has been a litany of awards all are which are deserved.”
This year he made 129 saves and had a 70% save percentage. He was fourth on the team with 33 ground balls.
His biggest save came in a 9-8 win over private school local rival Mount St. Joseph. His seventh save came with less than 10 seconds left when he stopped a tough low shot from the doorstep by Maddux Walton. The ball rolled toward the corner and Ruppel tracked it down and was fouled with three seconds left to preserve to win.
“That Mount St. Joe game is going to be talked about for a long time,” Catonsville lacrosse coach KR Schultz said.
It’s a memory Ruppel will never forget.
“That’s one of the coolest moments I’ve ever been a part of lacrosse-wise,” Ruppel said. “Seeing the whole community out at that game and seeing all the support we had, it was definitely like a dream come true beating those guys. We’ve always wanted to beat them.”
Schultz recalled an 11-4 win over Marriott’s Ridge as one in which Ruppel had one of his finest efforts with 21 saves.
Schultz saw the best of Ruppel every day in practice.
“The thing that is so cool about Brian that makes you know he’s like a great one is like some of the coolest plays I’ve ever seen him make are in practice,” Schultz said. “The highlights I got to see in practice are insane.”
His practice work also made the offense better.
“When our offensive guys score on Brian, that’s a good thing,” Schultz said. “He’s also awesome in saying I saved that because, like he helped us all out offensively by him and defender James [Azbill] saying that didn’t fool us at all.”
Going hard is the trait most coaches appreciated the most.
“He is just incredibly competitive, He likes to compete, he hates to lose, and he doesn’t lose much but he hates it,” Schultz said.
Ruppel also became virtually a coach on the field.
“He also developed into being a super vocal leader, like there would be times where one of our defenders makes the pass that starts the fast break, but Brian would be back there yelling at the middie to go one way. That doesn’t show up on the stat book, but he helped make that happen,” Schultz said.
Half of Ruppel’s bedroom is painted red for the Terps and Ruppel has been a lifelong fan of the school that won the national lacrosse championship this year.
“It definitely feels like you are a part of it, but now it’s time for me and all the other freshmen to go get ours. I honestly couldn’t be more excited at all,” Ruppel said. “I’ve dreamed going to Maryland all my life and going in at the top is going to make me work even harder every day and just try to be better.”
But, he will always have the memories he made with his teammates on the lacrosse field that included two regional titles and a county championship.
“We all just kind of came in with the mentality to turn around the program a little bit, not that it was bad before we came, but we had a goal of making it better than it’s ever been and I truly think we did that,” Ruppel said.
Ruppel’s final soccer game was a double-overtime in the state semifinals to Northwest. Coach Brendan Kennedy had no doubt that he could have played in college.
“He 100% could have been an extremely good collegiate soccer goalie for sure.” Kennedy said.
His soccer highlight came in a shootout win over Dundalk when Ruppel saved two of the five shots and one went astray.
“He was a huge reason why we won in that penalty shootout, he kept us alive in it,” said Kennedy, who noted he had an assist off a punt in the 3-0 regional final win over Perry Hall.
“The players we have up top have very good ball control and they are very quick and Brian has excellent distribution to punt or throw the ball all the way up there and send them going and obviously it worked for us a handful of times,” Kennedy said.
The Comets finished 11-5-1 and Ruppel was in goal for six shutouts.
“In a positive way, he’s one of the most competitive individuals I’ve ever coached, with himself, with his teammates, just always trying to be better, never satisfied, happy with the result, just always trying to improve himself and those around him,” said Kennedy. “He’s a general for the entire team back there from goal. He is always talking to the defense, calling out marks and helping with positioning, even with distribution or set pieces.”
After going 6-0-1 in their first seven games, the Comets lost to Perry Hall but avenged that loss in the playoffs.
“We wanted to beat them so bad. We lost to them the past two years, so beating them was definitely a really cool moment,” Ruppel said.
On the basketball court, Ruppel was a point guard who wasn’t afraid to get physical as he led the team in trips to the foul line — and often made his lacrosse coach cringe while watching the game.
“I’d be at those basketball games and one part of me would be like, I hope he plays under control and another part of me would be, that’s just not him” Schultz said. “He’s got to go 100 miles an hour, that’s just how he is and 100 miles an hour for him works pretty darn well.”
Coach Evan Dougherty appreciated that pace of play from his point guard.
“His competitive energy was every single day in practice and he brought that in every game and he was also a smart and tough player,” Dougherty said. “He brought a certain level of toughness that I think brought the whole level of the team up as well.”
Dougherty said Ruppel averaged around nine points and four assists a game and led the team in drawing charges.
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One of those came in a memorable 63-55 win over Century.
“That was a big game for us. They were Carroll County champs and he had I think three really, really tough buckets in the fourth quarter and he drew a charge that fouled out their best player,” Dougherty said. “And he had a play where he came sprinting from half court and stole the ball with about 50 seconds left and called a time out before there was a jump ball situation. There were like five minutes where he absolutely took over and won us that big game and that kept us ahead of Dulaney for that second seed and that gave us a home playoff game.”
Dougherty also appreciated the way he kept his teammates involved.
“He was a true, true point guard and really one of the few I’ve had the pleasure of coaching and it was great that he would always put the team first,” Dougherty said. “There were so many games where in the beginning he would be distributing and making sure everybody touched the ball, but sometimes when it came down to the fourth quarter he would give you a solid six to eight points because that is what you needed at that time.”
“Coach Dougherty was awesome and he came in to try to preach relations with your teammates and we had study hall every day and film every day and we really put in a lot of work and guys really bought into it and came together and it was cool, we beat some good teams,” Ruppel said.
Schultz believes Ruppel’s winning attitude will translate at Maryland.
“It doesn’t matter what it is, he wants to compete and wants to be the best at it and so going there and putting him into that incubator of great lacrosse, he is going to flourish in that environment,” Schultz said. “I think he is going to love it. I think he will be really, really good there.”