The Catonsville High boys lacrosse team continued its unbeaten season with a postseason victory despite missing six of its seniors Friday night.
Junior Byron Newman had three goals and two assists and classmate Johnny Bolster had three goals to lead the host Comets (8-0) to a 10-4 win over Dulaney (3-6) in the Class 4A North Region I final.
Six seniors, who graduated last weekend, were away for Senior Week and senior Josh Tartal was the only graduate who was in uniform.
That didn’t phase Newman, who knew it was up to the rest of the squad to carry the load.
“Missing a majority of our seniors was something we had to adapt to, not having some of our leaders out there made it difficult, but our older guys had to step up,” said Newman, who is undergoing physical therapy to nurse a strained back. “It’s definitely felt better. It’s improving.”
Catonsville coach KR Schultz knows he needs his leadership on the field.
“Byron is awesome,” Schultz said. “He works really, really hard at lacrosse and he is very, very smart. I’ve known him for a long time and he is a very, very intelligent lacrosse player and I’m very grateful he’s a Comet.”
Newman just stuck to the game plan.
“We knew we were going to have to play fast, take their defenders to the goal and we had good success on offense. So we were just dodging and playing offensively aggressive and they were our keys to the game,” he said.
Eric Kaplan (two goals, one assist), Tyler Mikalaski (one goal, one assist), Frank Manalansan (one goal) and James Azbill (one assist) also contributed for the Comets who outscored the Lions 5-1 in the second half.
Junior Azbill, who will play at Towson University in two years, was part of a stellar group of long-pole defenders that included juniors Jack Krug, Ethan Gutberlet and freshman John Gorski.
Dulaney got two goals from Braeden Colegrove and one each from Luke Pezzulla and Colby Betterton.
Catonsville junior goalie Brian Ruppel, who will play at Maryland in 2023, made eight saves and was flawless on clears.
“He was excellent with low bounce shots and he is so aggressive getting out with the ball,” Dulaney coach Kyle Fiat said. “He is just an excellent goalie that when you take a shot that’s an easy save for him, it doesn’t just turn into an easy save, it turns into a potential transition the other way for some offense on our defensive side. That’s a double-edged sword, that’s a dagger when that happens.”
The Comets jumped to a 2-0 lead on goals by Newman and Kaplan in the first seven minutes.
Dulaney got on board on a Colegrove goal with 6:12 remaining in the first quarter, but the Comets seemed to take control with goals by Bolster and Newman in the final minute of the quarter.
Newman’s goal with 19 seconds left came on a nifty feed from sophomore Kaplan.
The 4-1 lead diminished in the second quarter when Dulaney answered with goals from Colegrove, off an Andrew Connor assist and Pezzulla.
Catonsville took a 5-3 into intermission. thanks to a Manalansan goal, off Azbill’s assist, with 4:21 left in the quarter.
Dulaney’s patient offense kept them close in the first half, but the Comets made some adjustments in the second half and held them to just one late goal by Betterton.
“We just really tried to pack it in, trust our poles, trust all our guys, so we went into a little bit of a hybrid zone and just helped guys out in the corners,” Ruppel said. “We forced them to play six on six, we feel our six-on -six defense is very, very good and one of the top in the state. So we really take pride in that and we didn’t want to give them any cheap ones and we really didn’t in the second half.”
Sophomore faceoff specialist Nate Wess also made it difficult on the Lions. After losing his first three faceoffs, he won nine of the next 13.
“He’s such a tough kid, only a sophomore and he has been awesome all year from an effort standpoint,” Schultz said. “We talked about loving your teammates and maximizing your effort and he is exemplary of that because he will do anything for any guy on the team and he works his tail off.”
The Comets outscored the Lions 3-0 and took an 8-3 lead into the fourth quarter, but they were facing some stellar goaltending in senior Scott Grim (nine saves).
“He is just an awesome kid, we’ve got a challenging time with seniors going to Senior Week and he’s a guy who was willing to come back and finishing the week practicing with us,” Fiat said. “He’s as good of a leader and as a young man as there is and he’s the type of kid that any kid in Baltimore County would look at him because of his character and because of work ethic and the type of person that he is.”
Senior defender Thomas Sheggrud also came back for his final game in a Dulaney uniform.
“To have those guys come back and give everything that they have was just awesome,” Fiat said.
Catonsville’s Ruppel knew what was at stake and what the Comets had to do to compensate for their loss of seniors.
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“We started three midfielders, Johnny Bolster, Tyler Mikalaski and Andrew James and they came out of the game like three times,” said Ruppel, who saved some praise for Newman. “He’s playing awesome right now. We love it. We needed him to score some goals and he’s really our quarterback back there, so he’s been running our offense and it’s really helped us.”