In a game delayed by storms and a late arrival by the bus bringing the Catonsville High boys lacrosse team to the field at Meadowood Regional Park, the Comets built a 7-2 lead through three quarters and held on for a 7-6 victory over Dulaney (11-4) in Section I of the Class 4A North Region tournament.
Catonsville (7-8) got a great defensive stand from goalie Ian Callanan (nine saves).
“Ian was laser-focused,” Catonsville coach K.R. Schultz said. “Ian works so hard, he really does and it’s a cool thing to see him have that win under his belt.”
They also got tremendous work on the faceoffs from senior T.J. Wess, who helped the Comets win 13 of 16 overall and 10 of the first 11.
The Comets got balanced scoring, with two goals from freshman John Bolster and one each from freshmen Brian Ruppel and Chris Huppman and one each from sophomore JacobDiluca and juniors Michael Wood and Grant Nyland.
Freshman James Azbill added an assist for the Comets.
Dulaney’s scoring came from John Schmidt (two goals), Johnny McGrain (one goal, two assists), RJ Freerick (one goal, one assist) and Justin White and Bradford Ebright (one goal each).
Catonsville’s defense, that included Gunner Cheuvront, Wyatt Gentner, Jack Lowe, Azbill and Evan Rogers was stellar throughout the game.
“The key to this game defensively is our guys, I think this week of practice, we’ve really locked down,” Callinan said. “Coming off a one-goal loss to Dulaney [5-4] earlier in the season, it was rough and we had to come back from a few one-goal losses and we came out here fired up and ready to go and we got the job done.”
After Catonsville’s Ruppel and DiLuca gave the Comets an early 2-0 lead, Dulaney answered with a goal by White, off a McGrain assist, with 8:37 left in the first quarter.
Callinan proceeded to save the next five Dulaney shots on goal and he said White’s goal was definitely a wakup call.
“It was absolutely we studied him [White] on film, he shoots high all the time, great guy, but I knew it was coming, locked in on it and it didn’t happen again and we kept it rolling,” Callinan said.
A double team by Wood and Bolster forced a turnover that Wood scooped and scored with 5:07 left in the quarter for a 3-1 lead.
Dulaney’s Ebright cut the lead in half early in the second quarter, before the Comets reeled off the next four goals.
Lowe created the fourth goal with a strong clear and pass to Bolster down the sideline.
Bolster charged the goal and scored with 7:22 left in the half.
Huppman’s flying body helped DiLuca get a key ground ball for the Comets to keep possession and that led to a goal by Nyland and the Comets took a 5-2 lead into intermission.
Third quarter goals by Huppman and Bolster, off of Azbill’s assist, bumped the advantage to 7-2.
That’s when Dulaney got aggressive on the faceoffs and shifted the momentum.
With Ryan Haley taking the faceoffs and Ky Lane and Eddie Jancuk on the wings, the Lions won two faceoffs in the fourth quarter, and when they didn’t, they forced turnovers.
They finally ended a scoring drought of 25:06 with a goal by McGrain with 9:35 left in the final quarter.
“He’s a tough kid who, from the coaching staff’s perspective, we would probably like to get him involved a little bit earlier on and look to have him facilitate the offense a little more,” Dulaney coach Kyle Fiat said.
A tick under a minute later, McGrain answered his coach’s wish with a feed to Schmidt for a goal, making it 7-4 with 8:36 remaining.
RJ Freerick scored with 6:08 left and Freerick assisted Schmidt and the Lions trailed 7-6 with 3:55 left.
The teams traded four turnovers and Dulaney had the ball and called time out with 34.3 seconds to play.
With one last chance to tie, McGrain came around the crease and tried to feed White who was cutting to the goal, but Catonsville’s David Plumer forced an errant pass and the ball went out of bounds and the Lions never got a scoring chance again.
“He made an effort play and it’s cool,” Schultz said.
Senior Lowe appreciated all the hard work in the end.
“It was real tense,” Lowe said. “All year long, we’ve had these close games, we lost to them by one already this year, this game we told ourselves there is not a chance we are not going to get this win, so basically we just believed that we had this win no matter what happened at the end of that game.”
Asked if it was the biggest win in his two-year career coaching at Catonville, Schultz responded, “I would say. We have a really good group of seniors and we have a really big group of juniors and only one sophomore,” Schultz said. “The junior class is super hungry and the senior class doesn’t want it to end and those younger guys are just ultra-competitive.”
Dulaney’s Fiat praised the Comets.
“A ton of credit goes to Catonsville, they are a heckuva team and we got into a little bit of a hole and when the hole gets a little too deep and you run out of time, it’s tough to get out of and it would have been nice to start that run a little bit sooner,” Fiat said. “If we could have got it a little bit earlier in the third quarter, it might have been a different outcome.”
Schultz was equally fond of his opponent.
“Dulaney is a great team and coach Fiat, he is awesome and so it means a lot to us because they are so good,” he said.
Fiat felt for his seven seniors, whose Dulaney careers ended, but he kept the loss in perspective.
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“I just told the guys, this is what is so exciting about sports and ultimately life, when you think things are going the wrong direction, you keep fighting and you chip your way right back in and that’s true about sports and that’s true about life too,” he said.