For an instant, Dulaney (8-5-2) had the advantage in the penalty-kick shootout against Catonsville, but everything changed in a flash and the Comets (7-5-1) emerged with a 5-4 victory in penalty kicks after 100 minutes of scoreless soccer in the Class 4A North Section I boys soccer semifinals.
Catonsville goalie Eli Miller made the last of his clutch saves with the shootout tied 4-4 and Dulaney senior Ben Lucas on the mark.
Miller dove to his left and corralled Lucas’ low rocket to extend the shootout.
Catonsville senior reserve Emmett Aler put the Comets up 5-4, and after Johnny McGrain’s shot sailed high, the Comets had pulled out the victory at Meadowbrook Regional Park on Tuesday evening.
It was the sixth straight win and sixth consecutive shutout for the Comets.
Miller had watched four straight successful penalty kicks go in, from Kyle Wells, Ashton Brown, Greg Borisov and Andree Lopez, before he made the crucial save.
“The first couple, I was trying to guess where they were going and I just couldn’t get it,” Miller said. “The fifth guy I just knew he was going that side.”
Miller wasn’t nervous during the shootout.
“I love shootouts so much, ever since I’ve been playing soccer,” Miller said.
Dulaney’s goalie Kobe Crone was equally as clutch on the line.
After Catonsville’s Ethan Clark started the shootout successfully, Crone made a diving one-handed save of a shot by David Plumer.
Catonsville’s next three shooters, Ansoumane Traore, Justin Brittingham and Van Hmung, all converted, setting up the game winner by Aler.
The shootout wouldn’t have been possible without two key saves down the stretch by Miller.
The first was a diving stop of a shot by Wells with 29 seconds left in regulation and the second came in the second overtime, by Brown, on a shot from six yards out.
“He (Miller) was tremendous,” Dulaney coach Danny Skelton said. “That’s why their goalkeeper is first team All-County. He’s an excellent goalkeeper, his size, his strength, his composure in goal is class and when he was called to make a save he did.”
Catonsville coach Brendan Kennedy deflected the praise on coaching Miller to assistant coach Jack Linsenmeyer, but admits he enjoys watching his keeper work under pressure.
“Eli has got the clutch gene. He’s a great keeper, he’s got great instincts, he’s got great reflexes and they put him to the test and he came through,” Kennedy said. “He’s a confident kid.”
Miller was just happy for his entire defense and where it can take the Comets.
“We’ve gone six straight games without allowing a goal and we just wanted to keep it up and I told all my back four, ‘If we don’t get scored on, we will go all the way to states,’” Miller said.
Protecting the shutout were wingbacks Tim Delaney and Wyatt Gentner and central backs Hmung and Dexter Weinkam.
Mark Brady came off the bench in the second half and in one sequence used his head to repel three straight balls destined for the box. When the Lions did get free kicks over the defense, Miller was charging hard.
“It was a chippie game, a lot of set piece opportunities, our execution in terms of our service was not good enough in some moments, but even when it was in good areas, he was a brave keeper and he came out and punched balls away and came out and collected the ball through a crowd, and at this level, that can be the difference,” said Skelton, who also praised his own keeper, who plays on the same Baltimore Celtic club team as Miller. “Conversely, Kobe did a tremendous job in goal for us.”
Neither team had golden scoring opportunities in the first half and Catonsville’s best opportunity came early in the second half.
A combination pass from Traore to Jack Lowe led to a pass from Lowe in the corner to Will Miller. Miller’s cross to a charging Clark, less than five yards out, just missed him.
Dulaney had a chance midway through the second half, but White’s shot squibbed off keeper Miller wide.
Late in the second half, Brown had a low missile saved by Miller and that was followed by Wells’ shot in the final 30 seconds.
“From my vantage point, I was extremely proud of our response after a pretty rough start to the game in the first half, just not the style of soccer we demand of these guys, but they responded in the second half and overtime and for me we generated a lot more chances and their keeper was the difference and it proved to be the difference in the shootout as well,” Skelton said.
“It was a great game,” Kennedy said. “It was an awesome game. It’s unfortunate that it had to end now for Dulaney. They had such a good season. Their coach did a good job with them.”
Catonsville advances to play at Howard on Friday, Nov. 2, in the sectional finals.