PHS boys break out in CJ III first round

WW-P South, Montgomery fall in CJ IV action

By: Bob Nuse
   It took the Princeton High boys’ soccer team a little while to get going on Tuesday, but once the Little Tigers got started, they had little trouble putting away Neptune in the opening round of the Central Jersey Group III tournament.
   "We had some great effort in the front third in the beginning of the game and we were able to create some chances, but we weren’t converting," said Princeton coach Wayne Sutcliffe, whose team advanced to host Hopewell Valley in the sectional quarterfinals today at 2 p.m.
   "Then Sam Kotowski drew a penalty kick and Javier (Ramirez) buried it. Then Javier scored again later. Up until that point, I felt like we were in control of the game. Our guys played well. We defended well and we created."
   With the win, the Little Tigers improved to 13-3 and will face a Hopewell team they beat earlier this season, 3-1. The game against Neptune was just the second this season for Princeton against a non-Colonial Valley Conference team. Now, they’ll face a league foe again.
   "In the first round, I was happy to draw a team outside the CVC," said Sutcliffe, whose team lost to Neptune in overtime two years ago after tying the score with one second left. "For the next three rounds, I don’t care who we play. The upside of playing a CVC team is that you know what to expect."
   Princeton could face another CVC team if it happens to advance to the sectional semifinals. The third-seeded Little Tigers would face the winner of the game between No. 2 Long Branch and No. 7 seed Lawrence.
   A day earlier, Princeton had locked up the CVC Patriot Division title with a 3-2 win over Lawrence.
   "The guys were happy to get a win," Sutcliffe said. "That was a goal for us at the beginning of the year. We wanted to win as many championships as possible. We played well and we were very happy to win the CVC Patriot Division."
   In the win over Neptune, Ramirez scored twice, while Corey Marsh, Ross MacDonald and Anastacio Perez added single tallies.
   West Windsor-Plainsboro South came very close to pulling off a first-round upset when the 13th-seeded Pirates dropped a 2-1 overtime decision at fourth-seeded Jackson. The Pirates led, 1-0, on a First-half goal by Josh Richards. But Jackson came back to tie the game and then won it in overtime.
   "My kids came to play," said South coach Brian Welsh, whose team finished the season with a 10-7-2 record. "We had a good game plan and they played well enough to win. Jackson was big, fast and strong. But we had a chance to win. We had the lead and we missed two good chances within the first 10 minutes of the start of the second half.
   "You have to make your opportunities when they are created and we didn’t do that. We talked about lost opportunities. You can’t let that happen. When opportunities come around you have to take advantage of them."
   The Pirates’ final record is a bit deceiving in that all seven losses were by one goal. A bounce or break here or there, and it could have been a different season. But considering the huge graduation losses the Pirates faced coming into the season, this turned out to be a nice year. And Welsh places a lot of the credit with a strong group of seniors.
   "This senior group is among the nicest kids I have ever coached," Welsh said. "They’re good human beings. We always say character matters, and these kids have great character. They’re a good group of kids, starting with the captains — Glenn (Stuart), Jon (Scheer) and Wes (Tuck). And Peter Charette probably had his best game of his career. He shut down Ben Rackney, who was one of the best players we saw all year.
   "I’m disappointed we’re out of the states, but I’m not disappointed with my kids. I would have been if we had gotten blow out. If that happens it looks like you don’t belong. But we belonged. CJ IV is the toughest section in the state and we belonged."
   Montgomery hoped to show it belong when the 16th-seeded Cougars traveled to face top-seeded Howell on Tuesday. Against another team, perhaps Montgomery’s fate would have been different. But the Rebels proved too tough in a 6-0 loss in a CJ IV opening round matchup.
   "We came in thinking we could win the game," said Montgomery coach Bob Schwartz, whose team dropped its regular season finale to Bridgewater, 3-2, on Wednesday to finish 9-10-1. "We felt like they had not played the teams we have played. We felt like we could come in here and earn an upset.
   "They’re one of the top two teams we have seen this year. We’ve had moments where we have shown we can compete with a lot of those teams. Today just wasn’t one of those days."
   Montgomery has posted impressive wins over teams like Hillsborough and Bridgewater this season. They’ve faced the likes of Pingry and WW-P South. But in the end, Howell seemed to have a little more than all of those teams.
   "They have a guy in each part of the field who is really good," Schwartz said. "They have a sweeper who does a lot of talking, is organized with the ball and really understands the game. He can read plays and break plays up. Then he gets it to No. 11, Cody Calafiori, who is known as one of the best players in the Shore and he would do his thing. And then they have No. 9, (Kyle) Bethel, who traveled to Brazil and played on the 3v3 futsol team for the championship. So they’re good.
   "They play physical and hard, and then they’re really good on the ball. That’s a deadly combination. We’ve seen teams this year that are very physical and pretty good on the ball. And then teams that are very good on the ball but not as physical. These guys are both."