Manley's Blog

Who’s No. 1? CBA vs. Holmdel

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 23, 2010

As soon as Holmdel lost in the SCT, not only did we miss out on a potential classic final, but now I have to pick a No. 1 between an SCT champ that lost in the toughest section in N.J. and a state champion that beat one very good team (Chatham), two solid teams (Hopewell and Hightstown) and three okay teams.

I know most of the people clamoring for either side have some sort of bias, so as an independent observer, I’ll give you my take on the matter and you can cheer or applaud as you see fit.

In all honesty, I just don’t see how I can rank Holmdel ahead of CBA. I think a head-to-head game would have been a virtual toss-up, but if you’re judging by what actually did happen this season, CBA has the stronger resume. The Colts won the more difficult division, won the Conference Tournament without ever really being up against the wall and technically did not lose since Sept. 11. The only teams CBA did not beat were top 20 teams in the state – St. Joe’s Metuchen and Delbarton. If you switched CBA to Group III and Holmdel to Non-Public A, I feel pretty certain that CBA would have won a state title. Holmdel might have made the championship game, but I think that outcome is a lot more certain.

That’s why state championships – while they mean a lot to the school – don’t mean as much in regional rankings. In fact, you will probably see Holmdel ranked ahead of CBA in the state rankings. The Star Ledger doesn’t have the luxury of matching up all the teams on an even playing field. They have to rank them based on a significant degree of subjectivity, which is not easy, especially when you don’t see much of some of the teams. In my case, or Josh Newman’s case for that matter, we’re ranking a set of teams that ultimately participate in the same tournament just before the state playoffs. This year, CBA won that tournament and in being eliminated from the state tournament, technically did not lose. Holmdel, meanwhile, did lose to someone else in the conference.

I’m also not saying that winning the SCT automatically gets you the No. 1 ranking. Last year, Marlboro won the SCT but Toms River South won Group IV. If Raritan had won the SCT, I would have ranked Raritan No. 1 in the Shore, but since TR South won the same group in which the SCT champion lost, I gave the nod to the state champs, not the SCT champs. In Holmdel’s case, subjectivity does come into play. Non-Public A is tougher than Group III and because of that, CBA’s SCT holds up in the ranking.

A nice little Tournament of Champions would solve the matter, but how do you work that? Thanksgiving is this week, so the semis and finals wouldn’t be until almost December. Maybe you suck it up and do it. They’re playing a senior all-star game on Dec. 5, so they can play meaningful games as well. The Basketball TOC goes to March, which cuts into the spring practice season, so making basketball, wrestling, and other coaches wait a couple days isn’t a big deal.

I can understand the frustration on the Holmdel side. The Hornets have a case to be the No. 1 team in some ways and I think it’s possible that they may have been the best team this year. If hypothetical scenarios dictated the rankings, I might pull the trigger and put Holmdel No. 1. But the rankings have to reflect reality, and in reality, all we can say is that CBA’s 18-1-1 and SCT title stacks up and ultimately exceeds Holmdel’s 22-1 and Group III title.

I’ll be posting the final Top 20 in the next 24 hours and when it goes up, CBA will be the No. 1 team in the Shore.


Evolution of a Champion

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 20, 2010

I was talking with goalkeeper Dan Marino after Holmdel’s 2-1 win over Chatham on Friday night, and he brought up a game that I kind of forgot about. He recalled saving 35 shots in a 0-0, penalty-kick loss to Nutley as a freshman in 2007, obviously a game that any goalie would remember. The funny thing is, as soon as Marino brought the game up, I remembered it. No, I wasn’t there, but I remember talking to coach John Nacarlo when he called the game in and his tone was both frustrated and extremely excited. He started five or six freshmen that year and while they certainly did not control the game against the No. 1 seed, they did come close to pulling one out.

He was especially complimentary of his keeper that day and while he knew he had a talented class of freshmen that year, I got the sense that it was that game and that performance that created the visions of a title at Holmdel. The Hornets had a loaded class when you think back: Sean Davis, Dan Metzger, Andrew Zheng, Rishi Desai, Matt Sawaged and Marino. Even without Davis, who may be the best of the bunch, Holmdel was the best team in Group III and maybe one of the best five teams in the state.

It wasn’t all smooth sailing, and before this year, there wasn’t any smooth sailing. After such a promising first year, three of the six freshman starters elected not to play – Davis, Metzger and Desai. Holmdel was still a formidable team, but when Metzger and Desai came back in 2009, there was something off about the team. Not everyone was on the same page and the team couldn’t put more than a couple of wins together.

This year, the vision came to pass with Metzger playing on another level and a depth of the senior class adding to the mix with players like Tim Centineo, Alex Castiglia and Evan Teitelbaum having breakout seasons. In addition, Desai transformed himself into a sweeper and Matt Sawaged settled into his position on the outside and flourished. Those six transformations – along with the emergence of the underclassmen – helped turn Holmdel from a talented group of players into a really good team. Okay fine, a great team.

Bringing it Holm?

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 19, 2010

For a bit of background on Holmdel’s showdown with Chatham, check out this relatively quick preview. I sawy “quick, because some of the other previews I’ve written were like a college thesis paper.

Onto the picks!

Group III Championship
Holmdel (21-1-0) vs. Chatham (22-1-1), 5:30 p.m. at TCNJ

I went into the year with a little bit of caution toward Holmdel. I knew they were talented, and based on that talent, I was thinking about a top 5 preseason ranking, but we’d been down this road last year with the Hornets. They were a junior-heavy group with a lot of talent, but in the end, they had only a 9-9-1 record to show for it.

Once I got my first regular season look at them, I knew this year was different and I started jumping them up the rankings. Basically, outside of the initial No. 10 ranking to start the season, I’ve believed in this Holmdel team. I still think they are one of the top 15 or so teams in the state and covering a team a lot makes you more attached to them than you might be to other teams when it comes to objective evaluation.

That’s why it’s hard for me to do what I’m about to do. Chatham will be the best team Holmdel sees all year and they are battle-ready to boot. They have a strong midfield to at least hang with Holmdel’s and their defense has been phenomenal all year. In a lot of ways, I think Holmdel would have been better off drawing Montville, another team that was blazing the trail for a program that had never been this far. Instead, they get a Chatham team to a rich history and the talent to add to that history.

Holmdel has been a superior to every team on its schedule this year and it’s possible they are a better team than Chatham too. Dan Metzger will still be the premier player on the field, but he’s been through a long season of high school ball on top of his Red Bulls training and he may finally be feeling the affects of that schedule. If Chatham can come out and possess with Holmdel, I think they have an advantage because of the big game experience from this year against top competition. I actually think Holmdel will have the better of play over the 80 minutes, but this Chatham team strikes me as one that’s not going to break. I would not be the least bit surprised to see this game go 100 minutes and these two might be able to play 200 minutes without anyone scoring. But I’m not here to predict ties. Holmdel could very well put it together and win 2-0. But it’s not a matter of whether or not they can anymore. It’s a matter of whether they will, and the team on the other side will have an awful lot to say about Holmdel’s fate Friday night. Hopefully for Holmdel’s sake, my inept picking skills from last season reappear.
The Pick: Chatham 1-0

Group IV Final
Hunterdon Central vs. Cherokee

Cherokee has been very similar to last year’s version of Toms River South and they’ll have a shot with their size. South Jersey has looked pretty good this tournament, but how do you go against Hunterdon Central right now? They have been as impressive as any team in the tournament and it looks like its finally their year.
The Pick: Hunterdon Central 3-1

Group II Final
Haddon Heights vs. Cliffside Park

Cliffside Park gets another shot after losing in the title game this year and while Haddon Heights has been through the wars, Cliffside Park has paid their dues.
The Pick: Cliffside Park 2-1

Group I Final
Pitman vs. Wallington

Wallington has been a force this tournament and might have been a favorite to win Group II had it been in that field. Pitman is a very good team, and as previously stated, South Jersey has looked good, but I’m picking against the team to the South for the fourth straight time.
The Pick: Wallington 2-0

One In, One Out and One Champ

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 17, 2010

As far as the Shore teams are concerned, Tuesday was a pretty predictable, yet noteworthy evening. St. Rose and Holmdel were the far better teams in their respective games, while Freehold Township came up on the wrong end of an even match-up that came down to which team blinked first. Some quick thoughts on each game.

Champs at Last

We’ll start with St. Rose, because after all, they are the champions. The Roses were clearly the better team on the field and although the shot differential was a modest 12-8 in favor of St. Rose, Oratory Prep did not have any chance that looked overly scary, while St. Rose had two close shots and two or three crosses across the front of the net that went untouched. If Oratory Prep was going to have any chance in this one, their only window to strike was in the first eight minutes or so, because once St. Rose got a feel for the flow of the game, they dominated. Brendan Canning and Ian Culley will get the glory for scoring the goals and the assists, and rightfully so, but kudos are in order for John Scotto up top and Christian Bozinos in the middle, who had great tournaments and stood out on Tuesday. Those four really emerged as a dangerous quartet during the playoffs and stepped up big Tuesday. I also liked how Paul Grodeska and Chris Tuzzio played on the outsides and Cliff Clark was his steady self on the defensive end.

I know some people were quick to criticize the level of competition in NPB once St. Rose won (apparently, there are a lot of Harry Potter fans who read, but come on now. The structure is the same every year and even if this particular field of teams was average, it takes a consistent program to keep getting to the finals like St. Rose has done. Not every team can beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, ya know?

One more to go

Holmdel is a win away from a state title and thanks to Chatham, the Hornets won’t have to content with Montville and Rutgers-bound senior J.P. Correa. They will, however, have to deal with a Chatham team that is the best they’ve seen all year. If Tuesday is any indication, Holmdel appears to be ready.

I missed all three goals in the game but after talking to coach John Nacarlo after these games, he’s pretty pleased with how his guys are playing, even in those 1-0 survival jobs from the previous two rounds. If we’re calling a spade a spade, Holmdel has caught a few breaks along the way during the tournament and they’ve managed to dodge some of the more notable teams in both Central and South Jersey. Hopewell Valley and Hightstown are pretty good teams that offer a couple problems for a team like Holmdel, but Princeton was the only team that had been there before and they would have made Holmdel come to them. Getting rid of Princeton early was a break, and although I think Holmdel is the better team, Princeton would have had some factors working in its favor. Hammonton, meanwhile, just did not have the firepower to hang with Holmdel. They’re a hard-working group – one that Nacarlo said reminds him of his 2006 sectional championship team – but Holmdel can smell it at this point. It takes more than just hard work to win at this time of year.

And how about Zach Bond? Alex Castiglia had the two-goal game, but Bond scored his third game-winning goal to continue his run as the Mr. Clutch of the Shore Conference. I never thought I’d refer to a 15-year-old as “Mr.” but I guess Bond has earned a measure of respect.

The guy who hasn’t received enough credit is Rishi Desai. He came in and stabilized the sweeper spot and all he’s done this postseason is anchor five straight shutouts in front of Dan Marino. Holmdel will try to pitch a 480-minute shutout for the postseason with a win over Chatham, which should challenge the Hornets in the middle.

End of the Line

I thought size would be part of the scouting report of the Freehold Township-Cherokee game, but I wasn’t sure it would come into play. What I overlooked was how it could affect Phil Horan, who is not overly tall. Freehold Township has size to match up with Cherokee’s big boys, but when the ball is in the air, it can be easy to lose and that could very well have been an issue on the Cherokee goal, which happened thanks to a dummy in the air that fooled Horan.

Freehod Township outshot all of its opponents throughout the tournament, but they did have trouble putting it all together at times around the net. All things considered, the Pats had a great run, they won a sectional title and they gave Cherokee a hard-fought game in defeat.

One thing on Cherokee. If the Chiefs beat Hunterdon Central on Monday, that will mean the Chiefs will have won the Group IV title a year after the Indians (Toms River South) won it. Someone may have seen this coming.

Tuesday State Tourny Picks

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 16, 2010

Down to 20 teams in the state and three of them are locals. Let’s get right to the business at hand.

Non-Public B Final
St. Rose (17-5) vs. Oratory Prep (7-11-1)
At The College of New Jersey, 5:30 p.m.

It may appear that St. Rose passed its toughest test when it beat Sacred Heart 4-3, but the proverbial champagne is still on ice for good reason. Oratory Prep certainly looks the part of the “hot team”, winning three straight playoff games after entering the tournament with only four wins against a solid but manageable schedule. The Purple Roses completely picked apart Trenton Catholic and survived a few breakdowns in an otherwise strong game against Sacred Heart, so they are playing the kind of soccer they want to play coming in. It’s always hard to read this game because there are usually two or three good teams in Non-Public B and sometimes you don’t know which ones are until the very end. I know St. Rose is one of them. I’m not sure about Oratory yet.
The Pick: St. Rose 3-1

Group IV Semifinal
Freehold Township (16-6-2) vs. Cherokee (15-5-2)
At Neptune Memorial Field, 7 p.m.

Freehold Township caught some breaks on the way to a CJ IV title, mostly with regard to their draw. As a No. 3 seed, the Patriots were the home team in all four rounds and outscored their opponents10-2 on their rocky, balding pitch and needed penalty kicks to win on turf against Steinert in the quarterfinal. Cherokee, meanwhile, won its home game 6-1 over Absegami and then went on the road for three straight wins over Toms River North, No. 1 Eastern and Shawnee. The Chiefs not only handled their business on the road, but they did it in thrilling fashion, much like Toms River South did last year on the way to a Group IV title. Cherokee beat TR North on a goal with two seconds left to win 3-2 and beat Shawnee in penalty kicks despite the Renegades scoring with six seconds left to send the game to overtime. Freehold Township has outplayed its opponents, as evidenced by a heavy advantage in shot margin, but Cherokee has been through the fire and walked out as perhaps the coolest customer in Group IV. Size should not be as big a factor in this game as it’s been for Cherokee, which will have 6-5 Matt Jeffery to deal with in the Freehold Township midfield.
The Pick: Cherokee 2-1

Group III Semifinal
Holmdel (20-1-0) vs. Hammonton (14-9-0)
At Toms River North, 7 p.m.

Sometimes records don’t tell the story. They do here. Holmdel has not been this far since 2006, but Hammonton hasn’t been this far since…well, ever actually. The Hornets are a team loaded on senior talent that has been planning on this state championship run since they stepped foot on the practice field in their freshman season in the fall of 2007. Dan Metzger, Andrew Zheng, Rishi Desai, Dan Marino and Matt Sawaged all saw time as freshmen, and they all probably figured to have at least a sectional title to their credit by now. As it is, the senior season has been the magical one and so far this season, no team has been able to outplay the Hornets, not even the Toms River North team that pulled out a Shore Conference Tournament quarterfinal win. Hammonton, meanwhile, was just hoping to open some eyes with a senior class that has come a long way in four years and they have done just that. The Blue Devils are hard-nosed and skilled up the middle. That’s not a good place to try to attack Holmdel. Hammonton may be able to hang around like Hightstown and Hopewell Valley did against Holmdel, but the Hornets bombarded both of those teams with shots and they may be due to rip up the net. The final would be a much closer match-up, and we should see that play out for Holmdel.
The Pick: Holmdel 3-0

The Rest of the Field

Non-Public A Final
St. Augustine (20-1-0) vs. Pingry (18-1-1)
At The College of New Jersey, 8 p.m.

Pingry had the inside track to finish the year as the top team in the state, but they stumbled in the sectional quarterfinal. This year, they upset this year’s favorite, Seton Hall, in penalty kicks and appear poised to finish what they couldn’t last year. St. Augustine, meanwhile, has some unfinished business of its own to tend to after losing to Pingry in the 2008 final. The Hermits have only one loss as well and held off a scrappy St. Joe’s team in the sectional final. Randy Falk of Pingry and Connor Hurff of Augustine are two All-State type performers and they’ll put on a good show in primetime. I like Pingry to make it two in three years.
The Pick: Pingry 2-1

Group IV Semifinal
West Orange (21-2-1) vs. Hunterdon Central (17-6-0)
At Wathung Hills, 5 p.m.

Two weeks ago, this would have been a no-brainer pick in favor of West Orange. Now, I’m not so sure. Hunterdon Central had as impressive of a run through its section as any team, winning four games by a combined margin of 14-2. In that run, Hunterdon Central won three road games against No. 2 Kearny (4-0), No. 3 Westfield (2-1 in OT) and No. 1 Bridgewater-Raritan (4-1), dominating the top two seeds in the bracket. The Red Devils have now won nine straight and advanced farther than a loaded 2008 team, which lost in the Central Group IV final to North Brunswick. West Orange has been a legitimate top five team in the state all season long and is the favorite to win it all, but they have run into the team that might be playing the best of any still playing. West Orange is supposed to win, but Hunterdon Central was supposed to win in years past.
The Pick: Hunterdon Central 1-0

Group III Semifinal
Montville (24-1-0) vs. Chatham (21-1-1)
At Ridge, 5 p.m.

A great Group III match and no matter which team survives, the winner would give Holmdel a great game in the final on Friday. Montville will have the best player on the field in J.P. Correa, but Chatham has an impressive resume and a balanced group. Montville, though, appears to have benefited from a late-season loss to Pequannock and Chatham did not see much of a challenge in North 2 Group III. I’ll take the star player and the more battle-tested team.
The Pick: Montville 2-0

Group II Semifinal
Glen Rock (17-3-2) vs. Cliffside Park (22-1-0)
At Millburn, 5 p.m.

Cliffside Park has been a Group II power lately and you have to figure they’ll be geared up for another shot at the title after coming up one win short last year. Glen Rock tough, just took out arguably the most talented team in teh Group in Kinnelon, and in impressive fashion at that. The winner of this one is a heavy favorite in the final. I liked Glen Rock’s resume coming in and I still do.
The Pick: Glen Rock 1-0

Group II Semifinal
North Plainfield (14-6-1) vs. Haddon Height (19-2-1)
At Washington Twp., 5 p.m.

Cinnaminson and Delran were supposed to be the Goliath’s in South Jersey II, but Haddon Heights had the slingshot all along. The Garnets lost only twice all year, once to West Deptford in the first game of the year and once to Cherry Hill West, and have won 10 straight since dropping the CHW game on Oct. 14. North Plainfield won a hard-fought battle against Delaware Valley, but the Canucks give up a lot to Haddon Heights in this one.
The Pick: Haddon Heights 3-1

Group I Semifinal
Wallington (21-2-0) vs. Glen Rock (19-5-1)
At Indian Hills, 4:30 p.m.

Wallington is as dynamic as they come in Group I and while Glen Rock has played its share of tough teams, it doesn’t have that one win that makes me think they can stop the firepower that Wallington has. The winner of this game should have the inside track to win the whole thing.
The Pick: Wallington 2-1

Group I Semifinal
South River (18-5-0) vs. Pitman (20-1-0)
At Toms River South, 7 p.m.

The most compelling Group I story may be “How good is Pitman?” The Panthers have done all that could be asked of them this year, losing only to Sacred Heart – the No. 1 seed in South Jersey Non-Public B –  by a 1-0 tally and have been dominant in the tournament with a 9-1 scoring advantage over their opponents. South River has proven to be good in the big moment, but Pitman is ready for a shot at the title.
The Pick: Pitman 3-1

Videos Up

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 13, 2010

Sectional final videos are finally up and available for your viewing pleasure.

Holmdel 1, Ho-Val 0
Freehold Twp. 1, Old Bridge 0
St. Rose 6, TCA 2

The CBA-St. Joe’s video is still not cooperating, so here’s the deal. If anyone would like to have the highlights of the game, you can have them in DVD form for free as long as you are a subscriber. If you’re interested, please email me at with your name, your login name and whatever address you would like to have it mailed to.

Also, if anyone would like to purchase video that’s on the site, please email me and I’ll get you give you pricing and get you set up.

More Video Issues

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 12, 2010

As you can probably tell, we’re having some issues with the video and after playing around with the host site and some other things, I’ve decided to sleep on it some and have a meeting of the minds tomorrow. Sometimes time heals these kinds of wounds and I suspect that it will in this case, but if not, I’ll have plenty of time to resolve it some time on Friday. I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience. I’ll also have some thoughts on the day of action when it’s not past my bedtime.

Sectional Final Picks (All 20 of ’em)

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 11, 2010

Twenty teams will celebrate a sectional championship on Tuesday night and I know who those 20 teams will be. Probably the 20 I pick against. Let’s start with the locals.

Central Jersey IV Championship
No. 8 Old Bridge vs. N0. 3 Freehold Township, 2 p.m.
Original Sectional Championship prediction: East Brunswick over Freehold Township

I thought Freehold Township had a very friendly draw and while it wasn’t all easy, the Patriots indeed held serve at home* and reached the championship game. Unlike in my original prediction though, Freehold Twp. will host yet another game thanks to a topsy-turvy bracket that saw the top-seeded Bears lose in round one and No. 4 Howell, No. 5 Manalapan and No. 2 Sayreville all lose before the semifinals. Old Bridge is a very formidable opponent that is pretty strong up the middle, plus I’m a fan of junior forward Aron Hart based on what I saw of him in the GMC-Shore Challenge three-and-a-half weeks ago. The Knights have some very good junior and sophomore talent and if those guys get comfortable and confident early, Township will have its hands full. I like the Pats on their home pitch though.
The Pick: Freehold Township 3-2

Central Jersey Group III Championship
No. 8 Hopewell Valley at No. 2 Holmdel
Original Prediction: Holmdel over Princeton

I didn’t have a great feel for whether or not I liked Holmdel’s draw for the Hornets’ sake, but Princeton’s draw as the top seed was absolutely brutal. The Tigers had three legitimate chances to lose before even playing in the final, while I think Holmdel only had one. That also speaks to how good Holmdel is and they will be the heavy favorite in this one. Being the underdog is not problem for Hopewell Valley, as the Bulldogs have already gone on the road for two big wins, both of which were controversial. Going into the season, the Bulldogs were considered by many – along with Hightsown – to be the team to unseat Princeton as the best in Mercer County. They are playing near that level now and if Holmdel has trouble picking the tough Bulldog defense apart, this one could be interesting.
The Pick: Holmdel 2-1 (OT)

South Jersey Non-Public B Championship
No. 3 Trenton Catholic vs. No. 4 St. Rose, at Eastern High School
Original Prediction: Sacred Heart over Holy Cross

Dead. Wrong. St. Rose went down to Vineland and picked off Sacred Heart on Tuesday, while 21-0 Trenton Catholic proved legitimate enough to make it to the championship game after playing a light schedule. This St. Rose team is at least close to last year’s Group finalist and might even be slightly better in some ways, but that’s not the No. 1 reason for optimism in Belmar. No, it’s not that the Bennies are gone, it’s that the top two seeds in North Jersey are gone. The Roses lost to Gill St. Bernard’s in last year’s final and the defending champs are already gone thanks to Oratory Prep. That doesn’t hand St. Rose the title, but it means the Roses have to get though a less-than-tested, but hungry Trenton Catholic team and play a team that may not be the best the North breaket has to offer. St. Rose already survived a scare in the last round when they squandered a 2-0 lead and trailed 3-2 going into the last 18 minutes, so they can play with their backs against the wall.
The Pick: St. Rose 4-2

The Rest

CBA-St. Joe’s Video

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 10, 2010

I’ve been trying to post the video off and on all day and it hasn’t worked, which leads me to believe there is something wrong with the video, as in it’s corrupted. I apologize to everyone looking for it and I will try a couple of other avenues. Just wanted to keep you updated if anyone was looking for it. Hopefully I can figure something out.

Shore Kings Fall; Three Shore Teams Advance to Final

Posted in Uncategorized by mattmanley on November 9, 2010

If you’re looking for CBA video, I’ll have it up sometime on Tuesday. I had some technical trouble that usually just needs time to fix.

Gotta tip your cap to St. Joe’s. CBA put on a clinic in the first half and with all of its second half success, you had to think it was only going to get worse. That didn’t happen, and it didn’t happen because St. Joe’s decided to push numbers up and more importantly, they just starting thinking along with CBA. St. Joe’s chased the whole first half and in the second, they started to jump some of CBA’s passes and what worked for the Colts for the first half, didn’t work as well in the second.

Brandon Allen had his moments for St. Joe’s but he probably didn’t his best game. Dimitri Vassiliadis, I thought, was the best player on the field, at least for St. Joe’s. Zach Hicks played a good game for CBA, which used only 13 players, one of which came in only on an injury. They went with their best and while I wouldn’t exactly say their best got beat, their best couldn’t quite bring it home.

Tim West missed a cookie with about a minute left that could have won the game, but I thought it was fitting that Allen – St. Joe’s leading scorer – missed an equally good chance a minute later. Finishing ain’t easy, even for top scorers – one of which is a nationally heralded prospect.

Bring on the Dogs…Again

Holmdel will play its fourth state tourny game Thursday against Hopewell and for the third straight time, the Hornets will be playing a team coming off a road “upset.” No. 10 Allentown beat No. 7 New Brunswick, No. 6 Hightstown beat No. 3 Wall and No. 8 Hopewell Valley beat No. 4 Colts Neck. This could be bad news for Lacey, the No. 1 seed in South Jersey III.

Bulldogging it

Speaking of Hopewell, the Bulldogs are looking like the “Tuck-Rule” Patriots. They have won back-to-back 1-0 games with goals just before halftime, both of which were disputed. Josh has the whole thing on his blog, but the bottom line is Hopewell caught a couple of breaks and have not allowed anyone to score. Good for them. We’ll see if they have another upset in them, and this one would definitely be an upset.

Pat on the Back

Mighty impressive win for Freehold Township in beating Rancocas Valley 3-0, but a word of caution: Old Bridge is pretty good. Luckily for the Pats, they know this because they played Old Bridge to one-goal wins in each of the past two seasons and know what the Knights are about. Still, this is a deceptively talented Old Bridge squad with a lot of junior and sophomore talent that is peaking at the right time. I see Township’s field being an advantage this round as it was on Monday, so the Pats will be the tentative favorite in the final. All that said, the FT boys deserve to enjoy this one. As I – and many others – said, they needed a win over RV to really stamp this season as a good one. Without that win, you could have looked around for the keynote victory without finding it, but no matter what happens Thursday, the Patriots have had a very nice season.

Warriors Come Out to Play

Round of applause for Squan. This was the definition of a Manasquan team: tough defense, hard-working with a flare for the dramatic. Delran, though, is the most battle-tested Group II program there is and Masasquan just didn’t have an answer. They have some skill coming back in Kyle McEvilly, Andrew Dayton an Hunter Sabins, but they are going to miss this senior group. It wasn’t the flashiest group but the Mattia boys, Nick Lustrino and Sean Woolley were not only quality high school players, but they were players who experienced a good deal of winning over the course of their careers. Manasquan may be improved by the end of next year, but it’s going to be tough adjusting without those guys.

Business as Usual

And, finally Old Reliable: St. Rose. The Roses got it done against Sacred Heart, and honestly, they should go on to win the Non-Public B title. Skill-wise, I think this St. Rose team might be a little better than last year’s team and the field just isn’t as strong, especially with MKA and Gill St. Bernard’s both losing in North Jersey. Trenton Catholic is an intriguing opponent on Thursday because although they are 20-0, they play an awfully cushy schedule. But they are still here and they will have a chance to prove themselves against a good team in the Roses.

Lacey will play for a spot in Thursday’s final against Hammonton on Tuesday. The Lions survived in OT on Friday and I see this as a slightly easier game. Hammonton has already showed itself to be a tough out in beating Central on Friday so they can certainly be a problem, but on its home field, Lacey has a great shot.

See ya later.