Bishop George Ahr High School boys soccer coach Tommy Lacson believes this fall’s team is the best in his 13 years directing the program, and the record certainly prove that.
The Trojans are currently 3-1-1 in Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) Blue Division matches and 4-1-1 overall. If they finish .500 or better, it will be the first time that has happened since 2001 — also the last time they qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs.
What bodes well for Bishop Ahr is this year’s success is not likely to be an aberration. The Trojans are a half-game behind South River High School (4-1-1, 5-2-1 overall) for first place in the Blue Division, and their 4-0 victory over the Rams in early September could be the tiebreaker that determines the division champion.
“We have a senior class that’s experienced, and they are driving the team,” said Lacson. “But the freshman class is the strongest we’ve had since I’ve been here, so I’m confident our success will continue.”
Among the difference-makers are several seniors. Midfielder/forward Patrick Harman leads in scoring with six goals and two assists, and forward Angelo Napoli has netted five goals. Central defender Luke Roche has three goals and five assists, and central defender/ midfielder Fitzgerald Flores has one goal and four assists. Others making their marks are goalkeeper Anthony Tirri (51 saves), defenders Kyle Veltre and Collin Lombardo and midfielder Diego Gambotto. Sophomore central midfielder John Dallegnese has also been a strong presence.
Notable backups include senior midfielders Martin Verendia and Josh Reilly, junior goalkeeper Daniel Cardona and sophomore midfielder/forward Jude Roche.
“We’ve worked hard in practice, and that will need to continue,” Lacson said. “The coaching staff has done a great job preparing for our opponents, and that has helped with our execution and communication with each other when we play them.”
Unlike most public high school programs, Bishop Ahr doesn’t benefit from a township grassroots feeder program, but Lacson says Catholic school middle school teams have fueled the Trojans with prospects in recent years.
This fall marks a new season for the Metuchen High School boys soccer team with Ed Albanese taking over as coach for Ken Graf, who retired after 32 years on the sidelines. Thus far, the Bulldogs are 2-2 in the Blue Division and 3-2 overall.
“It will be important to trust the team concept we’ve embraced as a strategy,” Albanese said. “We’re a team that relies on executing the technical aspects of soccer and that is how we have won.”
Senior forward Cameron O’Connell leads the Bulldogs with four goals, but the rest of the scoring is balanced with four seniors who have scored two goals each. They include midfielders Ryan Josell, Cameron Kessler and Ayush Sood and senior forward Greg Pondl.
Other contributions have come from returning senior starters Mike Plunkett (defense), Christian Nunex (midfielder), Tom Davis (goalkeeper) and Keiran Brenneman (goalkeeper), junior Kyle Harry (defense) and sophomore Jack Bradley (defense).
Newcomers to the lineup include seniors Liam Weeks and Geo Cordova and freshman Mike Cyran.
The team has also distinguished itself in the classroom. Last year, the combined GPA was 3.3, and Albanese said the team is committed to equaling that accomplishment this year.
On Sept. 30, the Bulldogs host Middlesex High School, which will be Senior and Metuchen Town Soccer night.
“We’re just staying humble, hungry and hope to improve every day,” Edison High School boys soccer coach Brian Murtagh said. “We need to approach every practice as an opportunity to be better than the day before.”
That formula has worked for the Eagles in recent games. Following a 1-4 start, they have won two of their last three. Following a visit to Perth Amboy High School (3-3-1 division and overall) Sept. 29, Edison hosts South Plainfield High School (6-1 division, 6-3-1 overall) Oct. 1.
The Eagles are a team with a mixture of experience and youth. Starting seniors include defensemen Kohki Hasegawa, Ken Kore, Kendall Campos Campos and Oscar Cleaver, while the midfield features seniors Andreas Zambas and Justin Reutsch, sophomore Jason Salazar and freshman Benito Rojas. The forwards are juniors Nabil Boto and Schneider Fernandes, and the goalkeeper is freshman Juan Perlaza.
“Nabil has really come alive,” Murtagh said. “He has five assists, and Schneider has made a successful jump to the varsity with two goals.”
Unlike many public school teams that rely on a close association with the town’s recreation program, Murtagh has taken an independent approach of preparing future team members by utilizing his current players to train those interested in improving their skills.
Another initiative by the soccer team is a special role by the captains during which each has taken a learning-disabled student under their wings and made them honorary members of the team.
“Justin Reustch, Kendall Campos Campos and Andreas Zambas take a little time out of their practice routines and work with the students,” Murtagh said. “The idea is to have fun, and it’s been a very worthwhile experience for everybody.”