Raiders top Vikings to claim GMC boys’ soccer crown

soccer ball

By Warren Rappleyea

North Brunswick Township High School’s boys’ soccer team has relied on a stellar defense unit and some timely goals to post 16 wins this fall. That formula worked perfectly Oct. 29, as the Raiders upended South Brunswick High School to win the Greater Middlesex Conference (GMC) championship.

The 10th-seeded Raiders and fifth-seeded Vikings battled through a scoreless first half at Woodbridge High School. South Brunswick’s Dylan Inguardi scored just about midway through the second half, and it appeared that the lone marker would stand up for South Brunswick.

With time dwindling down, the Raiders turned up the pressure. Fullback D. J. Cobb got up the field and booted the ball into the box. Chris Scariano, who is known more for his passing — he leads the team in assists — wasted no time between receiving the ball and rocketing a shot into the net to knot things up with 4:37 remaining in regulation time.

North Brunswick took the momentum into the overtime. Less than seven minutes in, junior midfielder Fabrizzio Reyes converted a rebound from a Sean White shot for the game-winning tally to give the Raiders the GMC title. The two teams were set to meet again on Halloween in an NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV first-round matchup.

“We really focused on our defense early on and everything grew out of that,” North Brunswick coach Paul Liddy said. “Our guys became more confident, and we started to score more goals. They proved they can play with anyone.”

The victory culminated a dynamic run through the tournament that raised North Brunswick’s overall record to 16-3-2. The Raiders split a pair of regular-season matches with third-seeded South Plainfield High School and ended up finishing second behind the Tigers in the GMC White Division. However, North Brunswick got the upperhand in the GMC Tournament semifinals, winning a 1-0 decision. Jeffrey Montoya scored the lone goal and goalkeeper Pawel Dzielski kept a clean sheet with 14 saves.

Liddy’s team also shut out 15th-seeded Metuchen High School, 4-0, in the quarterfinals, as Montoya led the way with two goals. After edging Perth Amboy High School (26th seed), 1-0, in an opening-round game on a goal by sophomore Bruno Andino, the Raiders then squeezed by seventh-seeded Spotswood High School, 3-2. Andino, Reyes and Sam Mikhailov all netted goals in the win.

Following the loss, South Brunswick sits at 14-6 heading into the state tournament. Kunal Thakral turned in an impressive performance in the GMC event, netting six goals in five games, including a pair of tallies in the Vikings’ 3-2 semifinals victory against ninth-seeded Saint Joseph High School of Metuchen Oct. 27. Goalkeepers Nicholas Hoffman and Justin Cross, who split time in front of the woodwork, allowed just four goals in five tournament matches.

Girls’ soccer

South Brunswick’s girls’ soccer team also reached the finals in its portion of the GMC Tournament, where the Lady Vikings fell, 2-0, to East Brunswick High School — the second seed. South Brunswick did not allow a goal against until the finals thanks to goalkeeper Sydney Schneider and a solid defense.

Along the way, the ninth-seeded Lady Vikings knocked off No. 1-seed Old Bridge High School, 1-0, in the quarterfinals. Riley Ratcliffe scored the game-winner, which was assisted by Cathlene Kaseta. Maddie Butler and Adrianna Mouzakis both scored, as South Brunswick downed Piscataway Township High School, 2-0, in the semifinals.

Football

North Brunswick’s football team picked up its first win of the season, edging Perth Amboy, 13-6, Oct. 28.

The young Raiders dominated on the ground and made a huge defensive stand early in the fourth quarter to earn the win. Myles Bailey, a freshman, ran for 146 yards on 28 carries and scored both North Brunswick touchdowns. Sophomore quarterback Christian Petrillo carried the ball 10 times for 68 yards.

Coach Don Zsak’s team scored both of its touchdowns in the second quarter, with Perth Amboy’s lone touchdown sandwiched in between, to take the 13-6 lead into halftime.

With North Brunswick hemmed in its own zone late in the third quarter, Perth Amboy forced a punt. The Raiders muffed the punt, giving the visiting Panthers the ball with a first-and-goal situation as time expired.

Perth Amboy tried three straight runs to open the final quarter, but the Panthers gained little yardage. On fourth down, Perth Amboy tried a pass, which was intercepted in the end zone by the Raiders’ Roberto Davila.

“That was a huge stop for us,” Zsak said. “We put ourselves in a hole with the bad punt, but our guys were up to the challenge. They got the job done.”

The win was a long time coming for Zsak’s squad. While the coach knew it would be a rebuilding year as his young players slowly gained experience and adapted to varsity play, his team began to play significantly better over the prior three games. Despite falling to South Plainfield, 26-12, J. P. Stevens High School, 23-14, and John F. Kennedy Memorial Kennedy High School, 14-7, the Raiders were gaining confidence.

“They could see the improvement,” Zsak said. “They’re starting to believe in themselves.”

North Brunswick will look for its second win Nov. 4 when the Raiders visit Woodbridge (4-4). The Barrons are coming off a 44-0 success against J.P. Stevens.

In neighboring South Brunswick, the Vikings posted a fourth straight win to boost their record to 5-2 and earn an NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group V playoff berth. Coach Joe Goerge’s team scored four times in the first half and rolled to a 34-14 win Oct. 28 over Brick Memorial High School in a Greater Middlesex Conference-Shore Conference crossover game.

Quarterback Josh Liao was superb again. The senior completed 15 of 18 passes for 185 yards and ran for another 40 yards. He hooked up with Justin Shorter and Anthony Blakey for touchdown passes. Blakey also scored on a 15-yard run. Jaylan Lawson, who ran for 49 yards on the night, scored twice as well. Felix Quinones topped the Vikings with 85 rushing yards on just two tries.

The South Brunswick defense yielded a first-quarter touchdown and was solid throughout. The visitors scored again in the fourth quarter well after the game was decided. Linebackers Marcus Cerminaro and Thomas-Joe Kamara led the Vikings with seven and six tackles, respectively.

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