Freehold Township boys’ soccer team has turned it on

The Freehold Township High School boys' soccer team poses for a team photo after a tournament at Penn State University in the summer of 2019.

After a 4-1 loss at Elizabeth High School on Sept. 14, Freehold Township High School had a 2-3 record in boys’ soccer.

Since then, Freehold Township has evolved into one of the top teams in central New Jersey

Over their last eight games, the Patriots are 7-1 and they have outscored their opponents, 16-6. At 9-4 overall, Freehold Township has the second most power points in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 standings.

The Patriots will be a prime contender to win the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 4 sectional tournament and perhaps even the NJSIAA Group 4 state championship, if they get that far. The state sectional tournament will open on Oct. 26 or 29, depending on Freehold Township’s seed, matchup and location.

“We are confident we can get it done,” said Freehold Township coach Josh Mehl.

The coach has every reason to be confident, too.

Freehold Township’s 2-3 start was not the result of poor play. During an 0-2 start, the Pats simply lost a pair of one goal games to good teams in Toms River High School North and Holmdel High School. In their three-goal defeat to Elizabeth, the Patriots just had a bad day against a strong team that is currently 11-0-2 and in first place in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 4 power points standings.

Mehl’s club knew that, despite the early losses, it was still really good. It just had to start getting results. Sure enough, the results started to come.

Nothing clicked, necessarily. The Patriots were just hardened by their early losses and unafraid of their ensuing opponents.

They carried that lack of fear onto the pitch and started controlling games in a cohesive fashion.

Freehold Township has been dominating the shot count against nearly everybody. It outshot Freehold High School 21-7 in a 2-1 victory on Sept. 20. It outshot Long Branch High Schoo,l 14-4, in a 3-1 victory on Sept. 26. And it outshot Franklin High School, 16-2, in a 4-1 victory on Oct. 3.

Two days later on Oct. 5, Freehold Township even out shot one of the best teams in the Shore Conference, Jackson Memorial High School, 10-7, in a 2-1 victory over the now 11-2 Jaguars.

The Patriots do not have a strength that stands above the other parts of their team. They just control games, play well across the field and win a lot more than they lose.

“We are very talented and deep,” Mehl said.

But the Patriots still have standouts.

Senior midfielder Bennett Messinger has seven goals and four assists. Junior midfielder Zach Orrico has nine goals and five assists. And junior goalkeeper John Wilhelm has 38 saves and four shutouts.

Senior midfielder Evan Savino and junior midfielder Adam Havens have been essential to Freehold Township’s possession effort. A trio of standout defenders, junior Aiden Szymanski, junior Josh Leonetti and senior Connor Latona, have all been essential to that effort as well.

“They are really good and technical players who are comfortable with the ball at their feet,” Mehl said.

Freehold Township is a solid team. Now it just needs to prove that it’s the best team in Central Jersey, Group 4.

The Patriots are off to a great start. They already beat Marlboro High School, the team with the most power points in Central Jersey, Group 4, 1-0 on Sept. 24.

“We expect to win the state title,” Mehl said. “That’s a lofty goal. But these kids are that good. They should expect that.”