Raritan boys soccer team opens 2020 campaign with four straight wins

The Raritan High School boys soccer team honored all 13 of its senior players before playing Monmouth Regional on Oct. 15 in Hazlet. Raritan defeated Monmouth Regional 3-1 to improve to 4-0 on the season.

HAZLET – Teamwork and unselfish play have been the keys to success for the Raritan High School boys soccer team during a 4-0 start in 2020. The Rockets scored 20 goals through their first four contests.

“They are unselfish. That’s what it comes down to,” Coach Gregg Cohen said. “They are not worried about stats. They are (looking to) see the win on the scoreboard. That is really what it is. To be honest, I haven’t seen that with too many teams. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Senior Chris Fontanazza has led the way on the front line. After spending the past two years at the Players Development Academy in Somerset, Fontanazza has returned to play for his hometown team and has made a big impact.

On Oct. 15, the Rockets hosted Monmouth Regional High School of Tinton Falls at Joseph J. DeVirgilio Field. With his team trailing the Falcons, 1-0, going into the second half, Fontanazza gave the Rockets the spark they needed to get back into the game.

Two minutes into the second half, Fontanazza put Raritan on the board with a blistering shot into the net to tie the game, 1-1. Three minutes later he converted a penalty kick for a 2-1 lead. That was Fontanazza’s fifth goal of the season.

“Me coming back as a key player really helps and it’s great to see my teammates push forward from the past years,” Fontanazza said. “I knew I could help them win and I think I’ve proved that.”

Later in the half, Fontanazza added his team-leading sixth assist when he found sophomore Lupo Ryder and Ryder scored the Rockets’ final goal.

Through four matches, Ryder had scored seven goals, including the game-winner in the final minute on Oct. 13 to help Raritan defeat Monmouth Regional, 3-2.

Senior Hunter Amoedo scored four goals through four matches, including a hat trick in Raritan’s 7-0 victory over Red Bank Catholic to open the season on Oct. 1.

Senior Chris Rotondo scored two goals, while classmates Tyler Tristao and Emir Pupovic have each found the back of the net once this season for Raritan.

“It feels like the work we have put in has paid off and we are coming together as a team,” Amoedo said. “We have all been playing together since we were in elementary school and it feels great to win these games.”

Senior goalkeeper Gavin Hersey collected four saves in Raritan’s second victory over Monmouth Regional as the Rockets’ defense shut out the Falcons in the second half. Hersey had two shutouts through four matches.

The team’s second victory over Monmouth Regional was special for Raritan as the team honored its 13 senior players before the game.

Cohen was happy to see his squad end Senior Night with a victory and especially happy his seniors were able to experience the special event with all of the unknowns surrounding the coronavirus health crisis.

“It’s all about the guys and their families and all the work they have put in over the years,” Cohen said. “Whenever you can win on Senior Night, it’s beautiful.”

Raritan’s focus this season has been playing for each day and if the team gets to tomorrow, Cohen said his players will be ready to keep things rolling each time they take the field.

The Shore Conference Tournament will not be played this season because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Rockets’ goal will be to compete for the Shore Conference A Central Division crown and to make a run toward a state sectional tournament title.

Cohen believes his players are capable of putting Raritan back on the soccer map after not having a winning season in 2018 and 2019. The way his players have come together to start the 2020 season and their mindset of putting the team first supports that belief in the eyes of the coach.

“These boys are eager and willing to bring a championship here. We haven’t won in quite a long time. I think if we go far in the (sectional) tournament, our team can do some damage,” he said.

Raritan will host Shore Regional High School of West Long Branch on Oct. 19 in Hazlet.