Patriots top Rebels, 1-0, to win Central Jersey Group IV state sectional soccer crown

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The Freehold Township High School boys soccer team celebrates winning its first sectional championship since 2015 with a 1-0 victory over Howell in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV final on Nov. 11 in Freehold.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School boys soccer coach Josh Mehl hugs senior players Herman Colbert and Josh Hocheiser after the team's 1-0 victory over Howell in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Freehold.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School boys soccer player Herman Colbert fends off Howell's Ken Emerick for the loose ball during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Freehold. Freehold Township won 1-0.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School boys soccer player Ryan Keegan kicks the ball up the field during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Freehold. Freehold Township defeated Howell 1-0 to win its first sectional title since 2015.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School boys soccer player JT Gold holds up the sectional championship trophy after the team's 1-0 victory over Howell in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV final on Nov. 11 in Freehold. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School boys soccer player Noah Jones serves the ball into the box during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Freehold. Freehold Township defeated Howell 1-0. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Howell High School boys soccer player Marcelo Romano controls the ball between two Freehold Township players during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Howell. Freehold Township defeated Howell 1-0.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Howell High School boys soccer player Chris Osario-Rodriguez tries to fend off Freehold Township's Joshua Jerome at midfield during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Freehold. Howell finishes the season with a 11-7-1 record. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Howell High School boys soccer player Rob Lacqua jumps over Freehold Township's JT Gold to head the loose ball in the air during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Freehold. Freehold Township defeated Howell 1-0. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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The Freehold Township High School boys soccer team celebrates winning its first sectional championship since 2015 with a 1-0 victory over Howell in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV final on Nov. 11 in Freehold.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School boys soccer coach Josh Mehl hugs senior players Herman Colbert and Josh Hocheiser after the team's 1-0 victory over Howell in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Freehold.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School boys soccer player Herman Colbert fends off Howell's Ken Emerick for the loose ball during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Freehold. Freehold Township won 1-0.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School boys soccer player Ryan Keegan kicks the ball up the field during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Freehold. Freehold Township defeated Howell 1-0 to win its first sectional title since 2015.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School boys soccer player JT Gold holds up the sectional championship trophy after the team's 1-0 victory over Howell in the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV final on Nov. 11 in Freehold. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Freehold Township High School boys soccer player Noah Jones serves the ball into the box during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Freehold. Freehold Township defeated Howell 1-0. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Howell High School boys soccer player Marcelo Romano controls the ball between two Freehold Township players during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Howell. Freehold Township defeated Howell 1-0.STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Howell High School boys soccer player Chris Osario-Rodriguez tries to fend off Freehold Township's Joshua Jerome at midfield during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Freehold. Howell finishes the season with a 11-7-1 record. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF
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Howell High School boys soccer player Rob Lacqua jumps over Freehold Township's JT Gold to head the loose ball in the air during the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group IV championship game on Nov. 11 in Freehold. Freehold Township defeated Howell 1-0. STEVEN BASSIN/STAFF

Senior Josh Hocheiser stepped up to take a penalty kick for the Freehold Township High School soccer team in the 47th minute of the 2021 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV state sectional tournament championship match against Howell High School on Nov. 11 in Freehold Townhip.

It was a situation Hocheiser and the Patriots had seen before.

Several weeks ago during the second round of the Shore Conference Tournament, Hocheiser converted a penalty kick in the 67th minute to break a 1-1 tie and help Freehold Township advance in the tournament with a 2-1 victory over Howell.

In the state sectional tournament final, the No. 2 seed Patriots and the No. 13 seed Rebels were scoreless after a 40-minute first half.

Seven minutes into the second half, Hocheiser was fouled inside the 18-yard box and Freehold Township was awarded a penalty kick.

Hocheiser cashed in on the opportunity by scoring his ninth goal of the season and the 1-0 lead stood up for the remainder of the match as the Patriots went on to win the school’s first state sectional tournament title since 2015.

“I got fouled and knew right away I wanted to be the one to take (the penalty kick),” Hocheiser said. “I took a penalty kick against them two weeks ago and scored, and I didn’t have a doubt about this one. It’s incredible. I’m always going to remember that moment.”

Freehold Township improved to 17-3-1 with the victory. The boys soccer program has won two Shore Conference Tournament championships (2014, 2019) and two state sectional tournament titles (2015, 2021) in the last seven years.

Coach Josh Mehl was an assistant coach when the Patriots won the state sectional title in 2015.

Mehl directed the Patriots to a Shore Conference Tournament championship two years ago and was proud to be able to coach the 2021 squad to a state sectional title and to keep the program’s winning tradition going.

“It’s a testament to the kids and the mantra of what Freehold Township boys soccer is,” he said. “These guys were eager to prove they were just as good as the teams in the past. I think this team has shown it is right up there with the best teams in Freehold Township history because of what they have done this year.”

Freehold Township’s victory ended a great run by Howell (11-7-1) as the No. 13 seed in the state sectional tournament.

The Rebels entered the Nov. 11 championship match having won 10 of their previous 11 matches and they upset three teams in the state sectional tournament before running into the Patriots.

“Our guys worked hard and played well,” Coach Rich Yuro said. “They fought with everything they had. I thought they deserved a better fate than this, but sometimes it’s out of your control.”

Goalkeeper Charlie Scanlon made eight saves in the championship match against Freehold Township.

Freehold Township senior goalkeeper Richard Lockard made four saves in the final against Howell. In the state sectional semifinals on Nov. 8, the Patriots defeated New Brunswick, 3-0.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world,” Lockard said of recording a shutout in the state sectional tournament championship match. “My back line and I came prepared for war and got the job done.”

Freehold Township has outscored its opponents 52-20 in 2021.

Senior Herman Colbert has scored 16 goals this season. He scored six goals in four matches during the state sectional tournament, including two in the semifinal victory over New Brunswick and three in a 4-2 win over Hillsborough in the first round.

“Winning all these games and putting the ball in the back of the net to help my team win a championship feels amazing,” Colbert said. “It’s unreal.”

Mehl said it has been an honor to coach this group of Freehold Township players.

“I feel very blessed to be the coach of this team. More so than any championship, I am just grateful to be coaching this specific team.

“This team is truly a family. We love each other and we spend every waking minute together.

“They came to my homeroom and we talked about the game. We go out to practice and work hard and joke around. It’s everything interscholastic sports is all about,” he said.

With the win over Howell in the state sectional final, Freehold Township kept its bid to win the Group IV state title alive. The Patriots will host Toms River North in a Group IV state tournament semifinal match on Nov. 16.