HOWELL — The 2021 season had a splendid, but bitter end for the Howell High School boys soccer team.
The Rebels entered the Central Jersey Group IV state sectional tournament as the No. 13 seed and reached the championship game before falling, 1-0, to Freehold Township High School.
As the 2022 season got underway, Coach Rich Yuro said his players have gotten over that loss and are focused on what is to come this season.
Led by seniors Charlie Scanlon (goalkeeper), R.J. Eckelman (defender), Nick Spisak (midfield) and Gavin Soutar (defender), Yuro believes this squad has the talent to reach the state sectional tournament championship game again.
“Doing well in the Shore Conference Tournament and reaching a sectional final is the goal every year,” he said. “We have a lot of pieces. The guys from last year know what to expect. The young guys just have to find their role and see where they fit best.”
Nick Turturro, J.P. Candela, Bryce Ocolla, Marcello Romano, Tye Maser and Brent Romano are first-year starters who will be key pieces to any success the Rebels enjoy, the coach said.
“We have a good crew of younger guys. We just have to get them up to varsity speed,” Yuro added.
The Rebels got their 2022 campaign started on the right foot at home on Sept. 8 against Middletown North High School, rolling to a 2-0 victory over the Lions.
In the seventh minute, Spisak delivered a pass to the front of the net and Turturro converted for the game’s first goal.
“I just dribbled down the line and crossed it (in front of the net),” Spisak said of his assist on Turturro’s goal to put Howell up 1-0. “It’s been something we have been working on in practice the last two weeks. That was a good goal.”
In the 59th minute, Spisak hit the post on a shot, but he collected the rebound and put it into the net for a 2-0 lead.
Howell (@HHSRebelSports) extends its lead to 2-0 in the 59th minute as Nick Spisak scores off his own rebound that hit the post. Spisak has a goal & an assist in the season opener. CC: @central_jersey @BravermanHHS @HowellRebellion #NJSoccer ⚽️ pic.twitter.com/QXI9z1Jtu6
— Steven Bassin (@SBassin_Sports) September 8, 2022
Spisak, who scored five goals and added five assists in 2021, said it felt “really good” to start the 2022 season with a goal and an assist.
The win “gives us a lot of momentum going forward,” he said.
Scanlon was impressive in goal as he made six saves and kept Middletown North off the board. He showed an aggressive attitude coming out to gain possession of loose balls and stop potential scoring chances.
Scanlon said it took a lot of practice to be more confident in his ability to come out of the net. He believes that skill will help him be the type of goalkeeper Howell needs to have success this season.
“I know I’m the biggest part of this team,” Scanlon said. “I’m their backbone, so I have to do all the hard work and keep the energy up.”
The Rebels, who started 2-5 in 2021, will look to build on their victory over the Lions with home games against Manasquan High School on Sept. 10 and Saint John Vianney High School on Sept. 12.
“It’s nice to start the season ahead of the game,” Yuro said after his squad’s victory over Middletown North. “We were playing catch-up last year. Things start to clean up after the first two weeks of the season and you want to be at or above .500.”