Boys Soccer Central Jersey State Tournament Preview
The best teams in the Shore Conference, at least according to what the Shore Conference Tournament revealed, play in the NJSIAA Central Jersey brackets, so it stands to reason that if the Shore Conference has a sectional champion this year, it will be in one or more of Central Jersey Group I, II, III or IV. Below is a look at each Central Jersey section, some of the non-Shore teams in the field, and how the Shore might stack up.
Central Jersey Group IV
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 3 Manalapan, No. 4 Jackson Memorial, No. 6 Freehold Township, No. 10 Colts Neck, No. 13 Brick Memorial, No. 14 Howell
Defending Champion: Monroe
The Top Seed: East Brunswick
The Favorite: East Brunswick. The Bears (18-2-1) have grown up a lot over the last year and the jump from middle of the CJ IV pack to the favorite can be attributed to a core of juniors that has emerged. The Bears’ top four scorers – Adam Rosa, Kevin Walsh, Alex Mora and Keysean Brant-Sharp – are all either juniors or sophomores, with Brant-Sharp the lone sophomore. East Brunswick is coming off a Greater Middlesex Conference championship and has lost only twice this season (Old Bridge and Westfield) and drew defending sectional champion Monroe.
The Darkhorse: No. 15 Old Bridge. The Knights (10-11) have a young nucleus as well and have been inconsistent all year. At its best, however, Old Bridge has shown it can go toe-to-toe with top teams, including a win over East Brunswick. South Brunswick is also a dangerous No. 8 seed, but Old Bridge is probably a little more under-the-radar.
Best First Round Game: (12) Trenton at (5) Monroe. Monroe is the defending sectional champion and should be good enough to survive the first round, but the Tornadoes will not be a pushover. Trenton was a middle-of-the-pack team in a very good Colonial Valley Conference and beat the top two seeds in Central Jersey Group III – Allentown and Hightstown. The Tornadoes also had trouble with Princeton (6-0) and Notre Dame (two 3-1 losses), so which Trenton teams shows up and how they match up is CJ IV is anyone’s guess.
Shore Player to Watch: Ryan Hammer, Manalapan. Hammer is starting to heat up after scoring two goals in the Braves’ Shore Conference Tournament final win over Rumson-Fair Haven. The Braves are a balanced team overall and Hammer is its most dangerous player.
Non-Shore Player to Watch: Kyle Goodwin, South Brunswick. Goodwin and teammate Tommy Dorsay (11 goals, eight assists) form a one-two punch that could lead South Brunswick through the bracket. While Dorsay has been the Vikings’ leader all year, Goodwin returned on Oct. 22 after playing in Portugal into the early fall and with Red Bull Academy last season. In the first five games with Goodwin, South Brunswick scored 22 goals and Goodwin accounted for 13 of them (six goals, seven assists).
Championship Pick: Hunterdon Central over East Brunswick. The Red Devils have a balanced team – much like Manalapan – and are as battle-tested as any in Group IV. With two wins over Pingry and a win, Hunterdon Central looks like a team ready for the big game.
Round-by-Round Quick Picks
(1) East Brunswick over (16) North Brunswick
(8) South Brunswick over (9) West Windsor-Plainsboro North
(5) Monroe over (12) Trenton
(4) Jackson Memorial over (13) Brick Memorial
(3) Manalapan over (14) Howell
(11) Hillsborough over (6) Freehold Township
(7) Montgomery over (10) Colts Neck
(2) Hunterdon Central over (15) Old Bridge
(1) East Brunswick over (8) South Brunswick
(5) Monroe over (4) Jackson Memorial
(3) Manalapan over (11) Hillsborough
(2) Hunterdon Central over (7) Montgomery
(1) East Brunswick over (5) Monroe
(2) Hunterdon Central over (3) Manalapan
(2) Hunterdon Central over (1) East Brunswick
Central Jersey Group III
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 3 Ocean, No. 6 Wall, No. 8 Jackson Liberty, No. 11 Red Bank, No. 12 Long Branch, No. 13 Neptune, No. 16 Middletown North
Defending Champion: Princeton
The Top Seed: Allentown
The Favorite: Allentown. Last year was supposed to be the year for the Redbirds, but Princeton edged them 4-3 in Allentown to break their hearts. Allentown beat Princeton early in the season and has maintained its status as the top team among the CVC Group III teams, no small task in a group that also includes Hightstown, Hopewell Valley and aforementioned Princeton.
The Darkhorse: No. 11 Red Bank. The Bucs have lost just once over their last 10 matches following a 1-6-1 start and were eliminated from the Shore Conference Tournament on penalty kicks. Red Bank will play a Wall side that gave them trouble during the season in round one, but the Bucs have also proven they can beat No. 3 Ocean, which would be the likely second-round opponent should Red Bank knock off Wall.
Best First-Round Game: (11) Red Bank at (6) Wall. For reasons touched on above, this game should be one of the best in Central Jersey on Tuesday. Wall’s 3-0 loss to Rumson-Fair Haven was its first loss since Sept. 20, while Red Bank is 8-1-1 over its last 10 games. While Red Bank did not beat Wall this year, the Bucs battled the Crimson Knights to a draw in the second meeting. The winner of this game has a good shot to beat Ocean in the quarterfinals.
Shore Player to Watch: Justin Gilson, Red Bank. Gilson started the season as a defensive center midfielder and moved up to forward in the midst of Red Bank’s nightmare 1-6-1 start. The move has paid off both for Gilson and his team, with the junior scoring 19 goals and seven assists this year.
Non-Shore Player to Watch: Kevin Halliday, Princeton. The numbers are down this year, but the Tigers have needed more defense out of Halliday. Last year, Halliday was one of the main reasons Princeton won the Group III co-title.
Championship Pick: Allentown over Hightstown. It will be hard to deny Allentown this year, but the Rams will be dangerous coming from the other side of the bracket. Ocean, Wall and Red Bank are all playing well enough to make a run, but the champion in this bracket has come out of Mercer County in each of the past two years and the last Shore champion (Holmdel in 2010) is no longer in the field.
Round-by-Round Quick Picks
(1) Allentown over (16) Middletown North
(8) Jackson Liberty over (9) JF Kennedy-Iselin
(5) Hopewell Valley over (12) Long Branch
(4) Princeton over (13) Neptune
(3) Ocean over (14) Nottingham
(11) Red Bank over (6) Wall
(7) Somerville over (10) Steinert
(2) Hightstown over (15) Northern Burlington
(1) Allentown over (8) Jackson Liberty
(4) Princeton over (5) Hopewell Valley
(3) Ocean over (11) Red Bank
(2) Hightstown over (7) Somerville
(1) Allentown over (4) Princeton
(2) Hightstown over (3) Ocean
(1) Allentown over (2) Hightstown
Central Jersey Group II
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 1 Holmdel, No. 2 Rumson-Fair Haven, No. 5 Point Boro, No. 8 Raritan, No. 9 Matawan, No. 14 Manasquan, No. 15 Monmouth
Defending Champion: Holmdel
The Top Seed: Holmdel
The Favorite: Rumson-Fair Haven. Fresh off a heartbreaking loss to Manalapan in the Shore Conference Tournament championship, the Bulldogs still have a great chance at a championship with its senior-heavy team. Holmdel is not at 100 percent while dealing with a number of injuries and No. 4 Delran is playing better than No. 3 Cinnaminson – which would be a potential semifinal opponent for Rumson. It’s likely that Rumson will either be playing at Holmdel – where it has already won this year – or hosting Delran in the final.
The Darkhorse: No. 8 Raritan. The Rockets have tough first-round draw in Matawan, but the Rockets have beaten the Huskies once in a tournament setting (Shore Conference Tournament first round). Raritan has also given Holmdel trouble, playing the Hornets to a scoreless draw in the second meeting between the two Class A Central foes. With Holmdel dealing with a number of injuries and Raritan getting better over the course of the season, the Rockets could put something together over the next week or so.
Best First-Round Game: (9) Matawan at (8) Raritan. The two schools are within a few miles of one another and the two teams played a very competitive, quality match in the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament, won by Raritan. The winner of this one could be a handful for No. 1 Holmdel.
Shore Player to Watch: Eamon Kitson, Rumson. The University of Vermont recruit has been the best player on a stacked Rumson team and despite a rough championship game against Manalapan, he was one of the best players in the Shore Conference Tournament.
Non-Shore Player to Watch: Dylan Santos, Rahway. The senior striker will make the Indians a good bet to pull the first-round upset at Spotswood and would be a handful for No. 2 Rumson in the quarterfinals.
Championship Pick: Rumson over Holmdel. The Hornets have made a living during this time of the year and even missing leading scorer Jason Kyriacou, junior Gino D’Agostino and freshman forward Brendan Wall, Holmdel is good enough and scrappy enough to put something together. In the end though, Rumson has been the slightly better teams this year and without that trio of players, it’s going to be hard to keep up with the Bulldogs.
Round-by-Round Quick Picks
(1) Holmdel over (16) Delaware Valley
(8) Raritan over (9) Matawan
(5) Point Boro over (12) Carteret
(4) Delran over (13) A.L. Johnson
(3) Cinnaminson over (14) Manasquan*
(6) Bordentown over (11) North Plainfield
(10) Rahway over (7) Spotswood
(2) Rumson over (15) Monmouth
(1) Holmdel over (8) Raritan
(4) Delran over (5) Point Boro
(6) Bordentown over (3) Cinnaminson
(2) Rumson over (10) Rahway
(1) Holmdel over (4) Delran
(2) Rumson over (6) Bordentown
(2) Rumson over (1) Holmdel
Central Jersey Group I
Shore Teams in the Field: No. 5 Shore, No. 7 Point Beach, No. 9 Asbury Park
The Top Seed: New Egypt
Defending Champion: South River
The Favorite: New Egypt. The Warriors looked like a safe bet to win the section last year, but South River stunned the Warriors in the sectional final last year. New Egypt has been just as good this year and has played an even better schedule.
The Darkhorse: No. 13 Bound Brook. Teams that play quality schedules have the best chance to advance in this bracket and the Crusaders are a strong 8-9 thanks to their schedule. They beat Immaculata on the road, lost one-goal decisions to Gill St. Bernard’s, Bernards and Hillsborough, and lost 4-1 to a loaded Pingry team. Sure, those are not all wins, but Bound Brook won’t be phased by anything in this bracket.
Best First-Round Game: (9) Asbury Park at (8) Middlesex. There are not many first-round games that stand out, but this one should be pretty competitive. Each side has battled some inconsistency, but Asbury Park has been a particularly dangerous team against quality teams because of a physical style and a dynamic striker in Jose Cesaire.
Shore Player to Watch: Jose Cesaire, Asbury Park. Speaking of Cesaire, he one of the top scorers in the entire Shore Conference and is the most skilled player from the Shore in this bracket. He can become frustrated when he faces multiple marking backs, but the Blue Bishops have learned to play off that.
Non-Shore Player to Watch: Travis Ward, New Egypt. Ward has been a scoring machine for the Warriors over the past two seasons, amassing more than 50 goals over his junior and senior seasons. He has 26 goals this season and combined with junior Nick Sample (16 goals and 24 assists), the Warriors have quite the duo.
Championship Pick: New Egypt over South River. Last year’s loss to South River was a surprise and the Warriors have come back even stronger to this point. Shore and Point Beach each have a history of making runs in this section, but New Egypt and South River are both very strong this year.
(1) New Egypt bye
(9) Asbury Park over (8) Middlesex
(5) Shore over (12) South Amboy
(13) Bound Brook over (4) Piscataway Tech
(3) Metuchen over (14) Manville
(6) Highland Park over (11) Perth Amboy Tech
(7) Point Beach over (10) Florence
(2) South River over (15) Somerset Tech
(1) New Egypt over (9) Asbury Park
(13) Bound Brook over (5) Shore
(3) Metuchen over (6) Highland Park
(2) South River over (7) Point Beach
(1) New Egypt over (13) Bound Brook
(2) South River over (3) Metuchen
(1) New Egypt over (2) South River