Boys Soccer – Colts Give Keane Memorable SCT Send-off
NEPTUNE – Among the many regular chants by the creative, boisterous and loyal Christian Brothers Academy student section better known as the “Colt Crazies” is one that goes: “GOD’S ON OUR SIDE (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)."
If what the Crazies say is true and God is indeed on the CBA bandwagon, then the Creator probably climbed on board in 1980 to find Dan Keane driving it.
As the illustrious head coaching career of Keane winds down during his farewell season, the Shore Conference Tournament has served as the ultimate victory lap for the machine that Keane has built – one that ended with his team beating Ocean 2-0 for the championship on Halloween at Memorial Athletic Complex in Neptune. Of all the ways CBA dominated during Keane’s 38-year, 500-plus-win tenure, which will come to an end at the conclusion of this season when he retires from coaching and teaching at the Academy, no forum showcased the strength of his program more than the SCT.
CBA christened the SCT by winning the first two in 1984 and 1985 and since then, Keane has led his Colts to eight outright titles and one co-championship for a total of nine, more than any other Shore Conference team.
During those years, CBA has been to the championship game a record 10 times, meaning Keane’s teams have lost just once in the SCT final, making him a remarkable 8-1-1 in conference championship games.
“I love coming (to Neptune) and I’m really glad the kids got an opportunity to play here and win this year,” Keane said. “I was actually reminiscing a lot as the game was going on, remembering different games and different moments with some of the teams that were here, like the stud teams from 2010 and 2011. It means a lot, and I think I’ll be able to reflect more on it when it’s all over.”
Saturday’s hero, Ryan Nigro – who scored the game-winner on a direct kick in the 68th minute – might not be the most obvious star in Keane’s final SCT triumph, but it’s hard to find a more fitting one. Nigro not only helped put a bow on his head coach’s Shore Conference career by ending it with another championship, but he also brought things full circle with respect to the lone CBA championship loss.
Nigro and fellow junior Matt Thorsheim remember that one loss fairly well, although from much different perspectives. Both Thorsheim and Nigro had older brothers playing in the 2009 championship game, but the older siblings played on opposing sides. Thorsheim’s older brother, Chris, was a sophomore starter for the Colts, and Nigro’s two older brothers, Matt and Dave, were in the Marlboro program – Matt as a senior starter, Dave as a sophomore reserve who would eventually star for the Mustangs and go on to play at Monmouth University.
Marlboro got the better of CBA that Halloween night in 2009 with the costumed Colt Crazies looking on as the Mustangs rallied from a 1-0 deficit to stun a CBA side that was one year away from claiming the SCT crown and two away from a 21-0 season with Chris Thorsheim leading the way as the Player of the Year.
The circumstances surrounding this year's final were similar to the 2009 final: CBA students filing into the bleachers dressed in costumes - everything from Zach Galifianakis’ character in "The Hangover," complete with baby carrier harness and accompanying doll, to what appeared to be half of the Pixar roster, and CBA playing the role of favorite while sporting a roster of players whose best high school playing days are likely yet to come – one of whom also bears the last name Thorsheim.
This time, there would be no comeback for the opponent against CBA. By striking the ball into the net from 20 yards out on his direct kick, Nigro not only gave his team and his coach another title, but in a way, he helped set the record straight. His brothers helped Marlboro – a team coached by CBA alumnus Dave Santos – win its first SCT title by beating Keane and CBA. As an unintentional make-good, the younger Nigro gave Keane his proper SCT sendoff.
Thorsheim would later get into the act as well, setting up a dagger by junior Aaron Robertson – who was playing in his home town Saturday night – in the 76th minute that unofficially began the celebration. Just like his brother, Thorsheim won his first title as a junior and is set up for a potentially special senior season with eight junior starters returning as seniors next year. For the first time in 39 years, however – in addition to replacing three senior starters – the Colts will be replacing a head coach.
“A few of us have brothers who played here and this team has been like a family all year,” Thorsheim said. “We are all like brothers. I’m glad we could do it with this team and one last time with Coach Keane. I wouldn’t want to win it with any other group of guys.”
After two back surgeries, the 67-year-old who has steered the CBA ship for nearly four full decades now usually has someone steer him off the field in a golf cart following games. He acknowledges that his longtime assistant Jeff Matson – who Keane has given his full endorsement to be the next head coach – has done the heavy lifting over the last several years with respect to preparing the team, and that Keane's role has been for moral support and motivation. Although his impact on the game plan may not be what it used to be, Keane’s impact on the student body is evident in the chants coming from the student section and the giant cut-out of his face that one of the students crafted for the game.
Whether it has been a Nigro, a Thorsheim, God or any other being mortal or immortal, a lot of people and things have been on CBA’s side during its dominant run inside the Shore Conference, but none longer than Keane. Even though his time to drive is just about over and the Colts appear poised to start the post-Keane era with a potentially dominant team, he’ll always have a ride on that CBA bandwagon that once again rolled over the Shore Conference this year.
If God wants to ride shotgun next year, he can ask Coach Keane.