TOMS RIVER - The players on the Central Regional boys soccer team felt strongly that they had the formula to beat Shore Conference Class B South rival Donovan Catholic, but an inability to finish was the only thing keeping them from fully exercising it.

It took a one-goal deficit to flip the switch, but in a third meeting with the Griffins in Thursday's Shore Conference Tournament opening round, the No. 20 seed Golden Eagles found their scoring touch and beat 13th-seeded Donovan Catholic, 3-2, to advance to the round of 16 and snap the Griffins' 10-game winning streak.

Senior Jake Dufner scored a goal in each half, including the go-ahead goal and the goals that proved to be the game-winner. During Central's current five-game winning streak, Dufner has scored at least one goal in all five wins and has a total of 10 goals during the streak.

"The number one focus today was on executing and finishing our chances," said Dufner who spent the first three of his high school seasons at Manchester High School. "We felt like we played well enough to beat (Donovan Catholic) the last time we played them but we weren't able to score and that was the difference.

Dufner broke a 1-1 tie with the first of his two goals in the 26th minute. He calmly settled a pass over the top of the back line by junior Griffin Bacon and knocked a shot past goalkeeper Kevin Dillon and in. Dufner's go-ahead goal came four minutes after sophomore Mike Cambra headed in a long pass from Bacon into the goal to even the score at 1.

"Guys were making great runs," Bacon said. "When you see guys working hard, you try to give them a chance to do something. I saw those guys making the run and just tried to play them a good ball and they did the rest."

Seven minutes into the second half, Dufner extended the Central lead to 3-1 with a 20-yard strike to the far upper right corner of the goal after playing short on a corner kick.

Donovan took the regular-season series from Central 1-0-1 and the Griffins scored the only goal in 180 minutes of play in the two matches.

"We just didn't finish," Dufner said of the first two meetings against Donovan Catholic. "Those games looked a lot like this one, but we just didn't put the ball in the back of the net when we had opportunities. All of our focus today was one playing the way we've been playing with extra emphasis on executing when we had an opportunity to score."

Junior Matt Dalton scored both Donovan Catholic goals from nearly identical spots on opposite sides of the field. The first came in the sixth minute on a left-footed strike to the far upper right corner from 25 yards out and the second was a right-footed shot that Dalton bent inside the far right post from slightly closer to the goal in the 78th.

Dalton's goal in the opening minutes helped Donovan Catholic thwart Central's early control of possession on the Griffins side of the field, which continued throughout the first half.

"I think, if anything, (the goal) made us calm down and make sure we were putting passes together," Dufner said. "We came in knowing we were going to have to score so we just tried to focus a little more on possessing and giving ourselves better chances."

Donovan Catholic nearly scored its second goal twice before Dalton finally broke through again in the 78th. Dalton drilled a 35-yard shot that Central goalkeeper Tom Ruscitti had to punch over the crossbar with a leaping job and Brant Reymann had a goal disallowed for an offsides call in the final 10 minutes.

Central lost junior forward Nate Wiley early in the second half to a hand injury. Wiley required attention from athletic trainers on site and Central coach Rob Bechtloff said his status for the next game is up in the air.

The Golden Eagle will travel to play No. 4 seed and Class B North division champion Ocean Saturday in the round of 16.

"We scrimmaged them in the preseason and it was a pretty good game," Dufner said, referencing a 4-2 Ocean win during the summer. "We know they are very good and we've just got to come out and play them like we did back then."

 

Box Score

Central 3, Donovan Catholic 2

1 2 F
Central (11-3-2) 2 1 3
Donovan Catholic (11-3-2) 1 1 2

Goals (Assists): (C) Mike Cambra (Griffin Bacon) 22’, Jake Dufner (Griffin Bacon) 26’, Jake Dufner 47’; (DC) Matt Dalton 6’, Matt Dalton (Alec Mapoy) 78’
Shots: Tied, 12-12
Saves: (C) Tom Ruscitti 3; (DC) Kevin Dillon 7