COLTS NECK - Colts Neck boys soccer coach Art Collier is glad his team is going to get another crack at the Shore's No. 1 team, although he admits he would have liked for that opportunity to come at least a few days after than it actually will.

The circumstances may not be exactly how the Cougars envisioned, but they will play Christian Brothers Academy for the third and final time this year when they travel to the Academy Saturday to play the No. 1 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament.

"I told our guys that it's an honor to play a team like CBA during a tournament," Collier said. "I'm a little disappointed with the seed. It would be nice to be playing them next week."

Colts Neck earned the right to face the Colts by beating No. 17 Southern Regional, 2-1, in overtime and those circumstances were also less than ideal, given the way the game was progressing for No. 16 Colts Neck.

Once senior center back Ryan Tompkins headed a free kick by senior Louis Reale into the goal in the 93rd minute, however, all that mattered was Colts Neck was moving on.

Louis Reale served up the game-winning assist for Colts Neck on Thursday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

The Cougars appeared to be on the way to a win long before Tompkins delivered the winner despite the fact that they only led 1-0. Junior Zack Ferchak buried an 18-yard, far-post strike in the 33rd minute to open the scoring and Colts Neck's defense kept the ball from reaching goalkeeper Don Friedrich by way of a shot on goal for the next 30-plus minute. Meanwhile the Cougars created multiple opportunities to extend the lead to 2-0 that ultimately came up dry and left the Rams within a goal.

"We've been having a problem this year where we have a big disparity between our shot attempts and our shots on goal," Collier said. "We had a ridiculous number of shots attempts today, but their not on frame."

The missed chances came back to bite Colts Neck in the 69th minute, when Southern earned a corner kick. Junior Ethan Leming drove a low service into the box and sophomore Dylan Blauvelt posted up directly in front of the net and, unmarked, headed the ball past Friedrich and into the goal for an easy equalizer.

"The longer the game is 1-0, the more a team hangs around and they get a goal on their first or second shot of the game," Collier said. "And these guys (Southern) are good. Their resume is a lot like ours. They are capable of stepping up. Our players were comfortable, but I wasn't."

Each team had a chance to end the game in the first overtime session, starting with Colts Neck. Christian Saavedra sent a chip past Southern keeper Jay Boehler wide of the left post and Southern came right back with the own chance, which ended when Leming's header bounce to the outside of the far right post.

A foul call early in the second overtime set the Cougars up for the winning goal. Reale took the free kick from 30 yards out and served a slight arc toward the far left bar, where Tompkins tracked it, leapt in the air and stuck it in the goal for the winner.

"Louis is a defender," Collier said. "That's not what he plays for us, but that's where is most comfortable. He saw something on that play that I didn't and he executed it beautifully.

"And Tompkins is a six-(foot)-six high-jumper. We've been waiting for him to get on headers like that all year because with his ability to jump, he's a real weapon."

As the No. 16 seed in the tournament, the Cougars' reward for the thrilling victory will be the tournament's top seed, which just suffered its first loss of the season Wednesday against Marlboro. CBA swept the regular-season series between the Class A North foes, first blitzing the Cougars 6-0 and then digging out of an early 1-0 hole to win 2-1.

Colts Neck is hoping to replicate the second of those two games and find a way to the winning side of a close game.

"The good thing is, if you beat a team like CBA, you get to take over their seed," Collier said. "We're going to have an opportunity and that's what we're trying to do."