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At six-foot-3, Freehold Township senior Brian Dziobak is as tall as any player in the Shore Conference Class A North division. His size made a difference Thursday in a showdown with Colts Neck – the No. 3 team in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 – but it was a couple sub-six-footers who played big near the goal.

Brian Dziobak (left) goes up for a header over Colts Neck's Taylor Demick. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Junior Tim O’Donnell and sophomore Mark Fasano both scored on close-range headers off head-ball flicks by Dziobak in the first nine minutes and the No. 7 Patriots held on knock off the previously unbeaten Cougars, 2-1.

Both Freehold Township goals came off long throw-ins, which have become a specialty for the Patriots, particularly with Dziobak pushing forward over the last two seasons. In the fifth minute, Dziobak flicked a throw-in toward Colts Neck sophomore goalkeeper Mathijs Smit and O’Donnell got his head on the ball and knocked it into the net.

“We work a lot on set pieces in practice, but it’s always different doing it in the game,” Dziobak said. “You have three, sometimes four guys going up with you, which makes it tough, but I know if I can just get a head on it, we’re going to have guys in position to score.”

“Our scouting report was on point, and we just weren’t in position,” Colts Neck Art Collier said. “They’re going to throw the ball to the near post, their big kid is going to head it to the far post, and they’re going to have a guy there. (Dziobak) is going to win a lot of those headers no matter what we do, but where we got beat is we didn’t stay with the runner.”

The second goal was nearly a mirror image of the first, this time with the throw-in coming from the opposite side of the field. Dziobak flicked the header all the way to the far right post and Fasano, who stands no more than 5-foot-4, went up over Smit and a defender to head the ball in for a 2-0 lead in the ninth minute.

“I’m always hesitant to go hard against those guys in practice because they’re smaller and they look pretty fragile,” Dziobak said of Fasano, O’Donnell and the other players over whom he towers. “Next thing I know, there are trying to cut out my legs and go up with me. They are tough kids, and we all get better by competing with each other.”

Dziobak scored and assisted a goal in Monday’s 2-1 win over Howell, with both of those scores coming on the ground. Tuesday, he went up in the air for two assists.

“I’ve been trying to stress to college coaches and people looking at him that he’s more than just a tall player,” Freehold Township coach Todd Briggs said. “He’s great in the air, and that’s definitely a strength of his, but he can also play with speed and he has good foot skills.

“He has a great mind for the game, too, and that’s part of what makes him so good on those set pieces. It’s easy to draw up a play and have him flick the ball to the far post, but it’s another to be able to execute it as often as he does.”

The Patriots outshot Colts Neck 5-0 over the first 16 minutes and won with defense the rest of the way. Colts Neck eventually formed an attack and scored 1:58 into the second half when Rob Berdel scored out of a scrum in front of the net to cut the Patriots' lead to 2-1. Colts Neck finished with an 8-7 edge in shots.

Colts Neck lost a starter and some momentum when senior center fullback Michael Jelinsky took an elbow to the head and left with concussion symptoms, according to Collier. Jelinsky was down on the field for nearly 20 minutes and left on a golf cart before an ambulance arrived. According to Collier, Jelinsky has a history of concussions.

The Cougars are also playing without senior forward Dom Ricci, who was recently diagnosed with mononucleosis.

“It’s been tough for us. We’re starting to lose some key guys, and we don’t have a ton of depth,” Collier said. “Our concern right now, though, is with Michael because any time you’re dealing with concussions, it’s a serious deal. Hopefully, it’s just minor and he can rest up and get back to health, but with the head, you just don’t know.”

Freehold Township also lost senior midfielder Nick Fasano with 12 minutes left due to a strained groin, a lingering injury to go with a broken bone in his left hand that has relegated him to a cast, according to Briggs.

“I’d rather these injuries happen now because it gives me a chance to get the younger players on the field and put them in situations that they might not be in,” Briggs said. “Then you just hope you can get healthy and if that happens, you have a much deeper team.”

Freehold Township lost twice in its previous three games heading into Thursday, with the losses coming against Manalapan and Christian Brothers Academy.

“Coach Briggs always tells us that in A North, you need to go 2-1 every week, and we’ve been able to do that,” Dziobak said.

“In A North, you just need to survive,” Briggs said. “If you can win two games a week, that gets you a home game in the Shore Conference Tournament and state tournament and it might even give you a chance to win the division. Three games a week can be pretty brutal, so we just take it day by day and put the last game behind us.”

Box Score

Freehold Township 2, Colts Neck 1





Colts Neck (3-1-1, 3-1-1)




Freehold Twp. (5-2-0, 4-2-0)




Goals: (CN) Berdel 42’; (FT) O’Donnell (Dziobak) 5’, M. Fasano (Dziobak) 9’
Shots: Colts Neck, 8-7
Saves: (CN) Smit 3; (F) Ramm 4