WEST LONG BRANCH - Shore Regional senior J.T. Kessler admits his team's schedule is not as challenging as some of the other top teams in the Shore Conference, but when the Blue Devils boys soccer team gets to face another top 10 team in the conference, they relish the opportunity.

Junior Dante Montesinos and freshman Leonardo Montesinos each scored first-half goals Saturday and Kessler added his 10th goal of the season early in the second half as the Blue Devils - ranked No. 5 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - upended No. 3 Ocean in a match-up of unbeaten, top-five teams in the Shore Conference.

"We don't get to face top 10 teams in our division, so we get pumped for games like this," Kessler said. "We see it as a chance to prove ourselves as one of the top teams in the Shore. I don't know if Ocean sees us in the same way. They probably see us as just another game, which probably helps."

Senior J.T. Kessler (left) and junior Dante Montesinos (10) celebrate a goal by Montesinos in Shore's 3-1 win over Ocean on Saturday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Prior to Saturday, Ocean was 3-0 and had outscored its three opponents - Brick, Red Bank Catholic and Red Bank Regional - by a combined score of 21-1, scoring at least six goals in each of the three games.

"Ocean is a great team and with the guys they have up top, they are never out of a game, so we never felt like we had the game put away," Shore coach Christian Pontier said.

Senior goalkeeper Evan Coffey saved six shots for Shore, helping the Blue Devils offset a 10-6 Ocean advantage in shots.

"Before the game, I told Evan he was going to have to come out and be agressive and to play almost like a sweeper keeper," Pontier said. "They pounded the ball up to their forwards and our defense was working to keep those guys in front and I wanted Evan to be aggressive about giving those guys help and closing off the space.

Montesinos rifled home an eight-yard shot in the eighth minute off a deflected pass from junior Matt Dutra for the game's first goal. The goal followed two restarts and a corner kick, with Shore setting up a 35-yard free kick thanks to a foul that occurred after a quick restart in its own end. Senior Brett Norman set up the corner kick with a free kick that sophomore Matt Quesada headed on frame, with Ocean sophomore goalkeeper Tom Gleason punching the ball over the crossbar and off the football crossbar.

Younger brother Leonardo beat Gleason inside the high near post in the 25th after a deflection in the box following a throw-in.

"We always talk about making the most of our opportunities and today, when we got the ball in their third with a chance to score, we were dangerous," Montesinos said. "On my goal, I just tracked the ball to the far post and it bounced back to me in the middle and I just hit it as hard as I good at the goal."

Kessler made it 3-0 in the 43rd with Shore's second goal off a corner kick. Norman played the ball on the ground out of the corner and junior Stevie Johnson set Kessler up with a dummy, after which Kessler ripped a bending shot to the left corner of the goal from the top of the 18-yard box.

"We usually like to play it pretty cnventional n the first corner and hit it to the back post, and then when we see what the other team is doing, it's coach's call," Kessler said. "I saw they were playing a zone in the box and none of them were stepping to the ball so when Stevie just dummied it, no one moved and I just picked a corner and put it in."

Ocean trimmed its deficit to two goals in the 49th minute when senior Marlhens Nasanes took a pass from senior defender Luis Araya up the left side, beat a defender along the end-line and slotted a shot to the far right side netting.

Montesinos appeared a second goal in the 53rd minute that would have given Shore a 4-1 lead, but the goal was disallowed because Montesinos was ruled offside before Kessler flicked a header to the front of the goul mouth.

Spartans senior center midfielder and Monmouth University recruit Wadneson Alexis did not start the game because he had been sick in recent days, according to Ocean coach Tom Reilly. Once Alexis entered the game 10 minutes into the game, he did not come out.

Leonardo Montesinos and junior Stevie Johnson battled Alexis in the midfield for most of the game and the Blue Devils countered the Ocean skill in the middle by playing with three center midfielders - with Kessler and Dante Montesinos checking back to the midfield at different points.

"Leo played great," Dante Montesinos said of his younger brother. "He worked really hard and went up against a great player and was still able to score a goal."

"I thought the key for us was going to be the three center midfielders against their two," Pontier said. "Waldo (Alexis) still played great, but I think our ability to play with an extra midifielder and still be able to win in our defensive third and in their third was huge."

Ocean was also without senior goalkeeper Yanni Kavarakas, who has not played yet this season because of a back injury. According to Reilly, Kavarakas is close to returning, but there is not currently a specific return date.

Shore will go back to division play and while the Blue Devils typically play their toughest games outside of the Class B Central division, upcoming games against Ranney (3-1), St. Rose (2-2) and Asbury Park (2-2) will test Shore, which had to hold off a second-half comeback by division rival Point Beach in a 3-2 win on Sept. 11.

"I think our guys got the message with that second half against Point Beach," Pontier said. "Teams in our division are going to give us 80 hard minutes and with some of the styles we're going to see, it's not going to be easy. We learned last year that we can't just take these games for granted, so I think they'll be ready for the day-to-day challenge."

 

Box Score

Shore 3, Ocean 1

 

1

2

F

Ocean (3-1)

0

1

1

Shore (5-0)

2

1

3

Goals (Assists): (O) Marlhens Nasanes (Luis Araya) 49’; (S) Dante Montesinos (Matt Dutra) 8’, Leonardo Montesinos 25’, J.T. Kessler (Brett Norman) 43’
Shots: Ocean, 10-6
Saves: (O) Tom Gleason 1; (S) Evan Coffey 6