Photo Gallery by Bill Normile

Photo Gallery by Doug Bostwick

The last time the Shore Regional boys soccer team won an NJSIAA sectional championship, it was par for the course for the Blue Devils. Sixteen years later, this group of Shore soccer players is savoring the taste of the title.

Senior center fullback Jake Friedland scored the game’s lone goal in the 51st minute and the Blue Devils – the top seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I bracket – held on to beat defending champion and No. 2 New Egypt, 1-0, for their first sectional championship win in 16 years. They will now face South Jersey champion Haddon Township in the Group I semifinals at 8 p.m. on Tuesday at Haddonfield High School.

“It’s unbelievable,” said Friedland, who transferred to Shore from Christian Brothers Academy for his sophomore year. “It’s the kind of stuff you dream about growing up: scoring a goal in the state final to win a state championship. It’s especially gratifying for the seniors like myself who aren’t playing in college next year. This was pretty much our last chance at glory.”

Shore senior Jake Friedland celebrates his goal in the 51st minute, the winner in a 1-0 Blue Devils victory over New Egypt. (Photo by Bill Normile)

Shore’s last sectional title came in 1998 and was the last of four straight Central Jersey Group I championships. Head coach Christian Pontier was a Blue Devils assistant the last time the team reached the sectional finals in 2007 and 2008, when Shore lost consecutive Central Jersey Group II title games to Somerville and Delran.

“I’m glad the seniors could experience this,” Pontier said. “For two years, they cruised during the season. They didn’t lose in our division, they went into the postseason tournaments with high expectations, and we didn’t get it done. Last year was pretty much a worst-case scenario, and I’m really happy that those guys get to go out on a high note.”

With the score tied in the second half, the Blue Devils played a corner kick short and sophomore Dante Montesinos hit the ball over target J.T. Kessler’s head. Senior defender Eric Bolsch tracked the ball down and played the ball into the box, where Friedland went up over goalkeeper Tim Blomgren to head the ball into the goal.

“The guys on New Egypt were asking for an offsides call as the ball was going in and I never saw a flag go up,” Pontier said. “The field referee went over to talk to the ref on the sideline for a second, so it was a little anticlimactic. But we’ll take it.”

“In a moment like that, everything goes blank,” Friedland said. “I don’t know if I was offsides or not. I just saw the ball and went after it and when it goes in, all you think about is the goal you just scored and making it hold up.”

Minutes earlier, Shore junior goalkeeper Evan Coffey made a lunging save on a shot by New Egypt leading scorer Nick Sample to preserve the scoreless tie before Friedland delivered the winner. Coffey saved five shots to earn his 14th shutout of the season.

Shore’s defense held Sample and fellow Warriors standout Vinny Masitti – who combined for 51 goals and 40 assists – without a goal. Junior fullback Josh DeFino spent the game attached to Sample and shut the 36-goal scorer down.

“For me, Josh was the key to our win today,” Friedland said. “He’s been such a huge part of our team this year and today, he goes out and shuts down their best player.”

Shore had a number of chances to extend the lead, including a one-timed shot by Kessler – who is still seeking his 40th goal of the season – from the six yard-line that clanged off the post in the 60th minute.

Shore senior Cole Allem (10) celebrates with his team behind him after the final whistle of the Central Jersey Group I title game win over New Egypt. (Photo by Doug Bostwick)

In addition to ending a 16-year championship drought, Thursday’s championship win also set a school record for wins in a single season with 22. The Blue Devils went unbeaten in the Shore Conference Class B Central division to improve their record to 44-3-1 over the last four years in the division. Despite that dominance, the Blue Devils had no postseason glory of which to speak.

In 2011, Shore lost to Rumson-Fair Haven at home in the Central Jersey Group II quarterfinals and moved out of Group II the following year. After battling in a competitive Central Jersey Group II bracket for the better part of a decade, the Blue Devils appeared poised to make a run to a Central Jersey Group I title in 2012. That did not happen, as Shore last to South River, 4-1, in the sectional semifinals, again at home.

Last year’s injury-riddled 2013 season ended with the fifth-seeded Blue Devils getting bounced by No. 13 Bound Brook, making it three straight seasons that ended with a home loss in the state tournament.

The Blue Devils will now travel to Haddonfield to face South Jersey Group I champion Haddon Township – 4-0 winners over Palmyra on Thursday. Haddon lost to New Egypt, 1-0, in last year’s Group I semifinal.

“We’re not worried about Tuesday because we know how it felt to lose a tournament game and we don’t want to end the season with that feeling,” Friedland said, referring to a 2-1 Shore Conference Tournament loss to Wall. “We are definitely going to enjoy this one and when Tuesday comes, we’ll be ready to play. We’re thrilled and humbled to win today, but we’d like to keep playing.”