BARNEGAT — Through all the adversity his team faced this season, losing two of its top three returning scorers to injuries early in the season and trying to navigate a challenging new division schedule, Barnegat head coach Will Brasil knew that, above all, his players would never give up.

Those intangible qualities were front and center for the Bengals in their biggest game of the season.

Junior attackman Jakob Jason sank the game-tying with 11 seconds left in the third quarter and junior midfielder Bailey Carroll delivered the go-ahead goal with 2:55 left in regulation to lift the Bengals to a thrilling 6-5 comeback victory over Brick Memorial in the inaugural Shore Conference Coaches Cup championship game on Friday afternoon.


Bob Badders |
Bob Badders |

The Coaches Cup was implemented for many Shore Conference sports at the beginning of the current scholastic year and gives teams that did not qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament a chance to compete in an adjacent tournament.

The top-seeded Bengals trailed 4-0 in the second quarter to the red-host Mustangs, who were seeded sixth but entered the final on a five-game winning streak. A goal by sophomore Leo Chamorro midway through the second quarter got Barnegat (9-9) on the board and started the comeback. Carroll recorded a hat trick, Jason had a goal and two assists, and sophomore goalie DJ Swierk made eight saves as the Bengals shut out the Mustangs in the second half.

"Since the beginning of the season we’ve been dealing with injuries, especially to Luke (Tortorici) and Keegan (Dunn), who are some pretty big losses,” Jason said. “The last few games we’ve started slow but something always clicks in the second half. We just don’t give up. We practice hard and play hard.”

“They’re tough as nails,” Brasil said. “The kids never quit, they never feel bad for themselves, never get on each other. Obviously, we wanted to qualify for the Shore Conference Tournament and that was our goal, but once we got in this we said somebody’s got to win it so it might as well be us. We had been going through a really tough stretch and the kids found another gear and locked in. I couldn’t be more proud of the way they fight.”

Shore Conference division realignment saw the Bengals placed in the Colonial Division with Manalapan, Toms River East, Point Boro, Middletown South, Jackson Memorial, Red Bank Catholic, and Howell. Barnegat had faced great division opponents before with juggernauts Manasquan and Wall both residing in the old Class B South division, but this was going to be an entirely different game-to-game challenge. Their prospects took a major hit in the first three games of the season when Tortorici and Dunn both suffered season-ending inquiries. Tortorici, a junior midfielder who is committed to York College, was Barnegat’s leading scorer last season with 30 goals and 55 assists. He played in just three games this season. Dunn, a sophomore midfielder, had 39 points last season but played in only one game this season.


Bob Badders |
Barnegat junior attackman Jakob Jason. (Bob Badders |

“Five minutes into the season we have our two D-middies playing offense,” Brasil said. “It was definitely tough; we’re not a very deep team and we’re a small school. It took a while, but we found our identity. We want to make every game a rock fight. We want to play very good defense, hold possession, pick up ground balls, and just scrape and scratch and claw.”

Barnegat did just that this season, especially during the Coaches Cup when they allowed just 13 goals in three games. Their division schedule was certainly a punch in the face, but it prepared them well for the postseason.

“We went 0-7 in the division and it was definitely a wake-up call for us,” Brasil said. “We hadn’t seen that level of play consistently but once we got to this tournament we knew that if we could hang with those teams we’d be okay against these teams. The kids started to believe in themselves.”

“It took us a while but practice after practice, just one day off a week, no excuses, we came together and did what we had to do,” Carroll said. “It was not an easy schedule but that’s what helped us.”

That resolve was tested on Friday when Brick Memorial (9-9) jumped out to a 4-0 lead on the strength of three extra-man goals. Senior midfielder Connor Dietz gave the Mustangs a 1-0 lead less than two minutes into the game and junior attackman Austin Edwards took a feed from X off the stick of sophomore attackman Nick Correia for a man-up goal with one minute left in the first quarter. Barnegat had an 8-3 advantage in shots but Brick Memorial junior goalie Matt Hillin was up to the task with six saves.

Flags continued to fly against the Bengals in the second quarter and Brick Memorial made them pay with two more man-up goals to stretch its lead to 4-0. Sophomore attackman Noah Gambaroney scored off a pass from sophomore midfielder Justin Karlbon at 10:02 and Karlbon then set up junior middie Jaylen Tholen for a goal at 6:11.

Chamorro’s transition goal off the ensuing face-off finally got Barnegat on the board. A collective exhale followed as the Bengals regrouped and scored two more goals with Carroll scoring off assists from Jason at 4:43 and again with 21.3 seconds left in the first half. Brick Memorial got one back to take a 5-3 lead with 4.3 seconds on the clock when Karlbon scored off a pass from Correia, but that was the last time a ball would find its way past Swierk.

“We all just locked in and connected, especially on offense, and the defense locked off,” Carroll said. “All we had to do was score some goals.”

Barnegat tallied the game’s final three goals, starting with junior midfielder Stephen Griffin taking a pass from junior attackman Jason McHale and blasting a shot into the top corner of the net with 3:45 left in the third quarter. Then came Jason’s acrobatic game-tying goal with 11.3 seconds remaining in the third.


Bob Badders |
Barnegat junior midfielder Bailey Carroll. (Bob Badders |

“I saw the clock and just dodged, and a lot of the time they like to play me to my right and I’m pretty confident in my left hand, so I split to my left and shot it,” Jason said. “Before I could even see where the ball was going I was on the floor and then I heard everyone cheering. Ending the quarter with a goal to tie it up, it was a great feeling.”

The score remained tied through a tense fourth quarter until Carroll struck for the eventual game-winning goal with under three minutes to play. A flag was down in the Brick Memorial defensive zone as Barnegat turned up the field for the go-ahead strike.

“I knew we had a flag so it was a free play and I took advantage of it,” Carroll said.

Brick Memorial had a good look at the cage but a bounce shot by Correia appeared to deflect off Swierk’s foot before hitting the post and caroming out where the Bengals picked up the ground ball with 30 seconds left. A desperation shot from just inside midfield with 2.9 seconds left was swallowed up by Barnegat’s defense.

“If there’s one thing this team is very good at, it’s putting the past behind them and moving on to the next play,” Brasil said. “We have some good leaders on the team and we told them at halftime that there’s a lot of time left, just believe in each other and the better team will come out on top.”

“This is definitely huge for us,” Carroll said. “We lost our two best players so we just had to come together. No excuses.”

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