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The limited schedule in 2020 might make for an easier slate of games for some teams but that won’t be the case for the teams in Class A North. Even in the case of Christian Brothers Academy – which typically schedules games vs. other strong non-public programs in New Jersey and neighboring states – will still get challenged by playing in this year’s Class A North division, which is likely to again be jammed with teams inside the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and several more on the periphery.

The race for No. at the Shore starts in A North, where defending Shore Conference Tournament champion Freehold Township returns as the defending divisional champion. CBA and Long Branch also bring back strong squads, while Marlboro and Middletown South look reloaded and ready to contend despite some key graduation losses. Middletown North and its strong collection of seniors replace Freehold Boro in realignment and Manalapan and Howell remain dangerous even while addressing plenty of roster questions.

The A North grind is unforgiving in normal years and now that teams will play one another twice per week during the seven-week season and there is no Shore Conference Tournament to fall back on, the schedule becomes both tougher and more meaningful in 2020.

Update: CBA and Long Branch won't play as scheduled on Oct. 1 and Oct. 3 due to CBA going to remote learning for two weeks in response to multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19 among its student body.

In predicted order of finish

Freehold Township

Head Coach: Josh Mehl, fifth season
2019 Record: 14-6-1 (6-1, first in Class A North)
Returning: Zach Orrico (Sr., Forward), Adam Havens (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Joe Lardaro (Sr., Midfield/Defense), John Wilhelm (Sr., Goalkeeper), Josh Leonetti (Sr., Defense), Shane O’Malley (Sr., Defense), Aidan Szymanski (Sr., Defense), Josh Hocheiser (Jr., Midfield), Herman Colbert (Jr., Midfield), J.T. Gold (Jr., Midfield), Christian Mojares (Jr., Midfield), Anthony Barthel (Sr.)
Key Losses: Bennett Messinger (Midfield), Evan Savino (Defense/Midfield), Connor Latona (Defense), Connor Finn (Defense), Chris Finn (Defense)
Top Newcomers: Nick Liguori (Sr.), Charlie Trama (Sr.), Ethan Pryzgoda (Sr.), Vin Principato (Sr.), Michael Pasko (Sr.), Ryan Keegan (Jr.), Tim Bertscha (So.)

Freehold Township senior Zach Orrico (3) celebrates with classmate Joe Lardaro after Lardaro's go-ahead goal in the first half of SCT quarterfinal vs. Wall. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Coming off the program’s fourth Shore Conference Tournament championship and the first ever conference championship decided on penalty kicks, the Patriots have a balance of returning impact talent and open spots to fill due to some graduations. One of the returning stars is Zach Orrico, the reigning Shore Sports Network Player of the Year who shined during the SCT and scored in Freehold Township’s lone NJSIAA Tournament game – an overtime loss to Long Branch.

There will be a mix of motivation from the early state tournament exit and a target on their collective backs after the Patriots won both conference and division titles in 2019. Along with Orrico, outside midfielder Adam Havens, 6-foot-5 center midfielder Joe Lardaro, center back Josh Leonetti, outside defender Shane O’Malley and all-division goalkeeper John Wilhelm make up the returning senior core. Junior Josh Hocheiser also saw significant time and is part of a promising junior group that will have to ascend to prominent roles for Freehold Township to defend its Class A North title during the upcoming 14-game grind.

Christian Brothers Academy

Head Coach: Tom Mulligan, fifth season
2019 Record: 13-4-3 (4-2-1, fourth in Class A North)
Returning: Jack Longo (Sr., Defense), Brett Sieg (Sr., Midfield), Shane Borenius (Sr., Midfield), Ryan Mojares (Sr., Defense), Graydon Santos (Sr., Midfield), Declan Kelly (Jr., Midfield), Dylan Cupo (Jr., Defense), Tommy Glynn (Sr., Forward), Ethan Beyer (Sr., Defense)
Key Losses: Luke Pascarella (Forward), Connor Anderko (Defense), Michael Casper (Midfield), Noah Santifort (Defense), Joe Costa (Midfield), A.J. Pinto (Goalkeeper), Chris Vollrath (Forward), Jack Ryan (Defense)
Top Newcomers: Will Thygeson (So., Forward), Jack D’Elletto (So., Forward)

CBA senior Jack Longo. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

CBA is no stranger to replacing talent and will have a lot of players to replace from last year’s NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A runner-up. The Colts lost their top scorer (Luke Pascarella) and three more all-division-caliber players in the middle of the field, including a pair of central defenders (Connor Anderko and Noah Santifort) and a holding midfielder (Mike Casper). Seniors Brett Sieg and Shane Borenius return on the midfield line, with Borenius finishing second on the team in scoring in 2019 while playing on the wing. The defense should remain strong with third-year starter Jack Longo back on the outside and regular contributor Ryan Mojares shifting to one of the center back spots as a defensive leader.

Juniors Declan Kelly and Dylan Cupo made an impact as sophomores and Tommy Glynn and Graydon Santos are ready for bigger roles as seniors. Both ends of the formation will be x-factors for the Colts, with sophomores Will Thygeson and Jack D’Elletto elevating to varsity to battle for time up top, while there is also a crowded battle for the starting goalkeeper spot vacated by 2019 all-division selection A.J. Pinto. In a season with so many unknowns, CBA is more of an unknown than the Colts have been in recent years, but still very much in the running for the No. 1 ranking.

Long Branch

Head Coach: Adrian Castro, ninth season
2019 Record: 11-8-2 (5-2, tied second in Class A North)
Returning: Jason Laviola (Sr., Midfield), Tyler Abbot (Sr., Goalkeeper), Brian Completo (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Augusto Bontempo (Sr., Midfield), Jeremy Hernandez (So., Defense), Victor Pessoa (Sr., Defense), Cesar Rojas (Jr., Midfield), Brian Yocute (Jr., Midfeld), Kobe Brown (Sr., Forward), Tyler Haldane (Sr., Midfield)
Key Losses: Patrick O’Dwyer (Forward), Eryck Lazo (Forward), Janson Munoz (Defense)
Top Newcomers: Arturo Hernandez (Jr., Midfield), Lucas Barbosa (Jr., Forward/Midfield), Eduardo Ribiero (Jr., Forward), Vladimir Gonzalez (Sr., Defense), Matt Tehnuen (Sr., Goalkeeper)

Long Branch senior Augusto Bontempo. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Long Branch has had All-Shore talent, some big wins and some good postseason runs over the past decade, but what the Green Wave did at the end of the 2019 season had the feel of a real breakthrough for the program. After rallying to finish second place in a loaded Class A North division, Long Branch went on a tear through the Central Jersey Group IV bracket and came up a win shy of a sectional championship, losing to perennial powerhouse Hunterdon Central.

The Green Wave will have to figure out how to replace its two most dynamic scorers from a year ago, but does return a crop of creative playmakers led by senior Jason Laviola. Classmate and fellow midfielder Augusto Bontempo came on at the end of last season and Brian Completo, Victor Pessoa and sophomore Jeremy Hernandez give Long Branch an experienced defensive unit in front of third-year starting goalkeeper Tyler Abbot. Juniors Arturo Hernandez, Lucas Barbosa and Eduardo Ribiero make up a trio of newcomers that will play a role in the scoring attack and the quicker they can make an impact the more of a threat the Wave will be in establishing itself as an A North favorite.

Marlboro

Head Coach: Ryan Morris, third season
2019 Record: 14-5 (5-2, tied second in Class A North)
Returning: Dan Risin (Sr., Forward), Max Rosen (Jr., Midfield), Kyle Lin (Sr., Forward), Bryce Strumeier (So., Midfield), Nick Tango (Jr., Goalkeeper), Tate Berman (Sr., Defense), Cooper Laitman (So., Defense), Ryan Schmid (Sr., Defense)
Key Losses: Max Shushkovsky (Midfield), Mike Steinberg (Midfield), Ethan Schlessinger (Defense), Noah Rosen (Midfield), Mitchell Katsman (Forward), Ethan Steinberg (Midfield)
Top Newcomers: Eric Tsirkin (Sr., Midfield), Dan Cohen (Jr., Defense), Logan Simon (So., Forward), Dylan Kipperman (Jr., Midfield), Matt Sherer (Jr., Defense)

The Mustangs have made significant strides in each of head coach Ryan Morris’s first two seasons, going from one win in 2017 to eight in 2018, then improving by six more wins between 2018 and 2019. While that is an undeniably impressive accomplishment, the way last season ended left a sour taste in Marlboro’s collective mouth. The Mustangs let the Class A North title slip out of their grasp, lost in the round of 16 in the SCT as the No. 2 seed and lost to Long Branch in the Central Group IV playoffs as the No. 1 seed.

On top of shaking off the disappointing end to 2019, Marlboro will have to replace a talented group of 2020 graduates that spanned the field. There are, however, some pieces back to make Marlboro a factor in A North once again. Senior Dan Risin and junior Max Rosen were starters throughout last season and along with senior Kyle Lin, will key the attack. Sophomore Bryce Strumeier saw time as a freshman and will join that trio in Marlboro’s core, with Tate Berman, Cooper Laitman and Ryan Schmid returning with expanded defensive roles. Eric Tsirkin is back with the program after exclusively playing with the Cedar Stars Academy in 2019 and will provide a boost in the midfield alongside Rosen. Junior Nick Tango is also back in goal, giving the Mustangs some goal-prevention while they sort out a new-look attack.

Middletown North

Head Coach: Eric Morley, first season
2019 Record: 7-11 (3-4, tied fifth in Class B North)
Returning: Aidan Cardella (Sr., Forward), Denzel Boateng (Sr., Midfield), Alex Bogues (Sr., Goalkeeper), Brandon Del Grosso (Sr., Midfield), Joe Vallillo (Sr., Midfield), Ryan Prindeville (Sr., Defense), Kyle Puzo (Sr., Defense), C.J. Corilous (So., Defense)
Key Losses: Pete Angelucci (Midfield), Alex Perez (Midfield), Matt Dulin (Midfield), Matt Rozinsky (Defense), James Davis (Defense), Andrew Demedici (Defense)
Top Newcomers: Thomas Long (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Grant Heller (Sr., Defense), Kyle McCarthy (Jr., Defense), Michael Colantino (So., Midfield/Forward), Dom Soares (Jr., Forward), J.T. Meredith (Sr., Goalkeeper), Chris Jensen (Jr., Midfield/Defense)

You would be hard-pressed to find a team that will miss September soccer more than Middletown North. The Lions started 3-0 in 2017, 2-0 in 2018 and 5-0 in 2019 and still finished well below .500 in each year. The last game of September was the start of the downfall both in 2017 and 2019, with Middletown North going 7-3 in their first 10 games last season and losing eight in a row to close it. It was a tough learning experience for the Lions, which leaned on a junior-heavy group that will try to own October and carry it into November - all while adjusting to a move from B North to A North.

Senior Aidan Cardella is one of the Shore’s top returning scorers and will be Middletown North’s top weapon on the pitch again this fall. Classmates Denzel Boateng and Brandon Del Grosso will man the midfield again, with seniors Ryan Prindeville and Kyle Puzo leading the defense along with up-and-coming sophomore C.J. Corilous. Senior Alex Bogues has shown flashes of All-Shore ability in goal and could be the ultimate difference-maker for a Middletown North team that is good enough to take a step forward, but will have to do so against a very difficult schedule.

Middletown South

Head Coach: Rob Grella, fourth season
2019 Record: 9-5-4 (2-3-2, fifth in Class A North)
Returning: Matt Glynn (Sr., Midfield), Aaron Oliveira (Sr., Midfield), Chase Guinta (Sr., Midfield), Ethan Dreyer (Sr., Forward), Austin Carter (Sr., Goalkeeper)
Key Losses: Tyler Jerome (Midfield), Danny Minze (Forward), Alex Sigua (Forward), Jack Obzarny (Defense), John Anthony (Defense), Matt Cozzi (Midfield), Joey Petzhold (Midfield), Sean Liner (Midfield)
Top Newcomers: Ryan Jerome (Jr.), Marcelo Soto (So.), Alex Soto (So.), Nick Zito (So.), Alex Quintano (Jr.), Dillon Petke (So.), Anthony Cona (Jr.)

Middletown South spent the 2019 on the periphery of the Shore Sports Network Top 10 and ultimately wound up on the outside looking in. The Eagles had a significant amount of senior influence last season and picked up a pair of key early-season results over Long Branch (3-0 win) and CBA (0-0 draw), but could never quite get over the hump against some marquee opponents the rest of the way (save for a thrilling overtime win over rival Middletown North).

Although Middletown South must replace a number of important seniors, the Eagles bring back leading scorer Matt Glynn coming off a 14-goal campaign as a junior. Aaron Oliveira and Chase Guinta also return with experience in the midfield and Austin Carter established himself as a steady goalkeeper during his junior campaign in 2019. Senior Ethan Dreyer will play a bigger role on the attack this year and a wave of sophomores will spearhead the youth movement that will be central to the Eagles plugging the holes and remaining a daily threat in A North.

Manalapan

Head Coach: Kerry Eisman, fifth season
2019 Record: 6-8-1 (2-4-1, sixth in Class A North)
Returning: James Bruno (Jr., Defense/Midfield), Jacob Hyams (So., Defense), Nick Belo (Sr., Defense/Midfield), Aiden Tumbleson (Jr., Defense/Midfield), Vincent Tuccillo (Sr., Midfield), Nick DiLorenzo (Sr., Goalkeeper), Anthony Sarkisov (So., Midfield), Jonah Ortega (Jr., Midfield), Ryan Petosa (Sr., Midfield), Dylan Fread (Sr., Forward/Midfield)
Key Losses: Mike Avnet (Defense), Lucas Moreira (Defense), James Besser (Midfield), Mike Schimbeno (Midfield), Gavin Rodrigues (Midfield), Dan Kamen (Goalkeeper), Andrew DeLanzo (Defense), Brandon Junquet (Defense), Jason Junquet (Forward), Brandon Garcia (Defense), Jon Moreira (Midfield)
Top Newcomers: Drew Gross (Sr., Defense/Midfield), Ryan Super (Jr., Defense/Midfield), Jake Popper (So., Goalkeeper)

Goal-scoring was a come-and-go proposition for Manalapan last year and the Braves relied heavily on now-graduated midfielder Mike Schimbeno. Lucas Moreira, James Besser and Mike Avnet were all sources of scoring as seniors as well, so this year’s Manalapan side will have to rally to find scoring on what shapes up to be a young roster.

The Braves should be capable enough defensively, with junior James Bruno, sophomore Jacob Hyams, and seniors Nick Belo and Aidan Tumbelson all returning with some experience in the back. Tumbelson and Belo could be needed in the midfield, with senior Vincent Tuccillo, junior Jonah Ortega and sophomore Anthony Sarkisov all looking to step up production there as well. Seniors Dylan Fread and Ryan Petosa will look to be contributors in the scoring department as well as Manalapan tries to get back to the top half of the unforgiving A North division.

Howell

Head Coach: Rich Yuro, 31st season
2019 Record: 4-11 (0-7, eighth in Class A North)
Returning: Andrew Paige (Sr., Goalkeeper), Justin Corbett (Jr., Defense), Tyler Gabrielson (Jr., Midfield), Chris Osario (Jr., Forward), Marc Tango (Jr., Defense), Robert Locqua (Jr., Defense), Kris Maza (Jr., Midfield), Nick Spisak (So., Forward)
Key Losses: Mike Anello (Forward), Nick Cavallero (Midfield), Jared Rubman (Forward), Kyle Clark (Midfield), Pat Coughlin (Forward), Joe Brenner (Defense), Lucas Newsholme (Midfield), Sean Hanily (Midfield), Kyle Lindemann (Defense), Andrew Jiries (Sr., Midfield)

Despite returning a top scorer from a top-10 squad in 2018, Howell struggled in Class A North in 2019, going winless in divisional play. Not only is leading scorer Mike Anello gone via graduation, but Nick Cavallero, Jared Rubman and Kyle Clark were all reliable offensive players over the past two seasons will are no longer in place for the Rebels.

Howell’s strength will be in its junior class, which accounts for most of the returning talent. Justin Corbett, Marc Tango and Robert Locqua will man the back line in front of senior goalkeeper and returning starter Andrew Paige. Chris Osario will play up top with sophomore Nick Spisak and the Rebels will lean on Tyler Gabrielson and Kris Maza in the midfield. Howell has had its ups-and-downs over the past decade but the Rebels have found their way out of some difficult times before.

 

A North Starting XI (With 2019 Stats)

Zach Orrico, Sr., Forward, Freehold Twp. (17 G, 10 A)

Aidan Cardella, Sr., Forward, Middletown North (10 G, 3 A)

Dan Risin, Sr., Forward, Marlboro (2 G, 7 A)

Matt Glynn, Sr., Midfield/Forward, Middletown South (14 G, 5 A)

Shane Borenius, Sr., Midfield, CBA (8 G, 4 A)

Jason Laviola, Sr., Midfield, Long Branch (2 G, 6 A)

Adam Havens, Sr., Midfield, Freehold Twp. (3 G, 8 A)

Jack Longo, Sr., Defense, CBA

Brian Completo, Sr., Defense, Long Branch (1 G, 2 A)

Josh Leonetti, Sr., Defense, Freehold Twp. (5 A)

John Wilhelm, Sr., Freehold Twp. (7 shutouts)

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Joe Lardaro, Sr., Midfield, Freehold Twp.

Ryan Mojares, Sr., Defense, CBA

Augusto Bontempo, Sr., Midfield, Long Branch

Alex Bogues, Sr., Goalkeeper, Middletown North

Max Rosen, Jr., Midfield, Marlboro