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The 2020 season was an incomplete one for most teams in New Jersey and especially for most of the Class B Central division. For the top teams in the division, getting a chance to test the roster outside the division is always a key part of a season and that part of the schedule was much different for most of the division. St. Rose took on some hefty challenges during the season but did not get to play the middle-class of the Shore Conference. Asbury Park and Point Pleasant Beach both ended up playing Group II schools in the NJSIAA Playoffs. Ranney, meanwhile, played just two games outside of Class B Central divisional games and one was against division rival St. Rose.

A more normal season should give the top teams in the Class B Central division a chance to test their mettle, which applies particularly to St. Rose and Ranney – two teams with unbeaten division records in 2020 that return a lot of scoring and overall talent. The public schools in the field have some rebuilding to do, but those top two contenders are optimistic that amid and after battling each other for the division title, there will be some other games to win against the rest of the Shore Conference, as well as in the NJSIAA Non-Public B Tournament.

In predicted order of finish

St. Rose

Head Coach: Simon Muckle, second season
2020 Record: 11-3 (8-0, first in Class B Central)
Returners: Matt Gowen (Sr., Defense), Luke Hamill (Sr., Midfield), Kyle Corrigan (Sr., Midfield), Colin Westhoven (Sr., Forward/Midfield), Jeffrey Vitale (Sr., Midfield/Defense), Nate Dempsey (Sr., Defense), Chris Reichert (Sr., Defense), James Vitale (Jr., Forward), Packy O’Hearn (Jr., Midfield), Brady Mason (Jr., Defense)
Losses: Matt Kirkpatrick (Forward/Midfield), Morgan Fahy (Midfield)
Newcomers: Diego Nieves (So., Midfield) – transfer from CBA; Matt Cheney (Jr., Midfield) – transfer from Barnegat

Under first-year head coach Simon Muckle, St. Rose climbed back to the top of the Class B Central standings, even if unofficially. The big two-game division showdown against Ranney was cancelled after Ranney shut its campus down due to a case of COVID-19, but the two did meet in the NJSIAA postseason, with St. Rose rolling to a 3-0 win. Now, the Purple Roses bring back most of their starting lineup and will head into the season as the tentative favorite to capture a division title that would be official this time around.

St. Rose will be strong in the midfield with seniors Luke Hammil and Kyle Corrigan back after impressive individual seasons in 2020. Fellow seniors Colin Westhoven and Jeff Vitale also emerged as productive starters who can score, with Westhoven more attack-minded and Vitale working more in the middle of the field. The Roses also bring back 2020 Class B Central Player of the Year Matt Gowen as their top defender – part of an experienced defense coming back for 2021.

Goal-scoring should not be a problem for the Purple Roses in the divisional games, but they are looker at the bigger picture in 2021. In order to compete with the top teams on the schedule, St. Rose will need that experienced defense to step up and to find some scoring punch up top – a job junior James Vitale could seize after putting up eight goals as a sophomore last year. The 11-win season in 2020 and trip to the Central Non-Public final against CBA was a positive step for St. Rose and this year’s team will look to take it further by competing with more teams outside the division and becoming a Shore Conference Tournament threat.

Ranney senior Tommy Boyan. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Ranney

Head Coach: Donny Gray, fifth season
2020 Record: 8-1 (7-0, second in Class B Central)
Returners: Tommy Boyan (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Charlie McCannn (Sr., Midfield), Charles Anyichie (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Jett Pacifico (Sr., Midfield), Joey Arege (Sr., Defense/Midfield)
Losses: Trent Redman (Defense)
Newcomers:

Last year’s 3-0 loss to St. Rose was a tough way for Ranney’s season to end, especially since the Panthers entered the postseason having been shut down for two weeks due to the school closing its campus for said amount of time. That shutdown might also have exaggerated the difference between St. Rose and Ranney, with the Panthers being out of training for two weeks before having to play their biggest match of the season. Regardless of whether that was a factor or not and to what degree, Ranney will begin 2021 as the challenger to St. Rose and with the roster to successfully take the Purple Roses down if all goes according to plan.

Ranney returns its top three scorers from 2020, led by 6-foot-6 senior Charles Anyichie. A physical defensive player and shot-blocker on Ranney’s high-profile boys basketball team, Anyichie is a force as an attacking midfielder who can go up top and overwhelm defenses. Throw in creative midfielders Tommy Boyan and Charlie McCann as well as skilled seniors Jett Pacifico and Joey Arege, and Ranney has the firepower to challenge for the B Central title and put a scare into a lot of teams from outside the division.

Point Pleasant Beach

Head Coach: Mike Baiata, 10th season
2020 Record: 8-6-1 (7-3, third in Class B Central)
Returners: Luke Zylinski (Sr., Defense), Tanner Curits (Sr., Midfield), Hunter Roselli (Sr., Defense), Cliff Smith (Sr., Defense), Jacob Bardsley (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Josh Boyan (Jr., Forward), Collin Hutton (Jr., Midfield), Owen Curtis (Jr., Goalkeeper), Michael Malpass (Jr.), Thomas Schulter (So., Defense)
Losses: Owen Marcoux (Forward), Dylan Aportela (Goalkeeper), Tom DeCristofano (Midfield), Justin Mazzatta (Midfield), Isaac Enu (Forward)
Newcomers: Logan Devirgilles (Sr., Midfield/Forward), Nate Previte (Jr., Defense), Ryan Pasola (So., Midfield/Defense), Ronan Lynch (So., Midfield), Luke DeBenedett (So., Midfield/Forward), James Borowski (So., Midfield), Cody Monticello (Fr.), Logan Batyr (Fr.), Richard Pokorny (Fr.), Landon Whelan (Jr.), Chris Madden (So.), Aedan Finn (So.), Pat Madden (Fr.), Emmanuel Brea (Fr.), Bennett Mayer (Fr.), Scott Crowley (Fr.)

Point Beach does not have quite the number of returning impact players as do the top two teams in the division, but the Garnet Gulls have enough to build around as they ramp up for the NJSIAA Group I Tournament. With only seven games within the division as well, Point Beach should also not concede a share of the overall Class B Central title, which it could have a chance to win by knocking off just one of St. Rose or Ranney. When the division can come down to one or two games, Point Beach should be considered a factor in the race for the top spot.

Losing Owen Marcoux and goalkeeper Dylan Portela represents some adversity heading into the year but all-division defender Luke Zylinski is back in the fold to captain a back line that also includes seniors Hunter Roselli and Cliff Smith. Junior Owen Curtis, meanwhile, was a productive scoring midfielder but will move to goalkeeper with his team needing help between the pipes. Junior striker Josh Boyan will be a dangerous threat up top after scoring 10 goals as a sophomore and seniors Tanner Curtis and Jacob Bardsley will key the midfield.

Asbury Park

Head Coach: Brian Wildeman, first season
2020 Record: 8-5 (7-4, fourth in Class B Central)
Returners: Luckenson Altidore (So., Midfield), Jamesley Cagilus (So., Defense), Brian Carrasco-Mejia (Jr., Midfield), Benji Covin (Sr., Goalkeeper), Jayden Ellis (Jr., Goalkeeper), Milton Jordan (Jr., Defense), John Wesley Lavarin (Jr., Midfield), Gustabo Lazo-Garcia (So., Midfield), Eric Lopez (So., Midfield), Erwin Lopez (Sr., Defense), Elijah Simmons (Jr., Midfield), Lucknerson Pierre (Jr., Midfield), Jalens Philipe (So., Defense)
Losses: Woodley Cagilus (Midfield/Defense), Chefeston Simeus (Forward), Jean Roody Solomon (Forward), Jaquan Lunsford (Forward), Asion Murchison (Defense), Edgar Zuniga-Olivera (Goalkeeper), Eduardo Vargas (Goalkeeper), Yael Garcia (Defense), Davenson JoinVilmar (Sr., Midfield) – transferred to Long Branch
Newcomers: Tony Arostico-Santiago (Jr., Midfield), Ricardo Mozzo (Sr., Midfield), Freddy Leon (Jr., Midfield), Zuriel Perez (So., Defense)

Asbury Park got back on the winning track in 2020 and despite finishing with four more divisional losses than both St. Rose and Ranney, the Blue Bishops were competitive throughout the Class B North schedule. Unfortunately for Asbury Park, the top four scorers from last year’s team are all gone, with Jaquan Lunsford, Chefeston Simeus and Jean Roody Salomon all graduating and Davenson JoinVilmar transferring to Long Branch.

This year’s team will be young and inexperienced, but recent years have shown that there is talent in the pipeline and an ability to reload. Sophomores Luckenson Altidore and Jamesly Cagilus are part of the future of the program while also serving as important players in 2021 who got experience in 2020. Juniors Elijah Simmons and Lucknerson Pierre are among the key returnees stepping into bigger roles and newcomers Tony Arostico-Santiago, Ricardo Mozzo and Zuriel Perez will all jump into the starting lineup. A lack of experience may get in the way this year, but the Blue Bishops have a chance to lay the foundation for a return to glory in the years to come.

Henry Hudson

Head Coach: Murphy O’Donnell, first season
2020 Record: 3-9 (3-8, fifth in Class B Central)
Potential Returners from 2020: Elvis Gonzalez (Sr., Midfield), Dylan Gonzalez (So., Defense), Evan Buzzanco (Jr., Forward), Nick Buzzanco (Sr., Midfield), Jesse Jacobs (Jr., Midfield), Emiliano Cervantes (Jr., Defense), Alex Eugenio (Sr., Defense/Midifeld)
Losses: Deontae Florek (Midfield), James Crowley (Midfield)
Newcomers: Leo Koernig (Fr., Goalkeeper), Phinn Kozic (Fr., Goalkeeper)

With a young, inexperienced team in 2020, Henry Hudson managed to snag three victories during the course of the season, including one of Mater Dei Prep that should be an encouraging one for their prospects of climbing the standings in 2021. The Admirals lost an all-division scorer in Deonte Florek, but bring back most of the rest of the 2020 production, led by senior center midfielder Elvis Gonzalez. Nick and Evan Buzzanco will also key the attack, with Jesse Jacobs also part of the midfield along with Nick Buzzanco.

Henry Hudson returns some experience in the back, led by sophomore center back Dylan Gonzalez. Senior Alex Eugenio will also be a key figure in the defensive effort, while junior Emiliano Cervantes also returns to the back line. The performance of the back four will be crucial for Henry Hudson, which will lean on a pair of freshman goalkeepers. Leo Koernig and Phinn Kozic will take their competition for the regular spot into the season and if either or both emerge as promising keepers, Henry Hudson has a chance to build on the silver linings of the 2020 season.

Mater Dei Prep

Head Coach: Will Carl, third season
2020 Record: 2-10 (2-8, sixth in Class B Central)
Returners: Zach O’Neal (Sr., Forward), Jason Gruber (Sr., Midfield), David Corbisiero (Sr., Midfield), E.J. Ventura (Sr., Forward), Jeremiah Newman (Jr.), Brandon Gallipoli (Jr.), Andrew Ventura (So.), Dylan Coleman (So.), Isaiah Taylor (So.)
Losses: Liam Stewart (Midfield), Marcone Pessoa (Defense), Jeremy Ramos (Midfield), Christian Szotak (Midfield), C.J. Braun (Goalkeeper), Johnny Contini (Sr., Midfield) – transferred to Matawan; Scott Gomes (Sr., Defense) – transferred to Raritan
Newcomers: Dutch Cadet (Sr.), Anthony Crockett (So.), Johannes Sasse (Sr.)

Although Mater Dei’s record in 2020 might not suggest it, the Seraphs were a fairly competitive team in Class B Central. Of the eight losses in the division, two were one-goal losses to Ranney and Point Beach and another was a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Asbury Park. The Seraphs also only got to play last-place Keyport and first-place St. Rose once, so it’s possible there might have been another win and maybe even another close game against a strong team in there had it not been for the turbulent season throughout the Shore.

It was a tough offseason for Mater Dei, which graduated several key pieces from the last several years and said goodbye to a pair of transfers in 2021 leading scorer Johnny Contini (Matawan) and defender Scott Gomes (Raritan). Among the returnees, senior forward Zach O’Neal was the top scorer and will look to carry the freight this season, while Jason Gruber, David Corbisiero and E.J. Ventura look to step their games up and elevate Mater Dei up the ranks in the B Central field.

Keyport

Head Coach: Brendan Hilliard, eighth season
2020 Record: 0-11 (0-11, seventh in Class B Central)
Returners: Alex Bernardino (Sr., Goalkeeper/Midfield), Tim Connallon (Sr., Defense), Josh Dwonsyk (Sr., Forward), Giovanni Smith (Sr., Defense), Tyler Czekajlo (Sr., Forward), Christian Oldhafer (Jr., Midfield/Goalkeeper), Luke Budd (So., Midfield), Edwin Prudente (So., Midfield/Forward), Oliver Klein (So., Forward), Alejandro Malte-Valencia (So., Midfield/Defense)
Losses: Kevin Hernandez (Forward), Joe Lanzaro (Forward), Nabil El Maalem (Defense), Mustafa Kilic (Forward), George Mitchell (Defense/Midfield/Forward)
Newcomers: Joshua Wenzel (Sr., Forward/Midfield), Matt Metrick (Sr., Forward/Goalkeeper), Nico Natale (So., Forward/Midfield), Brayan Rodriguez (Fr., Forward/Midfield), Matthew Lewandowski (Fr., Defense/Midfield), Elvis Marroquin-Bernardino (Fr., Midfield/Forward/Defense), Moises Vasquez (Fr., Midfield/Defense)

Coming off last year’s winless season, Keyport will have to retool at some spots while trying to get more competitive against the rest of Class B Central. Kevin Hernandez was a noteworthy loss to graduation and the roster took another hit when three-year standout George Mitchell decided to become the starting quarterback for the football team instead of reprising his role as the leading scorer on the soccer team. While it speaks to Mitchell’s unique ability as an athlete, it does not help the Red Raider on the soccer field.

All that means Keyport needs some younger players to emerge, something that Josh Dwonsyk did a year ago as an all-division selection during his junior campaign. Seniors Tim Connallon and Giovanni Smith will lead the defense in front of returning goalkeeper Alex Bernardino, while sophomores Luke Budd, Edwin Prudente and Oliver Klein hope to emerge as top scorers. The freshman class will also play a significant part in the 2021 Keyport season, which will aim to set the Red Raiders up for success down the road.

 

Class B Central Starting XI (With 2020 Stats)

Josh Boyan, Jr., Forward, Point Beach (10 goals, 3 assists)

Charles Anyichie, Sr., Midfield/Forward, Ranney (14 goals, 6 assists)

Tommy Boyan, Sr., Midfield/Forward, Ranney (10 goals, 10 assists)

Luke Hamill, Sr., Midfield, St. Rose (4 goals, 10 assists)

Kyle Corrigan, Sr., Midfield, St. Rose (9 goals, 8 assists)

Charlie McCann, Sr., Midfield, Ranney (7 goals, 2 assists)

Elvis Gonzalez, Sr., Midfield, Henry Hudson (5 goals)

Jett Pacifico, Sr., Midfield/Defense, Ranney (2 goals)

Matt Gowen, Sr., Defense, St. Rose

Luke Zylinski, Sr., Defense, Point Beach (2 goals, 2 assists)

Owen Curtis, Jr., Goalkeeper, Point Beach (5 goals, 1 assist)

 

Breakout Players to Watch

Colin Westhoven, Sr., Midfield/Forward, St. Rose (7 goals)

Zach O’Neal, Sr., Forward, Mater Dei Prep (3 goals, 3 assists)

Tanner Curtis, Sr., Midfield, Point Beach (4 goals, 1 assist)

Luckenson Altidore, So., Midfield, Asbury Park

Dylan Gonzalez, So., Defense, Henry Hudson (2 goals)