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It might not have jumped out to those without ties to a team in the division, but Class B Central had a sneakily-good season in 2021. The records of the teams were not especially good – division champion St. Rose finished a modest 9-8-1 – but the division had a team win a Shore Conference Tournament game (St. Rose), another reach an NJSIAA sectional final (Ranney) and a fourth-place team that qualified for the Shore Conference Tournament (Henry Hudson).

The two B Central teams with the most postseason success – St. Rose and Ranney – graduated a significant amount of scoring from last year and those losses could open the door for a different team to move up to a top-three spot in the standings, perhaps even into the top spot.

In predicted order of finish1

1. St. Rose

Priority No. 1 for St. Rose last season was to run the table in Class B Central and the Purple Roses did exactly that in taking back the division championship for the first time, officially, since 2010. Success was harder to come by for St. Rose outside divisional play as evidenced by a 3-8-1 mark in those games, but a closer look shows reason for optimism. In addition to knocking off Toms River East in the Shore Conference Tournament and earning a 1-1 draw with Class B North co-champion Neptune, five of St. Rose’s eight losses were by a one-goal margin and the three more lopsided losses came at the hands of three strong Monmouth County programs: CBA, Long Branch and Colts Neck.

All that gives the Purple Roses a set of conditions upon which to build, but taking the next steps will require replacing a very good senior group from 2021. Matt Gowen as a rock in the back and Luke Hamill and Kyle Corrigan were the top scorers on the team, so St. Rose will have to shore up a spot on the defense and figure out where the goals will come from. A good place to start is with junior Diego Nieves, who transferred from CBA last season and scored eight goals in his first year at St. Rose. The Roses also bring back some production among three returning defenders, with fullbacks Packey O’Hearn, James Vitale and Matt Alexis combing for nine goals.

Matt Cheney and Andrew Restiano will be called upon to help run the midfield and create scoring opportunities, with seniors Nico Demaio and Brian Fromhold also sliding into the starting midfield. The new defender in the back will also be a senior in Michael Conlin, so St. Rose is relying on older, program players to step up. One of the juniors in the lineup is goalkeeper Jack Harmon, who turned in an all-division debut as a sophomore and completes an overall solid combination in the back that should make the Purple Roses a tough group to score on and a tough team to play, even as they venture outside of B Central.

Head Coach: Simon Muckle, third season
2021 Record: 9-8-1 (6-0, first in Class B Central)
Key Losses: Matt Gowen (Defense), Luke Hamill (Midfield), Kyle Corrigan (Midfield), Colin Westhoven (Forward/Midfield), Jeffrey Vitale (Midfield/Defense)

Projected Starter (Returning Starters in Bold)

Diego Nieves, Jr., Midfield/Forward (8 goals, 3 assists)

Matt Cheney, Sr., Midfield

Andrew Restiano, Jr., Midfield

Nico Demaio, Sr., Midfield

Brian Fromhold, Sr., Midfield

Packey O’Hearn, Sr., Defense (4 goals, 2 assists)

James Vitale, Sr., Defense (2 goals, 1 assist)

Matt Alexis, Jr., Defense (3 goals, 2 assists)

Michael Conlin, Sr., Defense

Jack Harmon, Jr., Goalkeeper (5 shutouts)


2. Point Pleasant Beach

Pulling out a second-place finish in Class B Central was a good result for Point Beach last year because it entailed beating a Ranney squad that boasted some impressive talent and eventually went on to reach the sectional final round in South Jersey Non-Public B. As is usually the case for Point Beach, the Garnet Gulls were able to work in a lot of players during the Class B Central schedule and return with plenty of game experience on hand, despite graduating a handful of impact players.

To win the division and enjoy more success outside of B Central, however, it will take some quick development from some of the new regulars for Point Beach. One of major holdover from last year is senior Josh Boyan, who has led the Garnet Gulls in scoring each of the past two seasons. Senior Colin Hutton joins him in the midfield along with juniors Ronan Lynch and Ryan Pasola an the seasoned group of midfielders will be working with a pair of underclass starting forwards in freshman Dylan Ryan and sophomore Cody Monticello.

The defense will get a shakeup this season, with sophomore Bennett Mayer joining three juniors in Jim Borowski, Thomas Schulter and Chris Madden. Senior Owen Curtis will be behind them in goal for his second season as the starter in net, giving the Garnet Gulls some certainty at an important spot on the field. With Curtis in goal and Boyan and Hutton running the middle of the field, Point Beach has a chance to improve on last year’s performance, but the development of the junior class will be the key in making that progress.

Head Coach: John Palumbo, first season
2021 Record: 7-11-1 (5-1, second in Class B Central)
Key Losses: Luke Zylinski (Defense), Tanner Curits (Midfield), Hunter Roselli (Defense), Cliff Smith (Defense), Jacob Bardsley (Midfield/Forward)

Projected Starters (Returning Starters in Bold)

Cody Monticello, So., Forward

Dylan Ryan, Fr., Forward

Josh Boyan, Sr., Midfield (13 goals, 5 assists)

Collin Hutton, Sr., Midfield (3 goals, 3 assists)

Ronan Lynch, Jr., Midfield

Ryan Pasola, Jr., Midfield

Jim Borowski, Jr., Defense

Thomas Schulter, Jr., Defense

Bennett Mayer, So., Defense

Chris Madden, Jr., Defense

Owen Curtis, Sr., Goalkeeper (4 shutouts)


Other Key Players

Logan Batyr, So., Forward

Luke Debenedett, Jr., Midfield

Mike Malpass, Sr., Defense

Richard Pokorny, So., Forward

Nate Previte, Sr., Defense

Aeden Finn, Jr., Defense


3. Henry Hudson

Henry Hudson’s recent soccer history is such that a .500 record and a trip to the Shore Conference Tournament is the bar for the Admirals, one they just about cleared in 2021, when they made it to the SCT and finished one game off a .500 winning percentage. Finishing in the top-half of the division standings is uncharted waters for the program over the last three decades or so, and this could be the year Henry Hudson breaks into the top-three of Class B Central.

Replacing all-division midfielder and leading scorer Elvis Gonzalez is the biggest obstacle heading into the season, but the lineup returns eight of its other starters from last season. Evan Buzzanco is the top returning scorer of the group and junior Dylan Gonzalez – Elvis’s younger brother – will take over as attacking center midfielder with the hopes of replacing some of his brother’s scoring. Between Buzzanco, Gonzalez and senior Jesse Jacobs, Henry Hudson returns 17 goals and will add sophomore Leon Koenig – a goalkeeper last season – to the front of the formation to help boost the goal-scoring operation.

Second-year coach has enough confidence in his defense and sophomore keeper Phinn Kozic to push Koernig and Gonzalez up in the formation, with sophomores Ubaldo Garcia, Emiliano Cervantes and Brendan Sapio joining senior Hayden Kurdes on the back line. St. Rose and Point Beach enter the season at least a step ahead of Henry Hudson, but the Admirals have a chance to be a better all-around team than they were a year ago and with some graduation hits at other B Central programs, the door is cracked open a few more inches.

Head Coach: Murphy O’Donnell, second season
2021 Record: 8-9 (3-3, fourth in Class B Central)
Key Losses: Elvis Gonzalez (Midfield), Nick Buzzanco (Midfield), Alex Eugenio (Defense/Midfield)

Projected Starters (Returning Starterrs in Bold)

Evan Buzzanco, Sr., Forward (7 goals, 3 assists)

Leo Koernig, So., Forward

Dylan Gonzalez, Jr., Midfield (4 goals)

Jesse Jacobs, Sr., Midfield/Forward (6 goals)

Jack Crowther, Sr., Midfield

Nathan Boms, Fr., Midfield/Forward

Ubaldo Garcia, So., Defense

Emiliano, Cervantes, So., Defense

Hayden Kurdes, Jr., Defense (5 goals, 4 assists)

Brendan Sapio, So., Defense

Phinn Kozic, So., Goalkeeper


4. Ranney

Last season was a banner year for Ranney boys soccer, with the Panthers reaching the championship game of the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public B section thanks to a huge, sectional semifinal win over rival St. Rose. The postseason success and 11-win season came two years after Ranney won its first outright division title, with that three-year run of success coming on the backs of an especially talented group from the Class of 2022.

Now that those program-changing players have graduated, Ranney will go back to the rebuild mode that typified the seasons before 2019. The goal is to eventually get back to the sectional finals and the first step will be to sort through what remains after graduating eight senior starters from 2021. The defense will have some experience with Gabe Ganette, Kevin Mortenson, Christian Virone and Trey Junkin, plus returning junior starting goalkeeper Joe Celler.

Goal-scoring will be a question for the Panthers, with only senior Jake Sobel returning with multiple goals in 2021. In Class B Central, there is always the opportunity for a quick rebuild and Ranney could very well get back to the top two spots in the division, but the new standard for the Panthers is to thrive outside B Central and that is likely to take another year or two to achieve.

Head Coach: Donny Gray, sixth season
2021 Record: 11-5-1 (4-2, third in Class B Central)
Key Losses: Tommy Boyan (Defense/Forward), Charlie McCann (Midfield/Defense), Charles Anyichie (Midfield/Forward), Jett Pacifico (Midfield/Forward), Joey Arege (Defense/Midfield), Dev Nayer (Midfield/Forward)

Projected Starters (Returning Starters in Bold)

Jake Sobel, Sr., Midfield (3 goals)

Gabe Ganette, Sr., Defense

Kevin Mortenson, Jr., Defense

Trey Junkin, Jr., Defense

Christian Virone, Sr., Defense

Joe Celler, Jr., Goalkeeper (5 shutouts)


5. Asbury Park

Asbury Park is hoping to get back to where it was five years ago, when the Blue Bishops polished off the second of two straight Class B Central titles and went to a second straight Central Jersey Group I finals, including a championship win in 2016. The seasons have gone up and down since that 2017 run, with last season’s 1-14 campaign representing the program’s roughest year in some time. As the Blue Bishops try to bounce back, they will have to replace their most productive player after Luckerson Pierre transferred to Neptune.

The Blue Bishops will rely on senior striker John Wesley Lavarin to pick up the scoring slack, with sophomore Joel Guzman Soto and juniors Gustabo Lazo Garcia and Eric Lopez working the middle of the field. The defensive midfield and back line returns some experience, led by senior Brian Carasco and fullbacks Zuriel Perez and Jamesley Cagilus. In addition to Guzman Soto, Hermsley Louisius and goalkeeper Franklin Gavanal Sandoval will be two key sophomores who will have to help shore up the lineup as Asbury Park looks to get back to the top of the public-school heap in Class B Central.

Head Coach: Brian Wildeman, second season
2021 Record: 1-14 (1-5, sixth in Class B Central)
Key Losses: Benji Covin (Goalkeeper), Luckerson Pierre (Sr., Midfield), Luckenson Altidore (Jr., Midfield)

Projected Starters (Returning Starters in Bold)

John Wesley Lavarin, Sr., Forward

Joel Guzman Soto, So., Forward

Eric Lopez, Jr., Midfield

Gustabo Lazo Garcia, Jr., Midfield

Brian Carasco, Sr., Defense/Midfield

Hermsley Louisius, So., Defense/Midfield

Zuriel Perez, So., Defense

Jamesley Cagilus, Jr., Defense

Jalens Philpe, Jr., Defense

Franklin Gavanal Sandoval, So., Goalkeeper


6. Keyport

Keyport did enough to steer clear of the B Central basement last year by beating both Mater Dei and Asbury Park in the first meetings with those teams. Now, the Red Raiders return seven starters from that squad and will try to continue to climb toward the top-half of the table as Ranney comes back to the back and Asbury Park and Henry Hudson remain at similar stages of their development.

Brayan Rodriguez is back after putting up the second-highest scoring total on last year’s team behind graduate Josh Wenzel, while Edwin Prudente is coming off a strong sophomore campaign playing in the midfield. Keyport will look to junior Luke Budd to lead a defense that includes sophomores Moises Vasquez and Elvis Marroquin, as well a sophomore in goal in Matt Lewandowski. Five freshman are set to play integral roles, while Christian Oldhafer is the lone senior in the group. The door is open to break into the top three in the division and while Keyport is among the teams that could finish at the bottom, there is not a huge leap to get to No. 3.

Head Coach: Brendan Hilliard, ninth season
2021 Record: 3-10 (2-4, fifth in Class B Central)
Key Losses: Joshua Wenzel (Forward/Midfield), Alex Bernardino (Goalkeeper/Midfield), Tim Connallon (Defense), Josh Dwonsyk (Forward), Giovanni Smith (Defense), Nico Natale (Jr., Midfield)

Projected Starters (Returning Starters in Bold)

Christian Oldhafer, Sr., Forward

Brayan Rodriguez, So., Forward (4 goals, 7 assists)

Edwin Prudente, Jr., Midfield (3 goals, 3 assists)

Ryan Troisi, Fr., Midfield

Jacob Pinto, Fr., Midfield

John Covert, Fr., Midfield; Cristhian Morris, Fr., Midfield

Luke Budd, Jr., Defense

Moises Vasquez, So., Defense

Elvis Marroquin, So., Defense

Diego Rocha, Fr., Defense

Matthew Lewandowski, So., Goalkeeper


Class B Central Starting XI

Evan Buzzanco, Sr., Forward, Henry Hudson

Brayan Rodriguez, So., Forward, Keyport

Diego Nieves, Jr., Midfield/Forward, St. Rose

Jesse Jacobs, Sr., Midfield/Forward, Henry Hudson

Josh Boyan, Sr., Midfield, Point Beach

Collin Hutton, Sr., Midfield, Point Beach

Packey O’Hearn, Sr., Defense, St. Rose

James Vitale, Sr., Defense, St. Rose

Matt Alexis, Sr., Defense, St. Rose

Hayden Kurdes, Jr., Defense, Henry Hudson

Jack Harmon, Jr., Goalkeeper, St. Rose


Breakout Players to Watch

John Wesley Lavarin, Sr., Forward, Asbury Park

Jake Sobel, Sr., Midfield, Ranney

Dylan Gonzalez, Jr., Midfield/Forward, Henry Hudson

Cody Monticello, So., Forward, Point Beach

Matt Cheney, Sr., Midfield, St. Rose


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