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LITTLE SILVER -- Whether it's a little bit of good fortune or a refusal to give up on the prospect of advancing in a tournament, something about facing the "go-home" half of the "win-or-go-home" proposition lights a fire under the Brick Memorial boys soccer team.

Facing first-round elimination from the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III Playoffs with seven minutes remaining in their game at seventh-seeded Red Bank Monday, the No. 10 Mustangs got the break they needed and, as if they knew that was their cue to act, immediately took advantage.

Senior Jason Desiderio scored the equalizer immediately after a crucial Red Bank red card and Anden Johnson scored the game-winning goal with 16 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock to help Brick Memorial pull out an improbable comeback against the Bucs, 2-1.

"Every team in states has a chance," Desiderio said. "Everybody is fighting for everything. It's the last game of the season, potentially, and we said in the locker room, we're going to fight."

With Red Bank leading, 1-0, and in the midst of a dominant second half, Bucs sophomore Carlos Guerra was issued a straight red card for a high kick on goalkeeper Rich Kijack that was deemed malicious by the official. Both Guerra and Kijack arrived at the loose ball at the same time and Guerra's follow-through caught Kijack's upper body.

"It was just a mistake they made," Johnson said. "They did outplay us for most of the second half, but we managed the game better, I guess, in the end. That's what matters."

Within a minute of the red card, Brick Memorial pounced. Johnson played the ball across the face of the goal, junior Connor Hackett knocked it back across and Desiderio knocked it into the right corner of the goal for the equalizer in the 73rd.

"Once we put that one goal in, the adrenaline was running," Desiderio said. "We were non-stop, we said, 'We're going to win this,' and that's what we did."

In the final 30 seconds, junior Billy Caruso drew a foul 30 yards away from the goal and Red Bank was issued a yellow card for kicking the ball away and delaying the game. With a chance to set up a set piece, senior Ryan Smith drove the ball to the far right side of the box and after it bounced around, Johnson slammed it in for the game-winner.

"We were waiting for a foul on the outside and we got what we needed," Johnson said. "Billy Caruso did a get job making that run and drawing the foul. I was feeling a goal there. It came across, right to my head, I got a deflection and just buried it."

Prior to the red card, Red Bank had outshot Brick Memorial, 8-0, in the half. The Bucs finally grabbed the lead in the 69th minute, when junior Joe Koeztner cross the ball to the middle of the 18-yard box for a finish by senior Matt Lynch.

The two Brick Memorial goals marked two of the three shots for the Mustangs during the entire second half and the other shot was an initial attempt by Hackett that was saved by Bucs goalkeeper Braeden Carroll right before Hackett found Desiderio for the tying score.

Red Bank's dominant 33 minutes of second-half time followed a dead-even first half that saw each team take three shots on goal and five shots total.

Brick Memorial's late rally was reminiscent of the other tournament game in which the Mustangs participated this season. In the first round of the Shore Conference Tournament, Brick Memorial sent its match at Monmouth Regional into overtime with a goal by junior Brandon Forest with 13 seconds left in regulation. That goal was also set up by Smith, who served a corner kick that found Forest's head.

"It's weird, I feel like we play better when we're down a goal," Desiderio said. "I don't know what it is, but when we're down, it makes us work with more urgency. It's like we want to win and we know it's time to push. It's like the switch flips."

"We bring the fire," Johnson said. "We give 100 percent effort. That's how we do it. That's how we're raised. We're out there in the summer every single day, working our butts off and games like this is where it pays off."

Brick Memorial went on to lose a round of penalty kicks to Monmouth, but on Monday, with a chance to play with one more player on the field than their opponent, the Mustangs did not let the game make it to a shootout -- or overtime for that matter.

"Once we got that free kick, we trust Smith to give us an opportunity," Desiderio said. "It's just a matter of one of us getting it in the box and putting it in."

The state tournament will continue for Brick Memorial Thursday, then the Mustangs travel to play No. 2 Ocean.

"We're rolling now," Desiderio said. "We're going to shock the Shore. We're going to put up a fight and see what we can do."



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