COLTS NECK - With 18 seniors from a year ago lost to graduation, Colts Neck defied the odds by contending for a Shore Conference Class B North division championship and starting the season as one of the Shore's hottest teams.

After a brief rough patch, the Cougars showed Saturday against Long Branch that they are not done yet.

Sophomore Tom Samaras poked in the golden goal off a rebound in the second minute of overtime and Colts Neck - the No. 8 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament - outlasted No. 9 Long Branch, 1-0, to advance to the SCT quarterfinals.

"It was definitely a back-and-forth game - they had their chances and we had our's," junior defender Steve Ciccarone said. "We just trusted what we were doing and kept working hard."

Colts Neck will host No. 16 Toms River South in the quarterfinals after the Indians upset No. 1 Holmdel on penalty kicks.

Early in the overtime session, off a long throw-in by Ciccarone, senior Ely Ferro struck a shot on frame that Long Branch goalkeeper Tyler Abbot saved but could not hold. The ball hit the ground and Samaras pounced, sticking out his right foot and knocking the ball in from point-blank range.

Each team had chances to score the winning goal during the second half, with Abbot saving five shots prior to overtime and Colts Neck senior Dylan Jacobs stopping three.

Abbot made a quick-reaction save in the 47th minute to deny Colts Neck junior Derek Haaf, while Long Branch's best opportunities were clean looks that sailed just wide of the posts and the crossbar. Junior Jason Laviola had three of those - a low shot wide of the right post, a header that sailed wide of the left post and a low rip that Jacobs saved.

Senior Herbert Ruiz also headed a corner kick just inches wide of the left post late in the second half.

In all eight of its wins this season, Colts Neck and goalkeeper Dylan Jacobs has recorded a shutout. Ciccarone and the defense got the job done Saturday by silencing Long Branch's leading scorer Patrick O'Dwyer.

"We watched him play saw we had a good idea about what we had to do," Ciccaron said. "He is strong so we just had to stay with him and make him earn everything."

Last year, Colts Neck made it to the Central Jersey Group III final for the first time in nearly two decades and will try to end a similar drought by reaching the SCT semifinals with a surprising home game this week against Toms River South.

"We love being the underdogs," said Ciccarone, one of the few returnees with experience during last year's run. "That's what we were last year and that's how we see ourselves this year. We feed off that. If no one expects us to win, that's what gets us going."

Box Score

Colts Neck 1, Long Branch 0

Long Branch (6-7-1)0000
Colts Neck (8-3-1)0011

Goal (Assist): Tom Samaras (Ely Ferro) 82'
Shots: Tied, 10-10
Saves: (LB) Tyler Abbot 6; (CN) Dylan Jacobs 3

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