NEPTUNE - The last time the Colts Neck boys soccer team played Neptune prior to Monday's NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III semifinal, the Cougars got burned in exactly the same way most every other Neptune opponent has this year: the let Wilby Alfred loose.

The Shore Conference's leading scorer did it to Colts Neck again Monday with his 38th goal of the season just six minutes into the action, but just as the Cougars - the fifth seed in the bracket have done over the course of their 2018 season, they did not let a shaky start doom them.

Senior Ethan Kilmnick assisted the game-tying goal by classmate Brooks Condon in the 20th minute and scored the winner on a penalty kick less than two minutes later and Colts Neck held on to beat the top-seeded Scarlet Fliers, 2-1, to advance to an NJSIAA sectional final for the first time since winning the Group I championship back in 2000.

Neptune jumped on top on the third goal scored by Alfred in two games vs. Colts Neck. The senior striker ran down a long pass from the back, dribbled past goalkeeper Dylan Jacobs and knocked in the game's first goal in the sixth minute.

"That definitely wasn't the way we wanted to start the game but at the same time, we knew there was a lot of game left," Kilmnick said. "Wilby is obviously a great player and sometimes you get beat by guys like him, but we have guys like Brooks, Paul Tepedino and Anthony Fiorello who have been coming up big for us all year. This team has battled through adversity all year so we knew we weren't out of it."

Colts Neck immediately applied pressure and broke through after a foul call awarded the Cougars just inside midfield. Kilmnick set up the equalizer by serving the free kick into the box before Condon emerged from the scrum with the goal.

Condon has been Colts Neck's go-to scorer in big games late in the season. The senior scored in five out of six games around the time of the Shore Conference Tournament cutoff - which included a goal in each of Colts Neck's two SCT games.

With the game once again even, Colts Neck kept up its push and forced a handball in the box. That set up Kilmnick for game-winning penalty kick, which the senior midfielder buried to the right corner 1:56 after the Condon's goal.

"The penalty kick was nerve-wracking but I knew I just had to compose myself and execute just like it's any other game or practice," Kilmnick said.

After letting Alfred beat him early, Jacobs shut down the goal the rest of the way. He delivered six of his seven saves in the second half to help secure the win for Colts Neck.

"Dylan came up huge for us today," Kilmnick said. "They (Neptune) were all over us for the last 10 minutes or so and he stepped up and saved everything they threw at him. We probably could have helped him out a little bit more but that's why he's there."

Colts Neck has won eight of nine and is 10-2 since opening the season 2-5. In those first seven games, Colts Neck dropped games to Holmdel (19-0-1), Jackson Memorial (15-2), Ocean (18-3-1), Freehold Boro (7-10-1) and Neptune.

The Cougars will travel for the sectional final to play No. 2 Ocean, which beat Colts Neck, 1-0, on Sept. 26 at the same site the two will meet at 11 a.m. on Thursday for the championship.

"Even when we were losing, we felt like we were competing with all of those teams," Kilmnick said. "We always knew were were a good team and when you lose close games, it's a chance to learn and get better and I think it's just made us a stronger team."


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