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HAZLET - Chris Fontanazza decided to play high-school soccer this fall to play with his friends from school and at this time of the year, in order to keep playing, you have to keep winning.

Fontanazza has been a major reason for Raritan's winning ways in 2020 and on Tuesday against Rumson-Fair Haven, the senior standout delivered the Rockets their biggest win of the season when he scored the golden goal in the 82nd minute to lift Raritan to a 2-1 win over the Bulldogs in the NJSIAA Central East Groups II and I quarterfinal round.

Prior to this season, Fontanazza opted to forego high school soccer and instead by academy soccer. This year, he joined a roster that blended experience (13 total seniors) with dynamic underclassmen and has helped push them over the top. In his lone season as a Rocket, Fontanazza has now scored 16 goals, the most recent of which kept Raritan's pursuit of a sectional championship alive.

"This is why I left academy," Fontanazza said. "I wanted to play with all my boys I have been playing with my whole life. It was a great thing. I came here to win states and that's what we're going to do."

Early in the first overtime period, Fontanazza received the ball in the middle of the pitch and slid a pass to sophomore forward Lupo Ryder facing away from the goal. Ryder turned and slipped the ball through to senior Matt Fogarty, who spotted Fontanazza making a run to the middle of the 18-yard box and played it his way.

Fontanazza was a step ahead of the defense and one-timed a shot to the lower right of the goal for the game-winner 1:30 into extra time.

"Their gameplan was to put two or three guys on me," Fontanazza said. "I had to find the space that gave me space, because they were on me. They were expecting me to just dribble it and I saw (Ryder) out of the corner of my eye, played it. They weren't tracking their runs so there was a big gap in the back and I just used that against them."

"It takes one ball," Raritan coach Gregg Cohen said. "He (Fontanazza) is an x-factor. For me, he is one of the top kids in the Shore and unfortunately we couldn't prove it to everyone around here because we didn't get to play out of our division during the year. But he's a difference-maker. We dropped him back to play some defense in this game and the kid can play anywhere he wants."

Raritan made it to overtime thanks to some good fortune late in the first half that got the Rockets their first goal. Rumson played the ball back toward its own goal, but goalkeeper Aiden Colburn missed it and it rolled into the left corner of the netting for the game's first score in the 34th minute.

Rumson came back in the second half when senior Luke Pentikis drew a trip inside the 18-yard box and converted the ensuing penalty kick to tie the game at 1-1.

"Throughout the whole game, they were definitely outplaying us," Fontanazza said. "It just comes down to heart and desire."

Raritan conceded possession to Rumson throughout the game but began to make headway as an attacking outfit as the game progressed."

The two rivals played twice last week and Tuesday's match was the state-tournament opener for both, meaning that the last three games for either team were against the other. The first game last week ended in a 0-0 draw and the second was a 4-1 Rumson win.

"We were missing five starters between injuries and a red card," Cohen said of last week's games vs. Rumson. "We were kind of scrambling and to be honest, we were trying to win and trying to compete, but it wasn't something that we wanted to go after at all costs because it was a glorified scrimmage. The division was already decided, we were playing them in the tournament the next week, so our priority was making sure we were ready for today."

With Holmdel withdrawing from the NJSIAA Tournament on Monday, Raritan is now the top seed remaining in the combined Groups II and I season. The Rockets will host No. 6 Manchester on Thursday.

"I really wanted to play Holmdel in the finals at their place," Fontanazza said. "Now, it's just a gift and we have to take advantage."


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