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FREEHOLD TWP. - Over the last month, goals have either been plentiful or nowhere to be found for the Freehold Township boys soccer team.

With that in mind, the Patriots - the No. 11 seed in the Shore Conference Tournament - put an extra emphasis on keeping No. 22 Colts Neck from scoring on Friday. After their defenders and goalkeeper Brian Shushkovsky carried them through 100 scoreless minutes, it was Shushkovsky and a defender that pushed their team into the next round.

Freehold Township senior goalkeeper Brian Shushkovsky saved two shots and also converted one in the shootout round to help the Patriots escape with a win in penalties over Colts Neck Friday. (Photo by Matt Manley)

Shushovsky saved two attempts and buried the first Patriots kick during the shootout round and center fullback Mike Staklinski converted the game-winning penalty kick to give Freehold Township a 4-2 win in penalty kicks after a scoreless draw with the Cougars. Freehold Township will play at No. 6 Christian Brothers Academy on Saturday at 2 p.m., the third meeting between the Shore Conference Class A North rivals after the two split the season series.

"We know goals have been hard to come by for us lately, so our main focus was to defend and make sure we stayed with their forwards," Staklinski said. "We are perfectly comfortable going to a shootout knowing we have Shush in goal. It's not the ideal situation, but it's one we feel confident we can handle."

Shushkovsky saved the first attempt by Colts Neck senior Taylor Demick and the third attempt by senior Kevin Murch, with Chris Reale and Brett Cohen converting the second and fourth Cougars kicks. Colts Neck junior goalkeeper Tice Smit saved a shot by Mike Maltese as well, but Shushkovsky, Mark Fasano and Chase Berkowitz hammered home attempts to set up Staklinski with a chance to push the Patriots into the round of 16.

"I watched our first four guys and tried to study what (Smit) was doing, but for the most part, I had an idea of what I wanted to do," Staklinski said.

Both teams had quality chances during the middle of the second half, one of which would have been a Colts Neck goal if not for a handball call on Reale. Demick played the ball through on a counter attack to Reale, who touched it down and finished in the 48th minute, but that finish came after he controlled the ball with the upper part of his left arm.

"That's one of those cases where you ask the question, 'Where does the shoulder end and the arm begin?'" Colts Neck coach Art Collier said. "I couldn't see it, so I have no idea where it actually hit him (Reale). Knowing this official like I do and having him for as many games as I've had him over the years, he's not the type of official to make that call from that angle unless he's absolutely sure it's the right call. If that's what he saw, then it's good enough for me."

Freehold Township nearly took the lead in the 58th minute when Jason Czajkowski crossed the ball to the far post, where Kyle Czajkowski one-timed a shot toward the left side of the goal. Smit, however, reacted quickly, knocked the ball up in the air and snatched it away to thwart the threat.

Demick also struck a dangerous shot on a counter attack in the 51st minute, while Maltese dipped a 30-yard shot that stayed just above the crossbar in the 64th. Colts Neck also poked a ball off the right post late in the second half out of a mob in front of the goal.

The game renewed a rivalry from the last two seasons, during which Colts Neck played in the Class A North division, giving the Cougars two games per season with the Patriots.

"More than anything, our guys wanted an opportunity to prove themselves," Collier said. "They wanted people to know they can play and to show that they are a pretty good team and even though we didn't get the result, they certainly proved they are a good team."

Freehold Township will now get its rubber match with CBA after a regular-season split with the Colts. The Patriots won the first meeting, 3-1, and fell, 1-0, in the second.

"We definitely wanted that third game with CBA, but we knew that there is no game with CBA if we don't play well against Colts Neck," Staklinski said. "The only team on our minds today was Colts Neck and now that we got through today, we'll start thinking about CBA."


In Other Friday Opening-Round Action:

(6) CBA 3, (27) Donovan Catholic 0

Richie Leister opened the scoring in the 38th minute and Russell Romano and John Frycz added second-half goals to lead the Colts to a win over the Griffins. CBA has now won two tournament games over Donovan Catholic in as many years after beating the Griffins, 2-1, in overtime during the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A playoffs last season.

CBA will host Freehold Township in the round of 16 on Saturday, the third meeting between the teams. Freehold Township won the first meeting, 3-1, at the Academy while CBA earned a 1-0 win the the second meeting at Freehold Township.

Central 3, Lacey 1

Sophomore Nate Wiley scored the tying goal and assisted sophomore Frank Golda's go-ahead goal before halftime and the Golden Eagles put away the Lions to advance to a round-of-16 game against No. 5 Shore on Saturday.

Senior Doug Jensen added a second half goal on a back-heel shot from inside the six-yard box. Junior Robert Biele scored to give Lacey a 1-0 lead in the first half.

Senior forward and leading scorer Blake Czajkowski will return Saturday against Shore after sitting out the last two games for a red card booking.