MANASQUAN - The Neptune boys soccer team has had Manasquan's number in recent years and the unbeaten Scarlet Fliers played some unintentional mind games by arriving late to Manasquan Monday for their game against a Warriors side still waiting to play its first game of the season.

After waiting an entire offseason following a loss to Delran in the NJSIAA South Jersey Group II final, the Manasquan players could stand to wait a little longer to begin its most anticipated season in recent memory.

Returning standouts senior Drew Greenblatt and junior Tommy Johnson each scored in the first half and Manasquan finally opened its season with a 2-0 shutout of Neptune.

"We were very anxious to finally play," Johnson said. "We knew a lot of these teams already had two or three games under their belt. Coming off last season, we were confident getting started and we just showed it today. All the boys played well, it was a physical game, but we met our expectations and we're excited for the next match."

Manasquan senior Drew Greenblatt (left) battles Neptune senior Louis Pennington for the ball. (Photo by Paula Lopez)
Manasquan senior Drew Greenblatt (left) battles Neptune senior Louis Pennington for the ball. (Photo by Paula Lopez)

Last year, early on in Manasquan's 14-7-2 campaign, Neptune routed the Warriors, 6-0, to hand them their worst loss of the season. On Monday, Manasquan played to the form it showed for the remainder of that season, when it allowed 16 goals over the final 21 games.

"A lot of our guys have that memory (of losing to Neptune) in the back of our minds," Johnson said. "We had a chip on our shoulder today and we took it to them."

Greenblatt - a coaches' all-division selection in A Central last season - struck first with a goal in the 20th minute. Senior Louis Cajas won the ball on the right side near the edge of the 18-yard box and knocked a cross to the top of the six-yard box. Greenblatt settled it and drilled it off a Neptune defender and into the goal.

There were several small altercations between the two teams in the first half, including one resulting in yellow cards for each side in the 36th minute. Less than two minutes later, Johnson further fired up his team heading into half by heading in a long ball from senior defender Chris Pierro with 2:30 left before halftime.

"It took us a little bit to get into the game but when we started linking up with our forwards and our midfielders played aggressive and played those balls in behind, we broke them every time," Johnson said.

Johnson created multiple second-half chances and although Manasquan did not add to its lead, the Warriors maintained control of the match throughout the second half. Neptune aided that cause in the 49th, when senior midfielder Marvin Garcia was sent off with his second yellow card of the game, leaving the Scarlet Fliers a man down for the remainder of the game.

"I thought we played better in the second half even though we didn't score," Manasquan coach Tom McGill said. "The first half was frenetic."

Monday's win over a Neptune team that had outscored its first three opponents (Point Pleasant Boro, Lakewood and Manchester) by a combined total of 17-1 was an ideal start to the season for a Manasquan squad that returns eight of 11 starters from its sectional runner-up club and will be adding talent once junior Simon Cardenas is cleared to play.

"It was a brutal loss to Delran in the state sectionals last year," Johnson said. "We have that in the back of our head but this year we want to get even farther. We want to win the Shore Conference, we want to win states so it's just starting from game one. We'll take one game at a time, keep working hard and keep those goals in the back of our head."

The Warriors defense was close to top form, led by Pierro and seniors Brady Barry and Rich Maloney. Senior goalkeeper Joe Weinstein - who finished tied for second in the Shore Conference wit 12 clean sheets last season - earned the shutout with a pair of saves.

Manasquan's week continues with Red Bank Catholic on Wednesday and a home game against defending Shore Conference Tournament and Group III champion Ocean on Friday. Last year, the Warriors bounced back from their loss to Neptune by knocking off Ocean, 3-2.

"We had high expectations last year and just went off the tracks a couple times," McGill said. "We thought we could win every game last year so we definitely feel that way about this year."

Box Score

Manasquan 2, Neptune 0

Neptune (3-1)000
Manasquan (1-0)202

Goals (Assists): (M) Drew Greenblatt (Louis Cajas) 20', Tommy Johnson (Chris Pierro) 38'
Shots: Manasquan, 13-8
Saves: (N) Dayle Church 4; (M) Joe Weinstein 2


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