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NJSIAA Group IV Championship

Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, 3 p.m.

At Kean University

Freehold Township vs. Kearny

Teams at a Glance

Freehold Township (17-3-2)

Head Coach: Josh Mehl
Group Championships: 1982* (1)
Group Final Appearances: 1982 (1)
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 15 Hillsborough, 4-2; No. 7 East Brunswick, 3-1; No. 3 New Brunswick, 3-0; No. 13 Howell, 1-0; Toms River North, 0-0 (7-6 on penalties)

*- Co-championship

Top Scorers

Herman Colbert, Sr. (16 goals, 14 assists)

Josh Hocheiser, Sr. (9 goals, 6 assists)

Ryan Keegan, Sr. (7 goals, 3 assists)

Joshua Jerome, Fr. (4 goals, 2 assists)

Tim Bertscha, Jr. (3 goals, 1 assist)

Noah Jones, Jr. (3 goals, 1 assist)

J.T. Gold, Sr. (2 goals, 4 assists)

James Stanley, Sr. (4 goals)

Aidan Englander, Jr. (1 goals, 3 assists)

Defenders to Watch

Sean Keegan, Sr. (5 assists)

Logan Mullaney, Sr. (1 assist)

Kevin Kuriakose, Jr. (3 assists)

Hunter Torre, Sr. (1 assist)

Goalkeeper

Richard Lockard, Sr.

 

Kearny (20-1-2)

Head Coach: Bill Galka
Group Championships: 1947, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956*, 1958, 1981, 1982*, 1984, 1987, 1999, 2002, 2004*, 2017
Group Final Appearances: 1955, 1956*, 1958, 1971, 1981, 1982*, 1983, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2004*, 2017
Road to the Final: Defeated No. 16 Barringer, 10-0; No. 8 Montclair, 2-0; No. 4 Passaic, 6-1; No. 2 West Orange, 2-1; Elizabeth, 2-2 (7-6 on penalties)

*- Co-championship; Additional note: before 1955, before championships were awarded by the NJSIAA executive committee

Top Scorers

Juan Rojas, Sr. (18 goals, 13 assists)

Alejandro Alvarado, Jr. (14 goals, 6 assists)

Aiden Mansilla, Sr. (13 goals, 8 assists)

Alan Antonelli, Sr. (13 goals, 6 assists)

Christian Escandon, Jr. (11 goals, 14 assists)

Johan Baez, Jr. (11 goals, 13 assists)

Dalton Davila, Sr. (8 goals, 10 assists)

Nicholas Gomez, Jr. (10 goals, 5 assists)

Defenders to Watch

Alan Castillo, Sr. (2 goals, 1 assist)

David Cabral, Jr. (1 goal, 1 assist)

Max Silva, Jr. (1 goal)

Goalkeeper

Josh Rodriguez, Sr.

 

Breakdown

Freehold Township has been to only one group final in program history and it was a memorable showdown vs. Kearny back in 1982. Both teams entered that match with one loss and finished in a 1-1 draw, with both teams scoring in the last 10 minutes of regulation – Kearny first and then Freehold Township.

Almost 40 years later, Freehold Township finally returns to the last day of the boys soccer season and have done so with a team that did not seem to have the same firepower of some past Patriots teams – Shore Conference Tournament champions in 2008, 2014 and 2019 and sectional champions from 2011 and 2015 – but have nonetheless been the team to crack the code.

Freehold Township senior Herman Colbert. (Photo by Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)

The Patriots have broken through in 2021 behind a breakout season from senior striker Herman Colbert, who had a quiet scoring season as a first-year junior starter on 2020’s senior-laden squad. Asked to carry more of the load in 2021 – particularly after injuries to classmates J.T. Gold and Christian Mojares – Colbert has stepped up as one of the Shore’s top scorers in putting up 16 goals and 14 assists, including five goals in Freehold Township’s first three state tournament wins. Although Colbert has gone scoreless in the last two games, he has remained dangerous and will be a player Kearny needs to constantly account for on Saturday.

Senior Josh Hocheiser has been a steady player for Freehold Township for the last two year and was an impact player off the bench as a sophomore on the 2019 Shore Conference Tournament championship team. Hocheiser has stood out as a penalty specialist during the postseason, particularly over the last two games. He converted the deciding penalty kick in the 1-0 sectional final win over Howell and clinched Tuesday’s shootout vs. Toms River North with a Panenka penalty to seal it.

Freehold Township senior Josh Hocheiser. (Photo by Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)

Gold has since returned from injury to help on the outside midfield and freshman Joshua Jerome has been a dangerous finisher up top with Colbert. Senior Ryan Keegane and juniors Tim Bertscha and Noah Jones have been key in the midfield and the back line in front of senior goalkeeper Ryan Lockard has been near-perfect since allowing two first-half goals to Hillsborough in the opening round of the Central Group IV Tournament.

While this Freehold Township Group IV ended a 39-year drought, Kearny will look to add to a legacy that includes 16 state championships. Since Freehold Township last made it to the state final, Kearny has been nine times and won six. In a 24-season stretch from 1981 to 2004, Kearny appeared in almost half of the Group IV finals, making it to the final day of the season 11 times while winning at least a share eight times.

This year’s installment of Kearny boasts a whopping seven players with at least 10 goals and six with at least 30 points. By comparison, Freehold Township has only one of each and it is Colbert. Kearny has scored at least eight goals more times (six) this season than Freehold Township has scored at least four (5).

Freehold Township freshman Joshua Jerome goes up for a header over Holmdel sophomore David Weiner. (Photo by Tom Smith | tspsportsimages.com)

Freehold Township’s defense is good enough to keep the game close but it will be imperative not to give up either a bad goal or a clinical finish early because once the deficit grows to two goals, that’s when it could get ugly. A close game means the Patriots can keep pressuring and defending in hopes of springing Colbert, Hocheiser or Ryan Keegan loose for a key goal or two.

Kearny enters Saturday as the favorite to win the title, but Freehold Township has been defying the odds all year and doing so against a loaded schedule that includes games against CBA, Elizabeth and three against Toms River North. Those games all showed that Freehold Township can hang with some of the state’s best but there is one common thread between those five games: the Patriots did not win any of them straight up. It’s possible Saturday could come down to penalties, but in order to capture the program’s first ever outright Group IV title, this Freehold Township group will have to beat a team that is as good or better than the only teams on the schedule the Patriots failed to beat this year. The chances aren’t on Freehold Township’s side, but at no point this year as that bothered this group.

The Pick: Kearny, 2-1