RICHLAND, N.J. - Last year, Christian Brothers Academy won a state championship by vanquishing an opponent that had given the Colts major problems in recent years prior.

On Thursday night, CBA was on the other end of that story.

St. Augustine - the top seed in the NJSIAA South Jersey Non-Public A Tournament - ended a five-game playoff losing streak against CBA, ended the Colts' four-year sectional title streak and won its first sectional championship since 2010 by winning Tuesday's final, 1-0, on its home field.

"This is the same group that played (CBA) last year, minus three players," Hermits senior center back Owen Kitch said. "We have always had a chip on our shoulder from that game and we have worked for it - in the summer, during the preseason. Up to this point, it's just been a big factor."

The last time St. Augustine defeated CBA in the NJSIAA Tournament was 2008 and following that loss, CBA had defeated the Hermits five straight times, including four times in the sectional final. During its run of four straight South Jersey Non-Public A titles from 2015 to 2018, CBA defeated St. Augustine in the 2016 and 2018 title games by a combined margin of 9-1.

St. Augustine celebrates with its student section after winning the South Non-Public A title. Photo by Matt Manley)
St. Augustine celebrates with its student section after winning the South Non-Public A title. (Photo by Matt Manley)

The most recent meeting prior to Thursday night was last year's 4-1 CBA win down at Washington Township High School. The NJSIAA changed the format of the tournament this season, giving home field in the non-public sectional final to the higher seeded team.

Eight starters returned from that St. Augustine team while only four were back on the CBA side from a year ago.

"I'm sure they were eager to play us after last year but from our perspective, every year is different and this was a new team with a new opportunity," CBA coach Tom Mulligan said. "Last year was special, this year was special in its own right and we have guys on our team that were fully invested in coming here and winning today. They worked hard all year and they represented CBA well. Unfortunately we came up a little bit short today against a very good, very determined St. Augustine team."

St. Augustine took advantage of its opportunity, hitting CBA with an overwhelming first-20-minutes in front of its home crowd. Colts senior goalkeeper A.J. Pinto made four acrobatic saves in the first 19 minutes and in the 20th, the Kitch put a shot on goal Pinto had no chance to save.

The Hermits played the ball short off a corner kick and senior Antonio Matos blasted a back-post service from left to right. The 6-foot-8 Kitch got free among CBA's crowd of defenders, elevated, and headed the ball into the goal from inside the six-yard box.

"There was a missed assignment, unfortunately, and that created the opportunity for them," Mulligan said. "That's the game. When you make mistakes, good teams and good players capitalize."

St. Augustine's icebreaker appeared to wake up CBA, which threatened a number of times before the end of the first half. Its two closest calls were a 20-yard strike by senior Michael Casper that screamed just over the crossbar before St. Augustine's goal and another 20-yard laser by junior Shane Borenius - whose shot was denied with a diving save by Hermits keeper Anthony Libero in the 27th.

The Colts did get off any especially-dangerous shots on goal in the second half, but did catch the wrong end of a couple of calls. Sophomore Dylan Cupo went down hard inside the box after a St. Augustine defender appeared to trip him up.

In the final seconds, Libero put the ball down in the box and picked it back up, prompting the official to award CBA an indirect kick from 10 yards away from the goal near the left-side end-line. The call, however, was made with 10 seconds remaining and by the time the Colts players on the field were aware of the call, the final second was expiring.

"Our guys didn't know the call until it was too late," Mulligan said. "We had some chances to tie the game and it would have been nice to have one more opportunity but we just ran out of time."

St. Augustine will play Seton Hall Prep in Sunday's Non-Public A championship game. CBA defeated Seton Hall Prep during its noteworthy regular-season. With just four starters back from last year's 19-win title team, CBA beat St. Augustine, Shore Conference Tournament champion Freehold Township, both Central Jersey Group III finalists (Wall and Ocean) and took a 1-0 lead over national power St. Benedict's to the final four minutes before falling, 2-1.

"Talking to the other coaches in this group, there were six or seven teams in Non-Public A that, on the right day, they can win this whole thing," Mulligan said. "I relieve believe it was that close between all of us. We wish St. Augustine the best. Today, they were the team that got the goal and is moving on and we wish them well in the championship."

Seven of CBA's starters on Tuesday night were seniors, so next year will again require the Colts to plug in some new starters. If this year is any indication, though, CBA has the wherewithal to keep moving forward with a predominantly-new group.

"A lot of people call us young but we are still a team that had 17 or 18 seniors," Mulligan said. "I hope to have that many seniors next year. That's kind of our approach as a program. Guys are going to be asked the step up every year and I think this year we showed it works pretty well. It's always a tough way to go out for the seniors and I thought we deserved better today but the seniors put themselves in position to be successful all year long. It just didn't happen for us today."

Box Score

St. Augustine 1, CBA 0

CBA (13-4-3)000
St. Augustine (19-4)101

Goals (Assists): (SA) Owen Kitch (Antonio Matos) 20'
Shots: St. Augustine, 10-7
Saves: (CBA) A.J. Pinto 5; (SA) Anthony Libero 3


More From Shore Sports Network