OCEAN TWP. - As the final seconds of the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III championship game ticked away Tuesday, the players on the Toms River South reacted initially as though they had won any other game during the season.

As a team that has been in the same position in each of the past two seasons but without finishing off an overall state championship, the Indians carried themselves like a team that still has business to finish.

Senior Dustin Urbaczek scored the go-ahead goal in the 62nd minute and the Indians beat top-seeded Ocean, 2-1, to capture their third consecutive sectional championship. Toms River South will try to secure a spot in the Group III final for the third straight year by beating Mainland in the Group III semifinal Tuesday at Toms River North High School.

Photo by Matt Manley
Photo by Matt Manley

With one more win, Toms River South would reach the Group III final for the third straight year. In its past two trips, Toms River South was outscored by a combined score of 7-0 by Mendham in 2015 (4-0) and Ramapo (3-0) last year. If the Indians can win two more games, then they will celebrate.

“We’re always focused on the next game, but we want to win the state finals,” Urbaczek said. “Our coaches want one badly and we do too.”

Although the players on Toms River South did not look desperate to win Friday when the clock struck all zeroes, the Indians certainly looked like a hungry team during the game. On no play was that more evident that Urbaczek's game-winner.

“This was his kind of game and that was his kind of goal,” Toms River South coach Ed Leibe said. “He just kind of throws himself into the mix and he’s got a sixth sense for the ball in those moments. He saw a chance, got his foot on the end of it, and put it in.”

The play began with a throw-in on the left side, which sophomore Shane Kluxen flicked from the near left post toward the far post with his head. Urbaczek beat an Ocean defender to the ball and poked it toward the goal, with the ball crossing over the line just before Ocean keeper Max Winters cleared it away.

“(The defender) hesitated to clear it so I just sprinted to it and go my foot in there,” Urbaczek said. “I think he might have actually hit it off my foot, but I saw it go in and I was pumped.”

Kluxen also assisted the first goal of the game, which came just 1:07 into the match. Kluxen lined a cross from right to left and classmate Jack Seitz headed it to the right corner of the goal.

“That was the big goal for us, not only because it gave us an early lead, but out of all the guys to score using their head, Seitz is probably the last guy we’d expect,” Leibe said. “He does not like using his head, but Kluxen gave him a great ball and he finished with a beautiful header. Kluxen is the guy who wants to get his head on everything, but he was on the other end this time.”

With two assists on Friday, Kluxen now has four goals and three assists during Toms River South’s run through Central Jersey Group III, with at least one goal or assist in each of the Indians’ four wins.

After falling behind early, the Spartans came right back. They penetrated the Toms River South back line to create a one-on-one chance against goalkeeper Jalen Folsom for junior Santieno Harding, but Harding popped the shot over the crossbar. Folsom also saved a lower left shot on frame by Harding two minutes before Ocean's equalizer.

Ocean tied the game in the 15th minute when junior James Schutz headed in a free kick by junior Zach Sintic. Harding also facilitated that goal by drawing a foul on Folsom just outside the 18-yard box on the right side of the field. Sintic then served a well-placed ball to the back post and Schutz hammered it inside the near left post.

Ocean also nearly grabbed the lead in the 58th, but Santieno Harding was called for a foul just before he poked the potential go-ahead goal past Folsom. The junior also glanced the crossbar with a free kick early in the second half.

“This was the kind of game we expected – just slug it out until the end,” Leibe said. “I have to take my hat off to them. They have a really balanced attack and I thought our guys did a good job to disrupt them a little bit.

“We’ve outshot just about every team we’ve played this year, even in our losses, but today it was either even or pretty darn close to it. They are a very good team, so we’re thrilled to get a win here.”

Friday’s meeting was the fifth meeting between postseason tournament meeting the two programs since 2012 and with its win, Toms River South gained the upper hand with a 3-2 edge in the series. The teams also played each other twice during the preseason and met in the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, which Ocean won, 3-2, on its home field thanks to a 76th-minute, wind-aided goal on a 45-yard free kick by Job Cajas.

Toms River South’s next opponent will be a familiar one. The Indians beat Mainland in last year’s Group III semifinal, with Seitz contributing one of the team’s two goals in the win.

Although his players are intent on winning two more games before they celebrate, Leibe did not look past what his team has already accomplished over the last four years, which include four straight trips to the sectional finals and three straight sectional championships – the first Shore team to three-peat since Holmdel from 2010 to 2012.

“I have never experienced anything like this as a player or a coach,” Leibe said of the three-year run. “It’s amazing. These guys are battle-tested. They’ve been here before and maybe that gives us a little bit of an edge. The guys who were on varsity but didn’t play, the younger guys who have come up through the program, the guys who have had older brothers play for us – they have seen this work and they are buying into it. That’s a big thing for a program and when you have that, good things happen.”


Box Score

Toms River South 2, Ocean 1

TR South (17-5-2)112
Ocean (18-4-2)101

Goals (Assists): (TRS) Jack Seitz (Shane Kluxen) 2’, Dustin Urbaczek (Shane Kluxen) 62’; (O) James Schutz (Zach Sintic) 15’
Shots: Toms River South, 14-13
Saves: (TRS) Jalen Folsom 4; (O) Max Winters 4


More From Shore Sports Network