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COLTS NECK - If goals were judged like a gymnastics routine or a dunk contest, the second goal the Wall boys soccer team scored on Thursday at Colts Neck would not have earned a perfect score - probably far from it.

While Thursday's game-winning own goal was not the prettiest goal of Wall's season, the timing - much like the team that benefited from it - could not have been more perfect.

Senior Sean Southwell's free kick led to the winning own goal in the 75th minute and the Crimson Knights - ranked No. 7 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10 - overcame playing a man down for nearly the whole second half to beat No. 6 Colts Neck, 2-1, and maintain its perfect record in 2020.

Wall's win Thursday secures the top spot in the Shore Conference Class B North division for the 2020 season and extends the Crimson Knights' unbeaten streak to 20 games dating back to last season.

"This is a huge win for us," Southwell said. "All year, we have been waiting to play Colts Neck. We definitely got them (on Tuesday) but we had to play down a man for most of the second half today and that wasn't good for us.

"It's a testament to this team, our heart, our pride. Our defense stood up, from the forwards, to the midfielders, to (goalkeeper Joe Gisoldi) in goal and all the defenders and I think that was the best defensive game we have played, even though we gave up a goal."

Wall played with 10 men for the final 33 minutes of the game after junior Ryan Molloy picked up his second yellow card of the game. Just four minutes earlier, senior Jake Pepe gave the Crimson Knights a 1-0 lead with a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box on the right side of the field.

"It was brand new to us," Southwell said of playing down a man. "Sometimes, we work on it during practice based on who is available, but we have never done it in a game, especially against a team like Colts Neck."

"I thought we woke up a sleeping giant the way they came out in the first half," Wall coach Garry Linstra said. "They are so good and we got a goal and I thought that was a huge lift for us, but before you know it, we got that double-yellow and now we had to figure out how to get it done playing down a man. That's the thing about these guys, though: they have that winning mentality and they never feel like they are out of a game."

Colts Neck pulled even on a penalty kick by senior Jake Gershon in the 55th minute following a handball just inside the 18-yard box, but Wall's defense kept the Cougars at bay for the next 20 minutes before Southwell's free kick produced the game-winner on just the second shot Wall took after losing a man.

Southwell blasted the free kick from near midfield, it was headed by a Colts Neck defender and past Cougars goalkeeper Aidan Rowohlt, with Wall junior Sean Murphy challenging for the ball in the air before it found its way into the goal.

"We never play not to win, but we knew coming in they had to win to get a share of the division and a tie would be enough for us," Southwell said. "Once they got the PK, we had to get defensive. Down a man, they had the momentum, but this team never loses confidence. We always feel like we have a shot."

In two games this week, Wall held the Shore's highest-scoring team to two goals in 160 minutes and played 20 percent of those minutes at a one-player disadvantage. The Crimson Knights did it by defending their goal on set pieces and capitalizing on the set pieces they earned. Three of the four goals Wall scored against Colts Neck this week started on set pieces.

"We needed to figure out when we were going to try to score," Linstra said. "I told the guys, if we were going to score, it wasn't going to be in the run of play. It was going to be on a set piece or something like that. I just told Southwell to put the ball in the box and see what happens. These guys have shown tremendous grit and heart all year and I always like our chances to make something happen."

Wall will try to finish off a 17-0 season by winning next week's NJSIAA Central East-South Group III bracket as the No. 1 seed. The Knights are the defending Central Jersey Group III champions and the Group III runner-up.

"All everybody wanted to do this year was go undefeated and win states and now we have a chance to do that," Southwell said. "We have the longest unbeaten streak in the Shore so we want to keep that going. We lost four defenders and a keeper, had to move guys around and it seemed like everybody was counting us out.

"We saw the rankings and we thought we were better than number seven (in the Shore). All year, we did our part by winning and other teams were doing their part too. This week, we felt like it was a statement week and now we're 14-0. If we can finish with three more wins, we feel like we have a legitimate shot to finish ranked as high as we think we should be."


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