Howell soccer is in the middle of one of its best stretches in school history, with both the boys and girls programs thriving at the same time. Miguel Arroyo is in his second season as the coach of the girls varsity team after a long stretch as an assistant with the boys team.

Arroyo is quick to pass credit for the success of both programs to Rich Yuro, the longest-tenured boys varsity soccer coach in the Shore Conference and the man under whom he used to coach as an assistant prior to taking the girls job.

“He is a soccer genius,” Arroyo said of Yuro. “We call him the professor. He sees the game so well and he can make adjustments faster than anyone I have seen. I know I learned a lot working with Coach Yuro and it has been great to see our programs have all this success together. He deserves a lot of credit.”

As the longest-tenured head coach at the Shore and a soccer coach at a public high school in one of the state’s most competitive divisions, Yuro has led some of the most talented teams the Shore Conference has seen during his tenure and has also labored with undermanned lineups.

It is all part of the usual cycle of coaching in the Class A North division of the Shore Conference – home to powerhouses like Christian Brothers Academy, Freehold Township, Manalapan, Marlboro and both Middletown schools. Last year was one of the high-point seasons for the program, but with four Shore Sports Network All-Shore players moving on to graduation, repeating a season that saw Howell finish No. 2 in the final Shore Conference rankings would be a challenging.

Armed with a talented group of juniors and a hungry collection of five senior starters that played their roles admirably in 2022, Howell ran it back in 2023 as the No. 2 team in the Shore Sports Network rankings and even slightly exceeded the accomplishments of the team from one year prior.

Coming off another Shore Conference Tournament final appearance, a third NJSIAA sectional final appearance in three years and a No. 2 finish at the Shore in his 32nd season at the helm, Yuro is the Shore Sports Network Boys Soccer Coach of the Year for the first time in his accomplished career.

Howell boys soccer coach Rich Yuro. (Photo: Tom Smith |
Howell boys soccer coach Rich Yuro. (Photo: Tom Smith |

While Howell’s All-Shore star-power graduated in the spring of 2023, the returning group had enough burgeoning breakout players to make them a contender again in 2023. This year’s group had to replace Second Team All-Shore winger Nick Spisak, First Team All-Shore midfielder J.P. Candela, First Team All-Shore center back R.J. Eckelman and First Team All-Shore goalkeeper Charlie Scanlon.

Junior striker Nick Turturro was the top returning scorer among Class A North players and scored three more goals than he did a season ago. Tye Maser and John Fiorillo were also sophomore starters in 2022 who played in the 2023 midfield, with Maser moving from outside back to center midfielder to replace Candela. While it was not necessarily a bold move considering Maser is comfortable as a midfielder, Yuro took the calculated gamble that Maser would significantly boost the attack and the defense would not suffer with the junior pushed up into the middle of the field.

Seniors Bryce Ocholla and Marcello Romano were back as starters on the attack – Ocholla on the wing and Romano in the midfield – and junior Kam Brown slotted into the other wing, giving Howell five returning starters on the attack the result was a Rebels team that posted 39 goals in 18 goals.

That experience in Howell’s front six meant that four of the five players defending the goal were new starters. Senior Brent Romano returned at the other center back and junior Tyler Borenstein – a natural forward – slid in at the other center back position. Senior Aiden Pacheco and junior Max Roco slotted into the outside back positions and senior Patrick Martin replaced the First-Team All-Shore keeper between the pipes.

That defensive unit held opponents to 21 goals in 18 matches – a number that averaged out to under one goal per game heading into the final match of the season.

That last match put a damper on the season that led up to it, but it did not take away from the fact that Howell had built on its successful 2022. Howell reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship game for the second time in three years and after losing to Freehold Township in the 2021 title game and falling to Monroe on penalties in last year’s sectional semifinals, Howell had a chance to finish the job.

The Rebels were locked up in a 1-1 tie with top-seeded Princeton late in the first half after Turturro tied the game off a pass from Maser. The Tigers, however, scored 2:12 before halftime to jump back on top and Howell was slow to react to a quick restart that led to Princeton’s third goal early in the second half. The Tigers rolled from there, sending Howell home with a 5-1 loss that left the Rebels still searching for their first sectional title since 1988 – four years before Yuro took over as the head coach.

While the ending to the season was a bitter one for the Rebels players and their head coach, an air of optimism remains within the program based on the 17 games that preceded that sectional final, not to mention the players Howell has returning.

For the second straight year, Howell captured the Shore Conference Class A North public division championship – the first time the Rebels have earned that distinction since 2010 and 2011. Just as they did in 2022, the Rebels also reached the Shore Conference Tournament championship game, beating a high-profile No. 3 seed to clinch a spot in the title match. While last year’s convincing semifinal win was over a Holmdel side that went on to win the Central Jersey Group II championship, this year’s win was another impressive outing against a Toms River North squad that reached the South Jersey Group IV championship game and won its fourth straight Class A North championship.

Howell’s pursuit of its first Shore Conference Tournament title since 2007 fell short with a 2-0 loss to Class A North rival CBA, which also beat Howell during the regular season, 2-1. It marked the second straight year Howell has lost to the powerhouse Colts in the SCT final.

Looking ahead to next season, the tenor of the season will be different from the jump. While there will some positions to address – particularly in goal – Howell will enter next season in its best position to win a championship in more than a decade. The Rebels are set to return eight players who saw significant minutes as juniors, compared to CBA, which is in line to return only two starters.

That positions Howell as the potential favorite to win its first Shore Conference Tournament championship since 2007, when Yuro led the top-seeded Rebels to their first ever conference championship one year after losing in the semifinals as the No. 1 seed. The 2006 season marked the start of a stretch in which Howell reached the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals four times in five seasons and was a top-five seed in the tournament in five out of six seasons.

With a senior-heavy team due back for Yuro’s 33rd season as head coach, Howell is approaching the crescendo of another golden age that has been more than a decade in the making. The last stretch of great soccer netted the Rebels a Shore Conference Tournament championship and next year’s team will be motivated to win everything in sight – not only for its many seniors, but also its longtime coach and soccer professor.

Matt Manley's Coach of the Year Ballot (Top Five)

1. Rich Yuro, Howell

2. Christian Pontier, Shore

3. Tom Mulligan, CBA

4. Troy VanHise, Central

5. Simon Muckle, St. Rose

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