Surf Taco Week 5 Boys Soccer Team of the Week: Howell
Last year was a return to contention of sorts for the Howell boys soccer team, but the bulk of the resurgence did not happen until after the Rebels had endured a 2-5 record within the Shore Conference Class A North division.
As it turned out, even with a chunk of the 2021 starting lineup lost to graduation, the strong finish to last season was just the beginning for the Rebels.
With the Shore Conference Tournament underway, Howell is just preparing to play its first SCT game on Friday because the Rebels earned the No. 2 seed and the bye that comes with it.
That bye would not have been possible without last week's performance, which included wins over Freehold Township, Middletown South and West Essex and now includes the Surf Taco Week 5 Boys Soccer Player of the Week.
Howell emerged as a challenger to Christian Brothers Academy for the CLass A North championship through the first two weeks of the season, but lost a head-to-head match with CBA, followed by a loss to Marlboro.
Since the 1-0 loss to Marlboro, Howell has ripped off five straight wins -- none bigger than what the Rebels did last week. It started with an impressive 4-1 win over Middletown South, which is itself one of the Shore's most improved teams and the No. 10 seed in the SCT. Senior Nick Spisak came through with two of the goals, while senior J.P. Candela and junior Bryce Ocholla each delivered one.
Next up was one of the games of the year at the Shore and most definitely the win of the year for the Rebels. Howell grabbed two leads on goals by R.J. Eckelman and J.P. Candela, but Freehold Township responded each time, including a game-tying penalty kick in the last two minutes of regulation.
In overtime, it was Spisak who struck for the golden goal, sealing a 3-2 win for Howell over the rival Patriots and clinching Howell the Class A North public division championship for the first time since 2011.
The Rebels wrapped up the week with a 3-1 win over West Essex and will try to carry the momentum into the late rounds of the Shore Conference Tournament. The Rebels last won the SCT in 2007 and have not been to the semifinals of the tournament since 2010.
Last year's Howell team went 11-7-1 overall and reached the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV championship game. The 1-0 loss to Freehold Township was one of seven losses by one goal and dating back to its last loss of 2020, Howell's last 10 losses are all by a one-goal margin.
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