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The Shore Regional boys soccer team started the 2022 season as a rebuilding program with far more questions to answer than experience to lean on.

By the time the Blue Devils walked off the field for the last time this fall, they were something entirely different: champions.

After taking its lumps throughout the season, Shore rounded into form at just the right time and rattled off four straight NJSIAA Tournament wins to capture the program's first Central Jersey Group I championship since 2014. With statement wins over Point Pleasant Beach and defending sectional champion Florence to cap off the run, the Blue Devils are the Week 9 Surf Taco Boys Soccer Team of the Week.

Photo: Steve Meyer
Photo: Steve Meyer

Before the season even started, the Blue Devils' roster took a hit that was not necessarily expected coming out of a successful, 11-win season in 2021. Rising junior Maxx Eichenbaum and sophomore Jadyn DeRosa decided to play academy soccer this fall in lieu of high-school soccer, which took two major sources of returning scoring production off the Blue Devils roster -- one that already graduated half of its 2021 group of field starters.

A significant portion of the responsibility -- at least early in the season -- fell on a trio of senior returnees: Nick DiNapoli, Conner Katz and Max DeOliveira. DiNapoli was coming off a season in which he led the Blue Devils in scoring, so his presence was a major boost from the beginning, while Katz and DeOliveira both stepped up throughout.

In the last week though, all three had major moments. Katz scored the first of three first-half goals in a 5-0 rout of Point Pleasant Beach in the Nov. 2 Central Group I semifinals, with the senior also adding an assist.

In the sectional final at Florence, DeOliveira jumpstarted the Blue Devils with the game's first goal, putting the hosts and defending sectional champions on their heels.

Once Florence pulled even, it was DiNapoli's time to shine. After assisting DeOliveira's goal, the senior captain delivered the go-ahead goal in the 54th minute and sealed a 3-1 win with another goal in the 76th, as Shore took down Florence, 3-1, to earn its first sectional title in eight years.

Of course, the championship run would not have been possible without all of the younger players stepping up. Junior Ty Jackson was a jayvee player a season ago and this season, he became a steady defender who even pushed up for a pair of goals in the win over Point Beach on Nov. 2.

The freshman duo of Cooper Attaway and Santino Scarponi were two regular contributors all year, with Attaway scoring a team-high 13 goals -- including five during the state tournament and two in the 5-0 win over Point Beach last week.

Sophomore Stephen Molnar also had a heavy hand in the championship run, posting a goal or an assist in all four playoff wins and finishing the tournament with two goals and six assists.

Junior Kevin Barfield's return in goal after a strong debut as a sophomore in 2021 helped stabilize Shore's formation and Barfield continued to perform in the postseason, allowing two goals in four victories in Central Jersey Group I.

The Blue Devils wrapped up the season with a modest record of 9-10-3, but a challenging regular-season schedule, a feel-good championship run and a young, returning roster with the possibility of Eichenbaum and DeRosa returning have coach Christian Pontier and his team thinking even bigger for 2023.

2022 Boys Soccer Team of the Week Winners

Week 1: Middletown South

Week 2: Point Pleasant Boro

Week 3: Marlboro

Week 4: Matawan

Week 5: Howell

Week 6: Middletown North

Week 7: CBA

Week 8: Toms River North

Week 9: Shore

LOOK: See America's 50 Best Beach Towns

Every beach town has its share of pluses and minuses, which got us thinking about what makes a beach town the best one to live in. To find out, Stacker consulted data from WalletHub, released June 17, 2020, that compares U.S. beach towns. Ratings are based on six categories: affordability, weather, safety, economy, education and health, and quality of life. The cities ranged in population from 10,000 to 150,000, but they had to have at least one local beach listed on TripAdvisor. Read the full methodology here. From those rankings, we selected the top 50. Readers who live in California and Florida will be unsurprised to learn that many of towns featured here are in one of those two states.

Keep reading to see if your favorite beach town made the cut.

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