The Berkeley Heights Rovers won the 2020 Roxbury Kickoff Classic Tournament this past weekend.  This was the Rovers inaugural appearance in this event, sponsored by the Roxbury Soccer Club and iSE, which has been a staple to Roxbury Township’s Horseshoe Lake property for over two decades.  The Rovers competed in the Elite Platinum bracket (top flight) and played four games in three days over Labor Day Weekend.

The opening game for the Rovers was a night game under the lights against World Class FC SCP Roxbury in which they won in a dominant performance scoring five goals in the first half and three in the second half for an 8-0 victory. The Rovers second game was against the PSA Wildcat Bosses and after a scoreless first half, they put up five goals in the second half and posted another shut-out victory 5-0.  These two wins gave the Rovers the #1 seed in their bracket assuring them a spot in the semifinals.

The Rovers needed to win their semifinal game against the Kearny Thistle United FC Gunners to advance to the championship game. In a thrilling back and forth game, which saw the Rovers down at half-time by a score of 2-1, the Rovers had to dig deep to come back from the halftime deficit. Coach Jason Beech of Far Post Soccer, in his Rovers coaching debut, was able to calm the boys down at halftime and convince them to come out in the second half and play "Rovers Soccer." 

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Clearly inspired, these boys came out and dominated possession, connected passes and within the first five minutes tied the game up 2-2. Ten minutes later they continued to play the "beautiful game" and struck again taking a 3-2 lead. With only ten seconds left, they sealed it with a final goal for a 4-2 victory.  This win propelled the Berkeley Heights Rovers into the finals against NESA Elite.

After a thirty-minute game break, the Rovers played for the Championship Trophy.  In an enthusiastic pregame speech complete with tactics and gameplay advice, Coach Jason reminded the boys that their feet are only their tools as the game of soccer is played with their mind, from the mind it runs through a committed heart full of passion, which leads to those tools — their feet. 

From the opening whistle the Rovers had a confidence and intensity about their play, and after countless unconverted scoring opportunities they went into halftime tied 0-0. The Rovers stayed calm and came out starting the half the same way the first half ended. Fifteen seconds from the sound of that second half whistle, in what appeared to be a scripted sequence, the Rovers jumped out to 1-0 lead. The Rovers scored two more goals over the next twelve minutes, to lead by a score of 3-0. 

With approximately seven minutes left, NESA got one back on the Rovers for a score of 3-1, which is where it would end.

The Berkeley Heights Rovers were crowned champions of the 2020 Roxbury Kickoff Classic Labor Day Tournament.

The players, coaches and families of the Berkeley Heights Youth Soccer Club Rovers would like to thank the host (Roxbury Soccer Club) and organizers (iSE) for very well run and exciting tournament.

Rovers Team (pictured) from left to right: (back row) Coach: Jason Beech, Players: Ethan Skyba, Ryan Cottam, Liam Cottam, JP Rotta, Derek Zanko, Luke Delle Donna, Louis Abbey; (front row) Anthony Barca, Aayan Maharjan, Denny Trainor, Jacob Gross, Matthew Gross, Akshat Khanna, Evan Belyarchik.  Not pictured: Players: Nicholas Fusari, Jack Casalaina; Coach Mark Robertson.

Editor's note: Editor's Note: Do you know a Berkeley Heights or Mountainside team, player or resident that should receive special recognition in TAPinto Berkeley Heights, TAPinto Mountainside or TAPinto New Providence? Send a picture along with the appropriate photo credit and caption to bpeer@tapinto.net

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