BRIDGEWATER, NJ — Bridgewater-Raritan boys’ soccer remained undefeated, advanced in the state tournament and gained some revenge in the process. A year after Scotch Plains-Fanwood ousted the Panthers from the state sectional tournament, the Panthers returned the favor and defeated their North 2, Group 4 counterparts, 2-0, in the sectional quarterfinals Friday.
Bridgewater-Raritan (16-0-2) flexed its offensive force and scored twice to come away victorious. Oliver Trujillo put one between the posts in the 22nd minute on an assist from Nathan Han, then Han added a score of his own in minute number 47 to account for both of the Panthers’ scores.
“Our team’s been doing so well,” said senior captain Dom Demcak. “When we played against Hunterdon Central, we realized it was our last regular season game and they’re really tough, so we just implemented that game into this game, and came out and it worked.”
Whatever the Panthers implemented paid dividends very early. In the opening half, Oliver Trujillo’s score gave the Panthers a lead they’d hold onto for the remaining 67 minutes. His goal was the fruit of a beautiful set of ball movements on the outside perimeter of the six-box. From the right corner, Sean Masur passed up center to Han, who then booted the ball to Trujillo, standing alone on the left corner of the box. Trujillo buried his strike, aiming it above Scotch Plains keeper Aaron Schack.
“We practice a lot of passing everyday, there’s an hour of passing drills at every practice before we go do other things,” head coach Rick Szeles said about his team’s display of ball movement on the goal. “Very happy with the team’s positioning and the movement with the ball and without the ball.”
The Panthers received their second goal from the man they’d been waiting on. After being vocally encouraged by his bench to “shoot!” all afternoon long, Han finished a pass sent from Brandon Jimenez to put Bridgewater-Raritan up, 2-0. The goal was Han’s first of the season, and his assist was also a first.
“We’ve been telling him to shoot the ball all season,” Szeles said with a smile. “[These are] the first shots he’s taken all year. We’re happy with him.”
Bridgewater-Raritan did an exceptional job applying offensive pressure on Scotch Plains-Fanwood the entire afternoon. The Panthers were constantly creating havoc on the Raiders’ goal, firing off seven total shots-on-goal and also booting five corner kicks.
Defensively, the Panthers shut out a Raiders offense that had come into the match red-hot. The Raiders had scored 12 goals in their previous five matches leading up to Friday, but Bridgewater-Raritan squandered most scoring chances and held Scotch Plains to just four shots on target.
“We just had to stay behind their midfield three, which we knew was their strongest point on the field,” Demcak said. “We did that well with our midfield three, and we shut them down.”
The Raiders actually did find the back of the net once, but the goal was negated. In the 47th minute, Brogan Quigley sent a cross to Zidan Abdella, who one-timed a strike between the posts. Celebration was short-lived, however, as it was called off on an “over the line” call, and the Raiders were not too happy about it.
“Brogan had the ball, the ball was not completed over the line, he served a ball in, we scored the goal and they called the ball over the line,” said Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Tom Breznitsky. “They [Scotch Plains-Fanwood players] gave each and everything that they possibly could’ve given in the match."
Both sides became perturbed by the officiating over the course of the match. On three occasions, Scotch Plains was issued yellow cards — including two to Owen Murphy — and the Panthers’ also received one.
Goalkeeper Calum Erlenborn needed just two saves to complete his ninth shutout of the season. Scotch Plains keeper Schack made three stops.
With the win, Bridgewater-Raritan advances to the sectional semifinals, where they’ll meet perennial powerhouse Elizabeth. The match will be played next Tuesday in Bridgewater, with time to be determined.