CLARK, NJ- Before their game Monday night, the Arthur L. Johnson High School Crusaders boys varsity soccer team honored their senior players with a Senior Night ceremony on the field.
Co-captains Zach Thornton, Logan Guarino and Greg Zukowski, along with seniors Bernardo Alfonso, Joe Benevento, Joe Bill, Sammy Burkhard, Anthony Caldiero, Chris Cundari, Matt Diaz, Brandon Domingues, Niko Nordstrom, Matt Tavares, Matt Vigliotti and Ross Wildes, along with manager Dan Zatko gathered.
The group of seniors earned the praise of their head coach for their hard work and dedication to the program for their entire soccer careers.
“It’s an absolute pleasure to have these seniors in the program,” Johnson head coach Dan House said. “The best part of having these seniors is that they’re all great friends. They’ve been playing since they’re about six or seven years old and it’s a great way to honor them throughout their whole soccer career for Senior Night.”
The Crusaders would then take to the field against the Roselle Catholic High School Lions. For most of the first half, Johnson would get every major chance they could on net. Despite receiving corner kicks and getting good looks, Johnson couldn’t quite get themselves on the scoreboard.
At the same time, Johnson’s defense prevented Roselle Catholic from setting up any major scoring opportunities.
The Crusaders and the Lions were scoreless at halftime, but it took only a few minutes into the second half for that to change.
Tavares banked home a shot past Roselle Catholic goaltender Ivan Arizaga to put his team up 1-0. The goal was Tavares’ first one of the season.
“In the second half, we came out a lot better,” Tavares said. “We were able to put four in the net in the second half and to be able to be with all my friends and celebrate, it’s just a great feeling.”
A few minutes later, chances for the Crusaders were turning into more scoring plays, as Thornton buried a header into the back of the net to give his team a 2-0 lead on his first goal of the season. He echoed Tavares’ words regarding the team’s turnaround in the second half.
“We were able to put passes together [and] we worked as a team,” Thornton said. “We had some chances in the first half, we just couldn’t finish. We came out in the second half, Matt [Tavares’] goal started us off and I followed it. We were able to stick together; great team win and a great Senior Night.”
The theme of the second half for the Crusaders was finishing the scoring chances to keep the Lions from gaining any ground as the game went along.
With all the missed chances earlier on, the adjustments made by Coach House and the Crusaders started to come together as the second half went along.
“We tried to help [the players] figure out the offsides trap,” House said of the halftime talk with his players. “We made adjustments and we moved the ball around a lot better and were able to capitalize on our plan that we wanted to accomplish.”
The Crusaders continued to control ball possession inside of the Lions’ zone and the scoring continued. Burkhard’s first goal built a comfortable 3-0 lead for Johnson.
“When you start high school as a freshman, you start off and you’re not really used to the guys until you put on the uniform and you’re playing,” Burkhard said. “You find friends and you find the love for the game and find everything you want from the game. You find a family.”
The Johnson defense chased down the ball every chance Roselle Catholic had of possibly aiming for goals to try and get back in the game.
Guarino joined in on the scoring with a goal to make the game 4-0 Johnson, the final score on the evening as the Crusaders closed out the win on Senior Night. He credits his team’s consistent, hard-working ethic with their successes so far during the season.
“We put in a lot of hard work during the summer and practice every day,” Guarino said. “It feels good to win and play with all the guys and my friends. We’ve been playing together for many years.”
Wildes stopped all three Roselle Catholic shots that came his way for the shutout, but gives credit to his defense for their effort in keeping the ball away from the net on the evening.
“The goal is to win every game this year,” Wildes said. “Even though I didn’t get as much action as I was hoping for coming into the game, that’s not a bad thing. Our defense played well, our team played well and every win is a good win.”
The Johnson Crusaders (4-1) head out on the road to play at Rahway HS Saturday morning at 10:00 a.m.
The Roselle Catholic Lions (0-2) return home and will take on Brearley HS (Kenilworth) Thursday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.