RANDOLPH, NJ- An early goal by senior captain Joe Reed helped spark the Randolph boys’ soccer team to a 3-0 victory in the NJSIAA State Sectional Championship on Saturday, Nov. 21 at DaSilva Field in Randolph. (Link at end of story with Extra Game Photos)
“Getting the first goal of the game so early reassured us that we could win this game,” said Reed. “Obviously we couldn’t relax, but it let us play our game and gave us an advantage from that point on.”
The goal came just over five minutes in, on a corner kick from Ethan Kim – and was the only corner kick of the first half for the Rams.
“I just started on the back post and made a run to the middle and managed to lose my man,” said Reed. “There might have been a bit of luck because not one of those has gone in for me in practice this year, but this time I managed to get it onto the bottom left corner.”
The rest of the half saw both teams battle evenly, as the aggressive and physical play resulted in three yellow cards against the Rams and one against the Knights.
Goalkeeper Nick Alvarado cleaned up every ball that came his way, finishing the tournament with a clean slate on three shutouts in three games.
“I have been playing with these boys since we were kids, and I don’t feel like I did anything special in these three games, we are just a strong team all around,” said Alvarado. “Our game plan today was the same as other games, bring intensity and come out and play hard because we knew these guys were tough since they beat Clifton to get here.”
In the second half, the Rams again were quick to strike, stunning the Knights with another early goal. This one came off the foot of Kevin Martinez on a beautiful combination play.
Senior Alex Marks started a give and go play with Akai Utku on the left side of the field, and after collecting the return pass back from Utku, he found Martinez darting to the middle of the 18 from the opposite side.
Marks hit Martinez between two defenders, and the sophomore settled the ball, took one touch and fired a left-footed shot past the goalkeeper for a 2-0 lead.
For most of the second half, the Rams controlled play and were relentless in applying pressure that forced turnovers and mistakes by the Knights that resulted in scoring chances.
It seemed inevitable that they would score again, and at the 24-minute mark, Utku put the nail in the Knights coffin scoring on a partial breakaway up the right wing.
“Rohan played the ball upfield, and Keaney was going for it but realized he was offsides, so he stopped running to it,” said Utku. “I had an onside run, so I then came from the back side and I don’t think anyone expected that. I saw the goalie dive left so I put the ball in the right corner - I was happy to finish and help my team out.”
From there, the Rams played smart and safe soccer in order to preserve their lead and get the clock down to 0:00.
“It all started in Pre-season, we had our eye on one goal which was winning a championship,” said senior captain Josh Levy. “We work so well together as a team, we knew if we worked hard enough it could happen.”
In this Covid-19 altered and abbreviated season, the Rams finished with a record of 13-1, the only blemish coming in their final regular season game. While they didn’t play some of their usual foes, they won their conference pod as well as the newly created North West D State Sectional bracket.
Coach George Mousis was all smiles after the win, and was eager to heap praise on his group, particularly the seniors.
“There is so much I can say about these guys, but I believed in them, and they believed in themselves as the year progressed,” said Mousis. “I am so proud of them all, they play together like a great collective unit. Our captains and all 17 seniors provided tremendous leadership, they really are a great group of players.”
Extra Game photos CLICK HERE