UNION, NJ – Heartbreak, anger and disbelief.
Those emotions ensued as the Scotch Plains-Fanwood boys’ team fell to the Hunterdon Central Red Devils, 1-0, in a wild and emotional Group 4 State Final game in the snow and wind at Kean University.
The Raiders and Red Devils were mired in a tie late in the second half. Everything changed with three minutes left to play.
Hunterdon Central took a shot on goal, which was stopped by Sean Murray. The ball deflected off Murray, the Red Devils’ Jacob Grant took it and tapped it to the back of the net, giving Hunterdon Central the lead with 2:42 left in the game.
Then pandemonium started.
The Raiders’ bench erupted in anger, believing Murray had the ball solidly in his possession and then Grant took it from him. Tommy DeVizio, one of many Raiders arguing, received a red card as a result. Tempers flared through the final two minutes. As soon as the final whistle blew, SP-F and HC engaged in a scuffle with all of Kean’s Alumni Stadium in disbelief, and Raider players emerged emotionally distraught.
Head Coach Tom Breznitsky issued a statement after the game: “It was the worst call in 42 years of coaching that I’ve ever seen. It’s an infraction of the rule – you can’t kick the ball out of the goalkeeper’s hands while he has the ball… It’s just disgusting.”
The first half was sluggish compared to what would follow in the second half. The Raiders came out with more after the break but could not find the back of the net, despite multiple shots on goal. Hunterdon Central had two good looks on free-kicks in the game's first 20 minutes, but Martin Menendez missed on both of them.
Andrew Picasso of Hunterdon Central and Ryan Peterson of SP-F both received yellow-cards within a minute of each other early in the second half.
The Raiders say farewell to 11 seniors following the loss, many of whom were distraught at the game’s conclusion.
"Soccer can be a very, very cruel game," Coach Brez said after the game. "We're all certainly heartbroken, especially these guys that worked so hard, but so be it."
This loss will leave a sour taste with SP-F before they look for redemption next year.