SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ – One of New Jersey’s most prominent boys’ soccer programs will be going for the eighth state championship in school history. Sunday night at Kean University, the Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders (22-3) will play the Hunterdon Central Red Devils (17-1-2) in the New Jersey Group 4 Championship Game – their second such game in the last three years.
State Championship History
The Raiders have a rich history in state championships. This is their 14th-ever state championship game appearance, and second as a Group 4 school. The Raiders’ last appearance in the final came in 2014, when they were defeated by Washington Township, 1-0, also at Kean University. Scotch Plains’ last state title came in 1998 as a Group 3 school. They defeated Delsea that year to take the crown. SP-F has won seven total state championships – seventh-most in New Jersey – all of which came at the helm of current Head Coach Tom Breznitsky.
It’s a bit of a different story for Hunterdon Central. The Red Devils have never won a state championship, and have appeared in only one title game. That came in 2010, when they fell to Cherokee in the Group 4 Finals.
Road to the Title Game
The Raiders, pre-season favorites to win the Group 4 Title, rode an explosive state tournament to reach Sunday’s championship. In the North 2, Group 4 Sectional Playoffs, they defeated North Hunterdon on Oct. 31 behind John Murphy’s free-kick goal, downed Ridge on Nov. 3 behind a pair of goals, pulled off an overtime victory in Millburn on Nov. 7 courtesy of Patrick Ellman’s goal and took the sectional crown on Nov. 10 after an offensive attack took down Bridgewater-Raritan. In the Group Semifinals Tuesday night in Somerville, Ryan Peterson’s double-overtime goal put the Raiders past Kearny in one of the tightest game of the season.
Hunterdon Central defeated Montgomery, Freehold Township, Monroe and Marlboro to win the Central Group 4 bracket. The Red Devils defeated Washington Township in penalty kicks Tuesday night in Hopewell Valley to advance to the Championship. They have outscored opponents in the state tournament, 10-1.
Examining Both Teams
The Raiders’ offense has been very strong all season long. Entering play Sunday, the Scotch Plains squad has averaged 2.6 goals-per-game in the 25 games they’ve played. A major reason for that is midfielder John Murphy, a junior, who leads the team in goals with 18 and has recorded nine assists. In the State Tournament, Ryan Peterson, a senior, has come up with large goals for the Raiders, including the golden-goal in the Group Semifinals Tuesday night and the go-ahead goal in the Round 2 game against Ridge on Nov. 3. Tommy DeVizio, leader in assists with 12, brings speed to the offense while scoring nine times in 2016. A key for the Raiders off the bench is Parker Dvorin, a senior, who owns four goals on the season. Dvorin had a header goal called off Tuesday night. On the defensive end, SP-F has only allowed only one goal in the Tournament. All-American goalie Sean Murray has recorded 49 saves.
Hunterdon Central boasts a very strong offense, as well. The Red Devils have averaged 3.8 goals-per-game in their 20 games played entering Sunday. Evan Youshock, a senior, has scored 24 goals this season. Josh Bordwick leads the Hunterdon County squad in assists with nine, and goalie Dan Mecadon has notched 63 saves.
The Raiders edged the Red Devils, 1-0, on Sept. 22. Senior Rob Devine-Gelling provided the Raiders’ only goal in the first half.
The last time SP-F played at Kean University, they lost in the Union County Championship Game, 2-1, to Westfield.
Sunday’s game will start at 5:30 p.m. at Kean University’s Alumni Stadium. The stadium is located on Green Lane in Union. Admission will be charged.