SCOTCH PLAINS, NJ – A new page in the heated Scotch Plains-Fanwood rivalry has been written, as the Raiders defeated their crosstown-rival Blue Devils at Wexler Field Saturday afternoon, 2-1.
It was clear early on that this wasn’t just an ordinary game, as large contingents of Westfield and Scotch Plains fans filled the stands over an hour before game-time, and it was a standing-room only event.
The game lived up to its hype.
Westfield came out strong and struck first in the 28th minute of the game, on Michael Birel’s goal from beyond the 18-yard line. Birle received an assist from Owen Prybylski, who made the pass through multiple Raider defenders right of the goal on the 6-yard line.
It didn’t take long for the Raiders to even up the score, as Tommy DeVizio found the back of the net for the second time in the Raiders’ first two games.
“He’s got an engine – he never stops. He [DeVizio] keeps running and usually pays dividends”, said Raiders coach Tom Breznitzky, who garnered his 698th victory Saturday.
For the rest of the first half, the more interesting dialogue was the one that occurred between Scotch Plains’ student fan section, and Westfield’s contingent of students. Several not-so-friendly chants echoed around an already electric Wexler Field.
When asked about the raucous, and at times, hostile atmosphere, Breznitzky said: “[We] handled that fine. It’s been going on for years. Maybe a couple of guys who were newcomers that played in front of that [for the first time], but it doesn’t have any effect.”
Scotch Plains and Westfield matched each other through the first 20 minutes of the second half, as both teams couldn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities.
It took until the 60th minute for SP-F to take the lead, but Ryan Peterson’s goal off an assist by Rob Devine-Gelling put the Raiders ahead, 2-1, and sent “Raider Nation” into frenzy. Peterson was joined by his teammates in giving out high-fives and hugs with the boisterous fan section.
The Raiders held Westfield off the board for the final 19 minutes, securing a victory over their conference rivals.
In his post-game interview, Breznitzky said that “Westfield out-hustled us. I don’t think they played as tough. I think they out-hustled us, and they worked hard and that allowed them to be somewhat in the game with us.”
Andrew Murray tallied three stops to hold Westfield to their lone goal, while Westfield goalie Cullen Birkel racked seven.
The Raiders continue their season on Tuesday as they visit Linden at 4:00 p.m. The Blue Devils pay a visit to the Elizabeth Minutemen Tuesday night at 6:45 p.m.
SP-F and Westfield will meet again on Saturday, Oct. 4 at Westfield’s Gary Kehler Stadium.