UNION, NJ – The Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School boys’ varsity soccer team’s County title streak is over at five, as the Raiders were defeated by the Westfield Blue Devils by a score of 2-1 Friday night in the Union County Tournament (UCT) finals at Kean University.
The highly anticipated matchup attracted a big crowd, and as standard with any Scotch Plains versus Westfield game, drew large contingents of student fan sections.
Westfield struck first, when Owen Prybylski’s header found the back of the net in the 22nd minute of the first half.
“Owen Prybylski with the header for our first goal really [stood out],” Westfield Head Coach Eric Shaw said.
Westfield’s momentum led to another goal later in the first half, coming off the foot of Pierre Titti, sending Blue Devils' fans at Kean’s Alumni Stadium into frenzy.
“This game, we told ourselves that if we go up, we’re going to continue to press and continue our shape and continue playing,” Shaw said.
Meanwhile, Scotch Plains-Fanwood was having trouble creating momentum on offense. One of their best opportunities came late in the first half, but Rob Devine-Gelling’s header went just to the right of the goal. Likewise, Westfield goalie Cullen Birkel made an acrobatic save on a Scotch Plains penalty-kick in the seventh minute of the second half.
Down 2-0 with under 10 minutes left to play, Scotch Plains’ Ryan Peterson put the Raiders on the board, finding the back of the net in the 32nd minute of the second half. For the Raiders, it was their last hurrah, as Westfield won its first UCT Championship since 2010 eight minutes later.
“Scotch Plains is obviously a rival of ours, but I don’t really think [the rivalry] had that much effect. We were just energized about being in the final and winning a championship,” Coach Shaw said after his team’s victory.
On the other side, the Raiders and their fans walked away quietly, as they failed to deliver their sixth-consecutive County title.
The Blue Devils' goalie, Cullen Birkel, recorded seven saves, while SP-F's Sean Murray notched five.
“Our goal at the beginning of the years is that we want three trophies – one for counties, one for sectionals and one for states,” said junior midfielder John Murphy. “Everyone’s disappointed, but it’s on to the next one, so there’s that to look forward to.”
“The next one” for the Raiders will be on Monday, as the Raiders begin the North 2, Group 4 State Tournament with a 2:00 p.m. match at home against North Hunterdon. The Blue Devils begin the State Tournament Monday, as well, playing host to Phillipsburg.