Barnegat Weathers Storm to Stay Unbeaten in Boys Soccer

By DAVID BIGGY | Oct 02, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy Barnegat’s Grady Edwards tries to advance the ball with a defender wrapped around him during the Bengals’ 5-0 win over Manchester on Sept. 26.

Barnegat — An additional 40-minute rain delay coming out of halftime could have turned into disaster for the Barnegat boys soccer team on Sept. 26. Instead, the Bengals weathered the storm and made a big statement to anybody watching the Shore Conference Class B South standings.

“Coach said right before we went back out to the field that we needed to be better,” said senior Grady Edwards, who scored twice and gave out an assist during the Bengals’ 5-0 thumping of Manchester. “Manchester was in first place in the division and they were hungry. But we’ve shown everybody we’re for real.”

Holding a 1-0 halftime lead – after Edwards’ indirect kick was headed in by classmate Matt White with nearly 20 minutes gone by in the first half – the Bengals and Hawks were about to take the field for the second half when a line of thunderstorms zipped through the area. Lightning forced the teams into the locker room for at least 30 minutes.

Once the game resumed some 40 minutes later, Manchester came out with fire, immediately putting sustained pressure on Barnegat’s defense for the better part of 10 minutes. An excellent scoring chance off a corner kick had to be snatched by Barnegat goalkeeper Zach Oliver at close range.

Eventually, head coach Kevin Peters’ crew began turning the momentum, but the game continued to go back and forth until a quick counterattack led to the Bengals’ second goal. Freshman Jesse Hedlund, receiving a long serve from defender Kenneth Franke, buried it for a 2-0 lead with 28:01 left.

“They put us back on our heels right away,” Peters said. “Besides the fact we were playing the team leading the division, in a 1-0 game, the weather and delay added another element of adversity. But we had more to prove out there, and our players handled the adversity, kept their heads, and turned it around, which was a very telling thing.”

Still, the Hawks (6-3) weren’t done trying to claw their way back into the contest. During the ensuing eight minutes, they continued to press the Bengals’ back end but to no avail. With about 17 minutes left, Manchester got its last great scoring chance when Vincent Paolillo received a service from the left side of the field and, from 5 yards away, headed it on goal. Oliver made the huge save – one of his nine for the game – to preserve the shutout.

Two minutes later, Barnegat (7-0-1) worked the ball through the middle and Hedlund dispossessed a Manchester defender near the 30-yard line before carrying the ball a few strides forward and bending a shot from 25 yards into the upper right corner for a 3-0 lead. Just a minute and a half later, Edwards took a direct kick from 21 yards, sent it over Manchester’s wall and into the goal for a 4-0 margin. Edwards later added another long-distance dinger from 23 yards, off the right side of the penalty area, to cap the scoring.

“We have a lot of great leaders and nobody is selfish,” Edwards said. “We’ve had a little bit of selfishness in the past, but we’re all going in the same direction and playing as a complete team. We’re all in it for each other now. We push each other, and the seniors push the younger guys in a positive way.”

The win placed Barnegat in unprecedented territory – not only atop the division but unbeaten through eight games and heading into the midway point of the season.

“I knew what this group was capable of as the season started, and we had pieces in place we hadn’t typically had in past years,” Peters said. “But we have a great group of seniors who are good role models, and great people. A lot of them have been playing together for eight or nine years, and it’s been an easy group to work with because they understand they have to lead the way.”

Earlier in the week, Barnegat went to Pinelands Regional and ended up with a 1-1 tie. If they obtain wins over Donovan Catholic (Oct. 2) and Jackson Liberty (Oct. 8), it will give the program its first division crown in its 15-year history.

“The most important day is the one you’re on. The only game that’s important is the next one,” Peters said. “As coaches, we just keep drilling it into them that they can’t get to the next step without working hard now. And we put it on the seniors to create the culture for what they want Barnegat soccer to be. They’ve done a great job at changing the mindset within the program.”

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