RICHLAND – Over the past couple of seasons the Atlantic City High School boys’ soccer team has made incremental inroads into becoming a South Jersey power.
This is the season the Vikings may have finally hit their mark.
State leading scorer Shadrach Asadu tied a school single-season record with his 31st goal and keeper Jonathan Murillo kept the nets clean Wednesday as the No. 5 Vikings gained a 1-0 Cape-Atlantic American Division win over No. 10 St. Augustine Prep.
The win pushed Atlantic City’s record to 13-0-1, their only blemish coming with a scoreless tie in their first meeting with the Hermits (6-4-3).
A perennial power in their own right, the Hermits have now gone five straight games without scoring a goal.
The significance of the win was not lost on Asadu, who says the Vikings have been striving to put together this type of season.
“This is special,” he said. “We’re really blessed. For the past years we’ve always wanted to have the kind of seasons that Mainland and the Prep have had. I think it’s finally happening for us this year, so I’m really happy about it.”
Asadu says he feels like the team is on a mission.
“We all have the same mindset this year,” he said. “We have a goal. For the past years we could always say we had one more year. But for this year – our senior year – we don’t have one more year. If we’re going to do it, it has to be this year.”
According to coach Maurice Lozzi, the team centers around three seniors who have been four-year members of the team. Asadu, Gio Paz and Eduardo Puerta-Ortiz have been a factor in the team winning 46 games during their tenure at the school.
But the coach says others have been part of the success story as well.
“We have experienced guys who have been through many different scenarios,” he said. “There wasn’t going to be anything that was going to hold them back.”
Lozzi used Wednesday’s game as an example.
“The team did a real good job of just winning balls, playing, covering,” he said. “This was a big game for us today, because these guys are on a mission – to challenge with the division championship. I’m very proud of them. They deserve it.”
The lone goal of the game came in the 56th minute when Shadrach was pulled down the box trying to get to a corner kick. He then deposited a penalty kick.
A native of Ghana, Shadrach has become one of the region’s most reliable offensive players. He now has a school record 78 goals for his career.
“We got the ball to the right guy and he made it happen," Lozzi said of Asadu. "He’s a dynamic player. “He’s no frills. He doesn’t complain. He plays hard, and he does whatever he can for his team. For me, he’s just a kid who does what it takes.”
For his part, Asuda rejects the suggestion that he is the centerpiece player on the team. He says a lot of his success comes for the way his teammates play around him, setting up his goals.
“I’m just proud of our team,” he said. “They’re the reason I score. They pass it to me and I score. We work hard. It’s not just one player or one goal, we play together as a team. In the last minute today everybody came together to make sure they wouldn’t get a goal.”
Puerta-Ortiz also spoke about how the Vikings approach each game as a team effort.
“We’ve been together for a long time and we really want it now,” he said. “We’re hungry and that’s all it is.”
But admits to have a teammate like Asadu helps loosen things up for everyone else.
“Every game we know we have a goal-scorer who is going to get a goal,” Puerta-Ortiz said. “On defense, we just do our job, and wait for him to do his job on offense.”
Atlantic City 0-1-1
St. Augustine 0-0-0
Goals: Shadrach Asadu, Goalies: Jonathan Murillo, AC, (5 saves).Nick Pilny, SA, (7 saves).