WASHINGTON TWP. – It was nobody’s definition of a nice day to play a high level soccer game.
“Conditions were terrible,” said Washington Township High School junior Chad Yates. “Left and right people were falling all over the place. You couldn’t really get your footing . . . it was really just a mind game out there.”
If so, it was a game Yates managed to win both for himself and for his team.
Despite playing in cold, windy and rainy conditions, Yates scored two goals to lead the Minutemen to a 3-1 win over Shawnee in the South Jersey Group 4 boys semifinal.
It was the 13th win in a row for the No. 1-ranked Minuteman (20-2-1) and it was their 17th game in a row without a loss, including a 1-1 tie with Shawnee on Oct. 4.
The run developed after the Minutemen got off to a slow start to the season. They lost their opener to Shawnee and then dropped a decision to Lenape -- their last loss on Sept. 25.
According to Yates, teamwork and hard work have been the keys to that success.
“We’re all just working together from club to high school,” he said. “In high school soccer, it’s mainly just working as hard as you can.
“Each team, no matter the skill level, as long as they’re working, they might get the result on any given day.”
Tuesday’s victory earned them the right to meet Rancocas Valley Friday in hopes of securing their fourth straight sectional championship.
The two teams met only a little more than a week ago in the South Jersey Coaches Association final and Washington Township won 2-0.
Last season, Washington Township won the sectional title with an overtime win over RV.
Tuesday’s weather conditions were a factor for both teams as players from each side struggled with their footing throughout the game.
It’s a testament to both teams that, despite the obstacles, they played at a fairly high level.
“It wasn’t probably the prettiest game to watch,” said Washington Township coach Shane Snyder. “But I thought both teams handled it well. Both teams tried to connect with passes. Both teams tried to move the ball.
“It wasn’t like just kick it and hope.”
Yates set the tone early when he scored on a high shot with an assist from Will McCusker fewer than three minutes into the game.
He later added a goal on a penalty kick, one of two such goals the Minutemen scored in the game. The other penalty kick goal came from Brett Guetens with 10:19 to play and all but sealed the outcome.
The first goal, Yates said, was a big one -- especially coming so early into the game.
“The first goal is the most important goal,” he said. “We came into this game knowing the first goal, that’s going to set the tempo right away.”
However, Shawnee did recover from the early goal some 10 minutes later when Devin Ribeiro fired in a direct kick from the right side with 27:44 remaining in the half.
But Yates’ penalty kick with 19 minutes remaining in the half seemed to turn the momentum for good.
Shawnee coach Ryan Franks was not happy that two penalty kicks went against his team.
“It’s not to take anything away from Washington Township; I think they’re a very good team,” he said. “I hope that they do well, but it is tough to end your seasons on two touch fouls.”
Snyder had a different view. He credited his players for flooding the box and forcing the Shawnee defenders to make contact and creating the fouls.
Despite falling behind, Shawnee tried to keep the pressure on, but it was difficult for either team to sustain much momentum on offense.
Even still, with the conditions of the field and with the unpredictability of playing with a wet ball, Washington Township goalie Mike Palone had to be ready for anything.
As has been the case in recent games he’s been up to the task, but he didn’t take the credit for his contributions.
“Honestly our defense was able to clear almost everything out,” Palone said. “So I give them credit for that.”
S.J. Group 4 semifinal
Shawnee 1 0 -1
Washington Twp. 2 1-3
Goals: WT: Chad Yates 2, Brett Guettens, S: Devin Ribeiro, Goalie: Phil Gardella, S, (6 saves), Mike Pagone, WT (5 saves).