WEST DEPTFORD – Haddonfield High School boys soccer coach Ryan Nixon has come to expect a lot of offensive production from Steve DiTomasso.
The junior forward first made his reputation when he scored 13 goals last season, but the tallies haven’t been coming as frequently this so far this season.
The coach has been patient, waiting for DiTomasso to find his offensive rhythm, and now the wait may be over.
DiTomasso struck for two goals on Monday night, both came on skilled shots, and he led the Bulldawgs to an important 3-0 victory over West Deptford in a Colonial Conference Liberty Division game.
Nixon was pleased to see DiTomasso have a break-out game.
“I wouldn’t say he’s been in a slump,” he said. “He hasn’t had the offensive output we saw last year. But now he’s really starting to hit his stride.”
The win kept No. 2 Haddonfield undefeated at 10-0-1, while No. 7 West Deptford lost for the first time this season and fell to 9-1.
DiTomasso scored the second and third goals of the game, and Nixon was not surprised to see him come through in a big game.
“Steve is real hard-working,” he said. “His desire to score goals and his desire to win is a difference-maker for us.”
DiTomasso goals came after Jack Dugan got Haddonfield off to a good start. His successful penalty kick 19 minutes into the game gave the Bulldawgs the only goal they would need.
Playing for the first time in a couple of weeks after recovering from an injury, Haddonfield goalie Finn Miller posted 8 saves for the shutout.
Afterward, DiTomasso said the Bulldawgs approached the game as it was a showdown type of contest.
“This was huge game for us,” he said. “The Haddonfield-West Deptford rivalry is a big one. So this game meant a lot to me.”
As was the case with Nixon, some of DiTomasso’s teammates were waiting for him to get his offensive game going.
Dugan said he was sure it would only be a matter of time before it happened.
“This has always been Steve – he shows up in big moments,” Dugan said “We’ve seen it in the preseason and we saw it last year. He’s always been humongous in big games.
“Today that was evident. To step up with two goals in a game like this, that was tremendous for our confidence, He’s a huge player for us.”
According to Nixon, the Haddonfield attack was the difference.
“When you have players like Jack Dugan and Steve DiTomasso . . . we’re really been firing on all cylinders,” he said. “I thought tonight was evidence of that.”
“We have six or seven guys who, on any given day and night, could be dangerous.”
The teams played evenly though the opening portion of the game until a hand-ball foul in the box led to Dugan’s penalty kick opportunity.
West Deptford goalie Jackson Clark has been one of the main reasons the Eagles were able to get off to an unbeaten start, but he was no match for Dugan’s shot.
“(Getting the lead) was big,” Dugan said. “The atmosphere was pretty loud, and it was a pretty even game until that point. When I got my opportunity I stayed composed in that moment and I put it away.”
The 1-0 lead held until late in the first half when DiTomasso managed to get the ball away from a defender and score an unassisted goal.
West Deptford coach Steve Jakubowski felt that goal, coming so late in the half, took something out of his team.
“That kind of dropped our sails a little bit,” he said. “We need to overcome that. It was the first time all season that we were down, and we needed to come out a lot stronger.”
Any hope West Deptford had of getting back into the game waned in the closing minutes when DiTomasso picked up a loose ball near midfield.
He dribbled the ball about 50 yards on a break-away and beat Jackson one-on-one for the clincher.
West Deptford 0-0-0
Goals: Steve DiTomasso 2, Jack Dugan, Goalies: Finn Miller, H (8 saves), Jackson Clark, WD (7 saves)