CHERRY HILL – Paul Bechtelheimer understood what his coaches wanted.
“When it set up, they told me to make a run across the box,” the St. Augustine senior outside back said. “Maybe get a head on the ball, maybe cause a distraction. I knew what I was supposed to do.”
“Just put it inside the six-yard line,” junior Antonio Matos said. “If you put it in the area, a lot can happen. A lot happened.”
Matos scored his second game winning goal in as many games as St. Augustine, the No.2 seed in the South Jersey Soccer Coaches Association Tournament, beat No.1 Washington Township 2-1 on Saturday night in the championship game. The Hermits (15-3-3) not only beat the defending champion Minutemen but they put an end to Township’s run at a perfect season as they fell to 19-1-0 on the year.
“This has been a long time in the making,” said Hermits head coach Steve Rolando, whose program last made the final and won it in 2010. “Washington Township is such a strong program that to beat them shows just how strong our team is. I knew this would be a special year, with this group of seniors.
“At halftime, I told them it was on them. We were down 1-0 but it was on us to either go at them hard and take this game or let them have the title. I never doubted which choice they would take.”
Down 1-0, St. Augustine came out of halftime the aggressor, to the extent that the usually solid Township defense took to its heels. The Minutemen actually lost some of their formation shape and St. Augustine was more than ready to exploit any opening.
“We were just looking to create chances,” said junior Kevin Witkoski, who is one of 14 underclassmen on the roster. “I beat the defender on the left side and took a chance. To get that goal, it really gave us the momentum.”
Both teams had chances later in the game but the biggest came just short of the midway point of the second half. A foul outside the Township box gave Matos a chance at a restart. The junior put one on net that found its way past Bechtelheimer who was making a diagonal run to the near post. That run drew three defenders and created more than just a distraction for Township keeper Mike Pagano as the ball sailed in for a 2-1 lead.
“The objective was to create confusion,” Bechtelheimer said. “It did that.”
“You put it into the area because anything can happen,” Matos said. “You could see all those defenders moving in on goal after I hit it. All that motion, all that activity and the ball gets through a lot more than you would think.”
The Hermits defense settled in from that point limiting Township’s leading scorer Chad Yates to no quality touches in dangerous areas.
“He was our focus,” Bechtelheimer said. “We know they have some injuries but everyone is banged up now. We just had a plan and executed it.”
This is a great win and luckily we have a bye in the state tournament,” Rolando said. “But we still have plenty of work left to do.”
Hermits 2, Minutemen 1
St. Augustine 0—2----2
Washington Twp. 1—1----1
SA: Antonio Matos, Kevin Witkoski. WT: Arturo Serano.