SEWELL – This is not the time to get sentimental for the Washington Township High School boys’ soccer team.
This is no time to evaluate the current season. No time to place it in a historical context and certainly no time to think about what the past seven years have meant to the Minutemen.
Just ask head coach Shane Snyder.
“I’m not worried about any of that now,” Snyder said. “I’m worried about winning on Thursday.”
Jake Logar scored on a free kick in the first half and Arturo Serano followed suit in the second half on a self-made run as Washington Township beat Howell 2-1 in the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals on a damp Monday afternoon. The Minutemen (22-1) as the top-seed in South Jersey will play host to the winner of Tuesday’s game between No.5 Eastern – (14-5-2 with a pair of 3-0 losses on its spreadsheet to the Minutemen) – and No.2 Jackson Memorial, which postponed Monday’s game due to the conditions of their home field and now will play on the artificial surface across from Memorial's campus.
For Township, this afternoon provided a glimpse of the soccer they played earlier this season as they won their first 19 games of the season. Several injuries and some erratic play put chinks in their armor of invincibility but only St. Augustine broke through in the Coaches Tournament final two Saturdays ago won by the Hermits, 2-1.
“We’ve been a little lost the last four games,” said Serano, who is second on the team with 17 goals behind Chad Yates 24. “Like we said before, we haven’t played our best over the last few games. We can’t have any excuses, we just need to play the way we know how.
“Today we wanted to come out and play the way we had for most of the season. I think overall we were much better.”
With several games postponed due to the weather, Township stayed true to itself and kept the game on grass instead of a move over to Tom Brown Stadium, which has an artificial surface. The Minutemen have long preferred the natural surface of their soccer field which is also wider than the football field counterpart.
To that end, the Minutemen exploited the flanks and maintained the better of possession throughout the first half until Logar broke through with his third goal of the season on a restart from 23 yards to the outside right.
“We had to make the most of our opportunities,” Logar said. “I got taken down and I wanted that (restart). I know what’s on the line and I felt confident on that shot.
“We know the history here. We know we have a target on our backs. We know we will get the best from every team we face.”
Howell responded early in the second half on a goal that appeared aided by the conditions as Howell’s Dylan Dougher tied the game at 1-1 on a shot that saw the Township keeper slip on the wet surface inside the six-yard line.
In turn, the goal appeared to energize the Minutemen who controlled the rest of play which included a strong run by Serano.
The senior corralled the ball inside of midfield and willed his way onto the Rebels’ 18-yard line. Wary that the conditions may have prevented a penalty kick had he gone down on contact, Serano worked through several collisions and scored to give Township a 2-1 lead.
“All of this doesn’t mean anything unless we come out ready on Thursday,” Snyder said. “I thought we didn’t play as well over the last few games for whatever reason. I thought we played well today and that is what we take out of this.
“I think we got a little lucky against Millville (first round), we got lucky against Egg Harbor (quarterfinals) because they certainly could have been up 2-0 on us early. But today, our energy was better. That’s a good sign.”
As for the Minutemen’s chances at a fifth consecutive South Jersey Group 4 title, Snyder didn’t go there and had no intention about talking in terms of what-ifs and maybes. Then again, try as some may to get him to talk in those terms, who can argue with the coach that has orchestrated those six straight appearances.
Minutemen 2, Rebels 1
Washington Twp. 1—1---2
H: Dylan Dougher. WT; Jake Logar, Arturo Serano.