WESTAMPTON – Even after the Delran High School boys soccer team fell behind twice, Frankie Taylor said neither he nor his teammates doubted the eventual outcome of the game.
“We went down, but we weren’t negative on each other,” the Delran junior said. “We just wanted to work for each other. We knew we didn’t want the season to stop here. We wanted to keep going.”
And so the Bears did.
A perennial power in South Jersey Group 2, Delran overcame a pair of one-goal deficits Monday and used two goals by Taylor to turn back Haddonfield 4-2 in sectional semifinal played at the Westampton Sports Complex.
The No. 2 seeded Bears will now get a chance to defend their South Jersey championship when they play No. 4 Manasquan on Thursday.
The rallies did not surprise either Coach Mike Otto or his players.
The Bears not only annually play one of South Jersey’s toughest small-school schedules, but the Bears have a long history of going deep into the tournament.
They are battle tested and they expect to win close, tough games.
“Even after we went down a second time, we just believed in each other,” Taylor said. “We believed we were going to put this one away.”
Otto agreed that all the work and challenges the Bears face during the course of a season laid the ground work for the victory.
“At this time of the year, I think this was just a perfect character game for us,” he said. “It happened for us at a perfect time.”
“To come back twice against a program like Haddonfield says a lot about the character of my team.”
Aside from Taylor’s two goals, the Bears got a goal and an assist from senior Jayson Vandermark.
“Our team is full of nothing but character,” he said. “Coach Otto can’t get us a better schedule that we get, and we work hard for it. We’re determined to beat these big teams and we feel like we’re bound to do it.”
Still for a time it didn’t seem like it was going to be the Bears’ destiny to advance. It’s often difficult for any team to overcome one deficit, let alone two.
“It could have gone either way there,” Otto said. “But it just showed the fortitude of the team.”
Both teams struggled early for traction while playing in rainy, winding conditions.
In fact, the game was to have been played on the Bears home grass field, but was moved to a turf field because of the weather.
Delran seemed to have the better of the early chances, but it was Haddonfield that broke out on top in the closing minute of the first half.
R.J. Mroz gave his team the lead when the ball came open to him deep in the corner of the box and he put in a 25-footer.
However, it didn’t take long for Delran to respond once the second half began. Taylor scored the first of his goals just a couple of minutes in with an assist from Vandermark.
“It was nice through-ball by Jay,” Taylor said. “He played it through and I was able to get a touch on it. I tapped it around the goal keeper and I was happy about that.”
However, the Bulldawgs bounced right back to regain the lead on a goal by Steve DiTomaso, only to see Delran rally again by scoring twice within two minutes.
This time the tying goal came off the foot of Sean McLaughlin with 15 minutes remaining in the game.
“We pulled together,” McLaughlin said. “There was no panic and we stuck to our game.”
Shortly after that Taylor picked up a loose ball and scored what would become the game-winning goal.
Haddonfield kept battling, but could not get the tying tally.
Vandermark then tapped in an insurance goal late in the game.
Bears 4, Bulldawgs 2
D: Frankie Taylor 2, Sean McLaughlin, Jayson Vandermark. H: R.J. Mroz, Steve DiTomaso.