SEWELL – Jake Logar and Chad Yates, let’s just say yeah, they’ve met.
“We’ve been playing together for a long time,” said Logar, who like Yates is a senior on the Washington Township boys’ soccer team. “On the field, we don’t have to talk. A lot of times we just look at each other. You play with someone long enough you know what each other is thinking.
“Chad took that restart and I just looked at him. I knew what was coming.”
Logar scored his second goal in as many game and Arturo “Toe” Serano scored his seventh in eight tournament games (including the Coaches Tournament) as Washington Township won its fifth consecutive Group 4 South Jersey title with a 2-1 win over Jackson. The Minutemen (23-1) have now appeared in seven straight finals with six titles but to a man, that’s all in the past.
They’ll resume play on Tuesday in the New Jersey Group 4 State Semifinal at Rowan University. They’ll face Central Jersey sixth seed East Brunswick (17-3-2) which upset top seeded Hunterdon Central 1-0 on Thursday.
The Minutemen saw their season come to an end on the turf at Rowan University last season 1-0 to Princeton and want nothing more than to get back to Kean University for the state final after missing out the last two years.
“It doesn’t matter who we face next,” said senior back Sean Zemiak, who has started on the back line for three seasons. “We’ve been here before and that gives us an advantage but you still have to go out and play the game. Last year our season ended at Rowan in the state semifinal, we know we don’t want that to happen again.
“The thing is, there are a lot of good teams across South Jersey. A lot of teams have won a lot of games and they all play hard together. The difference is we’re a brotherhood. We’ve built up a program playing together year round. We’re all together in this.”
Together is a very good summation of the Minutemen. This is a team that has 12 seniors on the roster and on Thursday, it was the seniors that found their way onto the scoresheet. Not that the Minutemen are afraid to use underclassmen, in fact several made a huge impact on this game, it’s more that under head coach Shane Snyder, the Minutemen are more about being together as one than separated by class or in fact position.
“Our defense has played well all year but we believe the defense starts with the boys up top,” said Snyder, whose team used its top seed to get a home game for the second straight season in the final. “If they keep the ball in the offensive zone they did their job. But our offense starts with the boys in the back. Success is about 11 players on the field working together. Today, we worked together. You look at our only loss (2-1 to St. Augustine in the Coaches Tournament Final) and if you looked at that game, we chased play. Not today.”
Jackson (15-3-1) entered the afternoon as the second seed and played level throughout the opening minutes but a ball into Yates saw the senior get fouled from behind and on the awarded penalty kick, Serano knocked home the first goal of the afternoon.
“I know I’ve been able to score a lot over the last few weeks but a lot of that has to do with Chad,” said Serano, who now has 18 goals on the year with tallies in 7-of-8 games. “I think you can see we don’t worry about the individual stuff. This is a team of 20 guys who play for each other and to win together. We have a coaching staff that has taught us a lot but nothing more important than playing as a team.
“We know we’ve fallen short of the state final the last two years. We’ve lost the last two years after winning South Jersey so we don’t care who we play, we just want to get out there.”
Township assumed control and another foul set up the eventual game-winner as Yates hit a restart from 47 yards into the penalty area where Logar, he of the same mind, found his way through for a header and a 1-0 lead.
“I know as a striker my job is to score,” said Yates, who leads the team with 24 goals and looks to be returning to Wolverine-style lamb chops he shaved off after the only loss this season. “I saw Jake before I took the restart and knew he’d get to the ball. Simple as that. We’ve played a long time together.
“Teams are focused on me and we’re out here to win. If we don’t win it doesn’t matter how many goals I’ve scored. Ten years from now we’ll remember what we accomplished as a team.
“Doesn’t matter who we face on Tuesday. Doesn’t matter who scores. We just want to play that game.”
The go ahead goal featured more than a little fearlessness as Logar took a chance when he dove for the ball.
“Lot of guys would turtle up,” Snyder said. “That’s a 6-foot-4 200 pound keeper coming at you”
“I was hoping to find the seam,” said Logar, who has four goals this season. “The defender left me and – yeah, the keeper didn’t come out.
“We got the win and that’s what matters. The best part is you can see us playing the way we did for most of the season. We’re a team, we play as a team and we win as a team. Tuesday, I don’t care who the opponent is, we need to play as a team and we’ve done that for a long time.”
In the end, for a program that has had sustained success over the last decade, Tuesday has more than a little extra importance. The Minutemen haven’t reached Kean in two years which is something that a 23-1 record this year, seven straight South Jersey Finals and five titles can’t erase.
“We’re 0-2,” Snyder said of Township’s last two state semifinal appearances. “We’re 0-2, and you can print that. That’s the only record I want to think about right now.”
Minutemen 2, Jaguars 1
Jackson Memorial 0—1----1
Washington Twp. 2—0----2
J: Ben Schnaak. WT: Arturo Serano, Jake Logar. Saves: Nicholas Kinzer, J, 5; Mike Pagano, WT, 3.
From left to Right: Jake Logar (12), Kevin Quinn (8), Sam Flaiano (17), Sean Zemiak (11), Chad Yates (10), Ryan Jobes (21), Will Pollack (5), Arturo Serano (15), Mike Mulvihill (9), Brett Guetans (1), Matt Fernandez (17). Kneeling Mike Pagano (0).