Nearly 50 minutes into soccer action on Thursday afternoon, Gill St. Bernard’s began to make its charge towards a division title.
After an evenly-contested first half between the Knights, ranked No. 5 in the Courier News Top 10, and division rival No. 7 Bernards, Gill completely took over in the second half, scoring three goals in a span of just over 10 minutes as it defeated the Mountaineers 3-0 in a Skyland Conference Valley Division contest that had huge ramifications.
“We feel the Skyland Conference in all divisions is very tough, very prestigious,” said Gill St. Bernard’s coach Tony Bednarsky, “and with good teams like Bernards and North Plainfield in our division, it’s (division title) certainly one of the goals we had for the regular season.
“This was as close as you get to a playoff game in the regular season because while both teams still have two games to play in the division, both teams are likely to win out,” Bednarsky added. “We treated this game as a final for the division, and we responded very well, so I’m proud of the boys.”
Barring any unforeseen setbacks, Gill St. Bernard’s (12-2-1, 9-0-1 Skyland Valley) will hoist its first division crown in four years after Bernards had won the past three titles. The Mountaineers (9-3-3, 6-1-2) and Knights had played to a 0-0 draw on Sept. 20 in Bernardsville.
Gill finally got on the board at the 31:55 mark of the second half. Senior midfielder Theo Timothy rolled a nice through ball to cutting junior forward Justin Durcan, who put the ball on net. Bernards freshman goalkeeper Dylan Kahn made the initial save, but Durcan flicked in the rebound for the only goal the Knights would actually need.
With 24:00 left, junior defender James Reiner sent a cross ball to senior midfielder Jae Wong who skipped the ball into the back of the net.
Then came the dagger. Senior midfielder Timmy DiBisceglie’s free kick from just inside the 50-yard line sailed just over the reach of a leaping Kahn with 21:02 remaining to cap off the scoring.
“We were playing pretty defensive to start off with because we tied (Bernards) 0-0 last game,” DiBisceglie said, “but we wanted to get more attacking in the second half and get that first goal which we did pretty early.”
“We changed the formation to a 4-3-3 in the second half and it paid off,” said Bednarsky.