With the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy affecting lives and closing schools for a week, a sense of normalcy returned on Monday for the Metuchen and Bound Brook boys soccer teams, which faced each other.
In an NJSIAA Central Group I first-round game, fourth-seeded Metuchen prevailed with a 2-0 win over the 13th-seeded Crusaders behind goals in each half.
“It was definitely a good feeling getting back on the field,” said Metuchen junior midfielder Jake Lucas, who scored the game’s first goal in the 28th minute off an assist from Frank McGuire. “All of us wanted to win after losing (our first state tournament game) two years in a row.”
With all that’s gone on throughout the area over the past week, both teams were happy to just be back playing soccer.
“Let’s not forget it’s high school, it’s a game, a four letter word, but it’s still a game,” Bound Brook coach Steve Nicholson said. “We practiced hard, they played hard. This game was a microcosm of our season, we just couldn’t put the ball in the net.”
Metuchen (12-7-2) was able to hold practice over the weekend after not being able to do anything all of last week with school closed and having last played a game nine days ago.
“(The long layoff) kind of affected us,” Lucas said. “We came out a little slow in the first half. Our touch wasn’t as good as it was usually, but I think we got back into it pretty quickly and came back in the second half.”
Bound Brook (6-10-2) came in with an even longer break between games, having last played on Oct. 25.
“We had a lot of captains practices and things of that nature,” Nicholson said. “These guys did everything that we wanted them to do in terms of the practicing, taking care of business in and out of school, on the field, off the field, their personal life, and they just came up a little short.”
The Bulldogs added to their lead in the 58th minute when Kyle Salmon scored off an assist from McGuire on a long clearout after Crusaders keeper John Ramos came too far out of net.
“The second (goal) kind of gave us a little bit of a comfort zone,” said longtime Metuchen coach Ken Graf, currently in his 38th season. “We played real tough in the beginning, but after we scored the first goal we kind of relaxed a little bit and (Bound Brook) picked up the tempo a little bit.”
Joe Misdea made eight saves in goal for Metuchen while Bound Brook’s keeper John Ramos had 11 saves.
Metuchen advances to the sectional semifinals to face 12th-seeded Burlington City, tentatively scheduled for Wednesday in Metuchen.