It’s been labeled as a rebuilding year for the East Brunswick High School boys soccer team, but Saturday a pair of seniors brought a flash of sweet memories from 2011 in a 2-0 home win over St. Joseph.
A year after the Bears finished a remarkable 20-1-2, running the table in the Greater Middlesex Conference and taking home co-GMC and NJSIAA Central Group IV titles, the program’s current roster now dons a drastically different look. A total of 14 seniors — eight of whom are now playing college ball — graduated from last year’s dominant campaign, which led to the presumption the 2012 season could be a down year.
“We have five returning seniors who were on that team and they know what it takes to win,” East Brunswick head coach Terry McKibbin said. “They came up big today in the clutch moments.”
Four-year varsity starter Richard Kehoe punched in a penalty kick in the early moments of the second half, followed by some nifty dribbling and a goal from senior Joseph Grimando.
“We were creating a lot of chances, and in the second half, I thought we created even more,” McKibbin said. “We have a lot of depth at defense. Our goal is to limit every team the best we can. If we can shut every team out, we’re not going to lose, and that’s the philosophy.”
For St. Joseph, the defense was forced to work and the opportunities on offense were meager. East Brunswick consistently kept the ball in Falcons territory, which kept goalkeeper Joe Bruno busy. The sophomore played an outstanding game in net, making three saves while breaking up multiple scoring chances.
“Joe’s going to be huge,” St. Joseph coach Michael O’Boyle said. “I think Joe’s probably going to turn out to be one of the better keepers in the county.”
From the opening ball to the final whistle, O’Boyle pleaded on the sideline for increased pressure from his Falcons, but offensively, opportunities to score were at a minimum.
In the first half, sophomore Ethan Donnelly twice delivered passes to the center of the box, but both attempts came up empty because no Falcon was there to finish the job.
“We had a couple of opportunities,” O’Boyle said. “I think this season, we’re going to have to make the most of the opportunities we get because we’re not going to a powerhouse offensive team.”
East Brunswick, on the other hand, brought the pressure the entire game. The Bears fired 15 shots and found ways to get behind the defense for openings, which eventually resulted in goals and a nice walk down memory lane.
“Last year we were great to start the season and we finished equally as great,” McKibbin said. “This year, we’re going to be much better at the end of the year than we are now. It’s going to be a different team, we’re going to be so much more experienced come tournament time, and that’s what these kids have to look at.”