In a rematch of last year’s Non-Public South B boys soccer final, Gill St. Bernard’s and Trenton Catholic Academy played an absolute classic.
Last year’s championship edition went to overtime, with Gill St. Bernard’s claiming the title. On Monday, both squads played to penalty kicks.
With both school’s connecting on all five of their penalty kicks, a sudden-death scenario was to decide this year’s champion. So, after senior midfielder Bijan Eizadkhah drilled a shot in the Knights’ sixth attempt, leaving Trenton Catholic’s Peter Hall in a do-or-die position, the stage was set.
Much to the dismay of Trenton Catholic and to the jubilation of Gill St. Bernard’s, Hall’s kick sailed high and wide to the right which meant the top-seeded Knights earned the right to call themselves back-to-back sectional champions, defeating the second-seeded Iron Mikes, 2-1, and 6-5 on penalty kicks.
“It’s a great feeling when you win these games,” senior midfielder Tim DiBisceglie said. “It was such a great team effort and we never let up. I let up a penalty kick and the team got behind me. It was perfect.”
At the 36th minute of the first half, DiBisceglie was called for a handball in the box, leading to a Trenton Catholic (19-2-2) penalty kick.
The Iron Mikes selected Hall to attempt the kick and the sophomore was able put it past Gill St. Bernard’s goalkeeper Mike Renna for a 1-0 advantage heading to the half.
Coming out of intermission, the Knights wasted little time in their quest to even the score.
With 12 minutes gone by in the second half, it was DiBisceglie heading a pass to teammate James Reiner at the top of the box, who then assisted Eizadkhah to tie the game at 1.
Renna was indispensable for the Knights (19-2-2) after the Eizadkhah goal, as he made four clutch saves down the stretch in regulation.
“I think Renna is the top goalkeeper in the state,” Gill St Bernard’s coach Tony Bednarsky said. “It’s as simple as that. He’s let up only eight goals in 23 games this season.”
Trenton Catholic entered the game with one of the most dominant offenses in the state, averaging 3.6 goals per game. However, it couldn’t solve Renna who was all smiles after the game.
“It came down to the last dying penalty kick in sudden death and I couldn’t ask for a better group of guys to be there with,” Renna said. “In goal, I knew I had to keep my composure. Being a senior makes it a little easier because I’ve been through the program for four years now starting. It was all about keeping calm and that’s exactly what we had to do.”
Next up for Gill St. Bernard’s will be Montclair Kimberley Academy in a game that will decide the overall Non-Public champion, a rematch of last year’s game in which the Knights were defeated.
“We have a long history with MKA,” Bednarsky said. “There’s going to be no strangers there. Hopefully, we can exact some revenge.”