Get out the gloves, hats, blankets and heavy coats because we could be playing scholastic soccer into December.
The NJSIAA announced earlier this week another delay in the playoff schedule as schools across the state continue to recover from the effects of Hurricane Sandy. The revised plan pushes the state championships back to Dec. 1.
Locally, that impacts three teams — Delsea, Sacred Heart and St. Augustine — all of which remain in play in their respective sectional tournaments.
Delsea was supposed to travel to Hammonton today for its Group III South quarterfinal game, but Wednesday’s nor’easter backed it to Friday at 2 p.m. Sacred Heart will host St. Rose on Friday at 1 p.m. in the Non-Public B South quarterfinals, while St. Augustine hosts Bishop Eustace at 2:30 p.m. in the Non-Public A South quarters.
Though many teams have seen their seasons come to an end, that does not mean 2012 was short of some outstanding showings from area players. With this being the last notebook of the season, it’s time to recognize some of those performances with some just-for-fun awards. The official Player of the Year and All-Stars announcements will come on Dec. 6.
Top Scorers: Buena’s Miguel Hernandez and Sacred Heart’s Steven Tobolski. This award could change come Friday if Tobolski, a sophomore, can find the back of the net for Sacred Heart. The Cape-Atlantic League National Conference competitors stand at 22 goals each right now, though Buena’s season came to an end on Saturday in a Group II South quarterfinal loss to Deptford.
Top Newcomer: Millville’s Sean Matias. A transfer from Schalick, Matias gave the Bolts nice stability in goal this year. The junior recorded six shutouts and played especially well in Millville’s 2-1 loss to Egg Harbor Township in the Group IV South playoffs on Monday. Look for Matias to be one of the Bolts’ top performers next season.
Top Leader: Sacred Heart’s Drew Mesiano. One of two seniors on the Lions, Mesiano has the respect of all of his teammates. The senior has Sacred Heart on the doorstep of the sectional semifinals and is regarded as a leader on and off the field by his peers and first-year coach Joe Sterchele.
Top Freshmen: St. Augustine’s Christian Bik and Sacred Heart’s Tyler Lunsford. Prep first-year coach Steve Rolando raves over Bik, who owns five goals on the season. For a freshman to see legitimate playing time for the Hermits is rare and the program expects Bik to be a building block moving forward. Lunsford took the area by storm this year, scoring 15 goals and counting. His biggest was the game-winner against Vineland on Oct. 24.
Top Revelation: Cumberland Tyler Skye. The winner of last year’s “Keep an eye on” award, Skye came through in a big way in 2012. The junior scored 17 goals after bursting onto the season last year with eight. The 20-goal mark is a realistic goal for Skye in his senior season.
Top Athlete: Millville’s Sirweah Quioh. An excellent off-the-ball forward, Quioh often created chances for himself in a 2012 campaign that saw the senior score 11 goals. Quioh combined speed and strength to become a viable weapon for the Thunderbolts this year.
Most Creative: Schalick’s Daniel Bermudez. Never mind Bermudez’s five goals, it’s the senior’s 14 assists that are most impressive. The midfielder could easily be a double-digit goal scorer in a different role, but his value to the Cougars’ midfield as a distributor is priceless.
Top Goalkeepers: St. Augustine’s James Higbee and Buena’s Jake Bleyhl. Both keepers are virtual locks to play at the next level. Higbee, a senior, owns seven shutouts in 11 wins this year playing in a competitive CAL American. Bleyhl, a junior, leads all area keepers with 11 clean sheets.
Keep An Eye On: Delsea’s Matt Pastore and Bridgeton’s Jesus Tlascea. Pastore, a junior, is one of the bigger scoring surprises this season with his nine goals. He took on a larger role for the Crusaders and answered the call. Expect a stellar senior year out of Pastore. Tlaseca is one of many young up-and-coming players for Bridgeton. The sophomore was an anchor as the team’s sweeper, but showed flashes of brilliance on offense as well.
Game of the Year: Sacred Heart 1, Vineland 0 on Oct. 24. The Lions and Fighting Clan gave fans all they could ask for under the lights at the Joseph E. Romano Sports Complex in the City Series rivalry game. A two-win Vineland team pushed Sacred Heart to the brink until Lunsford solved Clan goalkeeper Cody Freese on a brilliant shot in the 64th minute for the game’s only goal.
Area Elite Team Rankings *
1. Buena (16-6) — The Chiefs had a chance to do something special this season if not for some disciplinary problems.
2. St. Augustine (11-6-1) — The Hermits were hardly tested in the first round by Holy Spirit in a 6-0 win.
3.Cumberland (11-6) — The Colts put together a strong season with a playoff win and double-digit victories.
4. Delsea (10-8-2) — Hammonton will be a good test for Delsea on Friday. Expect a great game.
5. Sacred Heart (13-5) — A win Friday lands the Lions in the sectional semifinals. St. Rose won’t be easy.
6. Millville (9-6-3) — The Bolts weren’t at their best Monday in a first-round exit against EHT.
* Records through Tuesday