Point Boro’s Kellen O’Hara tucked away the game-winning overtime goal for the Panthers in their NJSIAA Tournament first-round game on Tuesday.
After the goal, O’ Hara ripped off his jersey in celebration and displayed his undershirt that read “Jersey Strong” in big letters across his chest.
It’s been more than a week since Hurricane Sandy devastated the Jersey Shore, but with teams starting to get back on the field, there are momentary reprieves such as this.
“Our area got hit pretty hard, and I just wanted to put out a positive message to everyone on the sidelines,” O’Hara said.
O’Hara scored 33 seconds into the first overtime period, giving the Panthers the win in the Central Jersey Group II bracket over Roselle 2-1.
Two days after the storm hit the coast, O’Hara got a text message that the Panthers were going to try and get a practice in if possible. O’Hara’s next task would be to try and find his spikes that were somewhere in his heavily flooded garage.
“It was bad, my cleats were still soaked with water and oil from just being in my garage,” O’Hara said.
In truth, he wasn’t sure if he even wanted to play.
“It was tough at first, but after the first two practices I realized that it was a good distraction, just getting out there and playing with the guys,” O’Hara said.
Point Boro head coach Pete Casalino has always told his team that there are more important things then soccer, and he believes they truly grasped the concept after seeing the devastation from Sandy.
“We talked about as teenagers that there are certain things in life that are out of your control,” Casalino said. “But right now, this game is in your control, and maybe they can take a little bit of normalcy from it in the end.”
There have been several stories from town-to-town in our area of people coming together and helping one another in this time of need.
“We have kids on our team who have lost everything, just like every team has in our area,” Casalino said. “They still came out and played today, and we even volunteered in our community helping people who were less fortunate.”
Casalino and his team came together, and there is a sense of pride in where they come from.
“It’s Jersey Strong,” Casalino said. “You saw it on Kellen’s shirt, and you will see it as we help rebuild our area.”
The Panthers controlled most of the game, but were still trailing 1-0 until Larry Monaco scored in the 77th minute, setting up the overtime dramatics for the Panthers.
“Obviously the other 22 hours of the day, these kids won’t be thinking about soccer,” Casalino said. “Just being able to go out there and do what they do best in the world right now, gives them a sense of self.”