Who: No. 1A seed Hunterdon Central (11-4-1) vs. No. 1B seed Pope John (13-4-1)
When/Where: 4 p.m. today/Hunterdon Central High School
How they got here: No. 1A Hunterdon Central defeated No. 8B Hopatcong 6-0; No 4B Vernon 5-0; and No. 2B Newton 3-1. No. 1B Pope John defeated No. 9B Sparta 3-0; No. 4A Voorhees 2-1; and No. 2A Hackettstown 2-1 (OT).
Hunterdon Central Report: The Red Devils have breezed through the tournament, disposing of Sussex County competition by a combined score of 14-1. Is that an indictment of Sussex County boys soccer? Perhaps there’s a better chance that it’s vindication for Skyland Conference boys soccer. Central, which hasn’t won this tournament since 2010 and won it under the Hunterdon County Tournament parameters 11 times before that, is on paper a heavy favorite to hoist another crown. Taking a look at common opponents, Central has fared much better in victories over Hopatcong, Newton and North Hunterdon. They’re led offensively by Jeremy Levine (8g, 4a) and Mitchell Rozansky (6g, 1a) with seven other players having scored at least two goals. They average 2.7 and yield .73 goals per game and have recorded eight shutouts.
Pope John Report: The Lions can thank Davis Stoner for the opportunity to play for the HWST title, which they’ve never won. In last week’s semifinal against Hackettstown, Stoner tied the game in the 60th minute before saving his club with a goal in double overtime for the come-from-behind victory. Unlike their opponent, this team has been pushed to the max throughout this tournament, including a 2-1 win over another Skyland Conference club in Voorhees. However, this much can be said about the Lions: they’re extremely battle-tested of late while Central hasn’t been, so if this game ends up being close late, don’t expect Pope John to crumble. They’re led offensively by Stoner (12g, 2a) and Rob McKinley (10g, 4 a). They average 1.9 and yield .89 goals per game and have recorded six shutouts.
Prediction: Hunterdon Central 3-0
Staff Writer Joe Martino