Leo Recalde just kept making runs. He knew eventually the soccer ball would get there, and likely the pass would come from Brett Conrads or Ryan Cronin.
That effective offensive trio teamed up on both goals in Newton’s 2-1 comeback victory over Kinnelon in a frigid NJSIAA North 1 Group II semifinal on Tuesday afternoon.
Recalde utilized his speed to get behind the Colts defenders, and more often than not the ball found him. The senior striker got the top-seeded Braves on the scoreboard on a low shot into the left corner of the goal just seven minutes into the match.
But almost as quickly, the Colts were able to exploit a Newton defensive misplay and tie the match. Kinnelon senior midfielder Taylor Monro lined up a free kick, and seeing all his teammates well-marked, took it on goal. The ball deflected off a Braves player into the corner for an own-goal with 28:07 remaining before halftime.
“It was enough to get our team back in it, and hopefully fight for the rest of the game,” Monro said. “It gave us a little bit of hope that we could come back from this. We’d done it before. It sometimes just doesn’t work out.”
Recalde struck again just 10 minutes later. This time, Cronin got a long pass on the left wing, which he crossed to the center of the field. A Kinnelon defender tried to clear it, but the ball wound up at Recalde’s feet for the game-winning goal.
Cronin tried the same tactic late in the first half, running onto a trio of long lead passes out of the midfield within a two-minute span. But Colts goalkeeper Connor Bewinghouse stopped all three, the first on a superb diving save to his left.
Either Conrads or Cronin has recorded least one point in every Newton game but one, the 1-0 loss to Hunterdon Central in the Hunterdon/Warren/Sussex final — and both have been involved with a goal in all but three matches.
“Our team still has the same mentality, but this year we knew teams are going to want to get after us,” Recalde said. “Everybody’s going to want to beat Newton now. That’s our motivation.”
Newton returns to its third straight sectional final, hosting No. 2 Ramsey on Friday. Ramsey defeated third-seeded Mountain Lakes, 1-0, in the other semifinal. The Braves snapped Kinnelon’s nine-game unbeaten streak, which started after the team was eliminated in the first round of the Morris County Tournament.
The Colts were disappointed by their 12th seed, and determined to exceed expectations in the NJSIAA Tournament. Kinnelon blanked No. 5 Lenape Valley, 4-0, in the opening round, then took down fourth-seeded Hawthorne, 2-1, both on the road.
“Just to get this far is a pleasure,” said Monro, who had both goals against Hawthorne, as well as the deflected free kick on Tuesday. “We definitely showed them a good game. We didn’t just let them come around and take the game from us. We fought back very hard.”
GOALS: (N) Leo Recalde 2; (K) own goal. ASSISTS: (N) Brett Conrads, Ryan Cronin. SAVES: (N) Tanner Euston 6, (K) Connor Bewinghouse 6.