MIDDLETOWN – Joe Scarpinato barely missed on his first two scoring opportunities Tuesday.
He didn’t miss the third one.
Scarpinato converted a slick pass from Derek Fisher in the 30th minute, and the Appoquinimink defense made it stand up the rest of the way for a 1-0 home victory over Charter of Wilmington.
This matchup has decided the Blue Hen Flight A boys soccer title annually since 2012, with the Jaguars winning each of the last four years. But the Force won the last time these teams played — 2-1 in the DIAA Division I semifinals last fall — so revenge was sweet for Appo.
“It’s probably the best game we’ve played so far,” Jaguars coach Adam Bear said. “We were able to possess the ball, got some opportunities. I’m very proud of them. It’s a younger team this year, but they’re finally starting to come together.”
Appo appeared to be coming together for a goal several times early. Scarpinato slid a shot past charging Force keeper Ben McQuillin in the 15th minute, only to see it roll across the goal mouth and go wide.
Three minutes later, Matt Meadows delivered a beautiful cross to Scarpinato, who lunged forward and unleashed a fierce header that just missed the far post.
“I had a diving header like that last game [against Caravel] and it didn’t work out,” Scarpinato said. “I’m going to get one this season. I know it’s coming, I’m feeling it. It was good stuff from my teammates to set me up.”
Scarpinato set up a close-range shot in the 28th minute, but Nathaniel Chalmers tangled with a defender and couldn’t get much on it to lead to an easy save for McQuillin.
The Jaguars (7-0, 5-0 Flight A), ranked third statewide in Division I, finally broke through two minutes later. Meadows crossed it to Fisher, who instantly sent it to Scarpinato just 8 yards from the goal. McQuillin got a hand on his shot, but it still trickled into the net.
“It made me more confident I was going to get one,” Scarpinato said of his first two misfires. “The more chances you get, the better opportunities you have. I just buried that one, the last one I had.”
Meadows’ pass put Fisher in a good position to fire, but he spotted his teammate for an even better shot.
“The cross came in, and I just knew I had to settle and try to at least get one on frame,” Fisher said. “I ended up getting it to Joe over here, and he put it away. It was a good goal.”
But the second-ranked Force (4-2-1, 3-1) still had 50 minutes to equalize, and Charter had its chances. The best first-half opportunity came in the 34th minute, when Kevin Eriksen sent a well-placed cross by Roy Lee over the crossbar.
A close-range header by Michael Mattamira turned into an easy save for Jaguars keeper Jason Sommer in the 62nd minute. The Force continued to press the attack, but Eamon O’Connor couldn’t convert a nice pass from Eriksen in the 67th minute.
Eriksen was awarded a 25-yard free kick in the 75th minute, but Sommer was perfectly positioned to cradle it and preserve the shutout.
“That was a tough one for us,” Charter coach Jon Gillespie said. “It taught us that we’ve got a lot to work on. We’re not really there as a team yet.
“Appo wanted it more today. They definitely put the effort in and got the goal, and they defended well and held off our last couple of chances.”
Contact Brad Myers at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter: @BradMyersTNJ.