As the Bordentown High boys’ soccer season opened with games against Pitman, Rancocas Valley, Pennsauken and Pemberton, Sean Peterson reluctantly stood on the sidelines with a hip injury. The senior would go on to be one of four Scotties to make first-team on the Burlington County All-Patriot Division team, which showed his value.
And yet, rather than fold, Bordentown won its first four without Peterson en route to a 12-1 start.
“It just showed how deep our team was,” Peterson said. “I knew I would miss a couple games, I missed more than I wanted to. Seeing how they responded, it kind of motivated me more, like ‘Man I really want to get out on the field and be with these guys.’”
At the rate Bordentown was going, he needed to get back before he lost his job. But Peterson was thrilled at how his mates played without him, especially in the 2-1 win over Rancocas Valley.
“I think the win against RV got us all motivated,” Peterson said. “We were like ‘Wow, we’re actually a team that can make this happen.’ and then it sparked everything. The whole season in general was basically a highlight reel. I think my favorite win was probably the RV game, that was the first time we beat them in around seven or eight years. I think if we lost that game the season would have went extremely different, but we won and everything started to go our way.”
Bordentown finished 15-3-4, won its second straight Patriot Division title under second-year coach Jason Zablow and earned the No. 1 seed in the Central Jersey Group II tournament. Zablow could only find stats dating back to 2004 but noted that the Scotties allowed the least amount of goals (16) and had the second most shutouts (nine) since that time.
The season finale was tough to take, as Manasquan took a 1-0 win on a goal with one minute remaining in the first overtime in the CJ II semifinals (The Squan fell to Delran in the finals).
“It was back and forth, whoever had the wind had the better of the play,” Zablow said. “Stratos (Gromitsaris) made some big saves for us, and their keeper made a couple ridiculous saves for them. With five minutes left we took five shots in a 10-second span, and either him or a defender cleared all five off the goal line.”
Gromitsaris, a junior, made one last great save that went over the goal line, and Manasquan scored on the ensuing corner kick.
“It’s unfortunate, we were one minute from switching sides and maybe one shot from getting to the sectional title, but Manasquan’s a good team, they deserved it that day,” Zablow said. “It was obviously upsetting to lose but it wasn’t like we walked off the field saying ‘Wow we were way better and lost.’ It was an evenly played game. It’s never easy to take that loss but it shows that we belonged on that stage where you’re one of the final four teams in your section.”
Which was something the Scotties came to realize several days after the game ended.
“Obviously it was a tough loss and nothing I or anyone else would say to them would make it a happy time,” Zablow said. “But we kind of re-visited some things we did as a team this year. I told the guys there was nothing to hang their heads on. It was definitely a successful season.”
Peterson agreed whole-heartedly with his coach.
“I’m actually happy with what happened,” the defender said. “Going into this I think we had nine seniors that had graduated, so we knew we had to work much harder this year. I think we surprised a lot of people with how well we did. We had a couple shutouts at the start which helped our confidence. We knew, some of the reports said we weren’t favored, that kind of lit something under us. We had to prove them wrong, just like we did the whole season.”
What made the grind even tougher is that Peterson was not the Scotties’ only injury problem.
Senior AJ Viteritto, a starting defender, suffered an ankle sprain in week three and could only play 10 minutes per game when he returned. Senior Brandon Jones received a concussion and broken nose in the second week and his role was also limited upon return.
But the Scotties would not die. Bordentown was ranked No. 11 in South Jersey and were invited to play in the South Jersey Coaches Tournament for just the fourth time.
Senior midfielder Kevin Cryan (14 goals, 5 assists) was outstanding as he earned Patriot Division Midfielder of the Year honors and was named All-South Jersey. Cryan, Peterson, and juniors Theo Lannom (8 goals, 1 assist) and Cam Schroeder (4 goals, 1 assist) were first-team All-Patriot Division, while Gromitsaris, Reichert (4 goals, 6 assists) and sophomore defenders Aiden Amankwah and Shane Ritter (1 goal, 6 assists) were named second team.
Ritter started at outside midfield last year but was able to move to the back and give Zablow some flexibility. Also stepping up was Tony Moncreiffe, who had five goals and four assists as a spot starter; first-year defender Colton Huntanar, and freshmen Aiden Hoenisch and Tanner Hilbert. They all helped fill the gaps caused by injury.
“As coaches we never let the guys get down,” Zablow said. “Yeah somebody got hurt, but it’s next guy up, we’re gonna keep chugging forward and when we get them back we’ll be even better. They kind of understood that. No excuses. We preached competition from day one, whoever steps in we’re expecting to win, we don’t have a weakness, we’re deep enough. We had a good year because of it.”
In essence, the injuries provided a silver lining for the 2019.
“We’ll have underclassmen returning who have played; that’s a good sign,” Zablow said. “We had two freshmen and three sophomores starting against Manasquan because of injuries. It showed we had young guys able to play at that level, so going forward, getting that experience now will help us out. Hopefully some of the younger guys who got experience are able to step up into bigger roles or starting roles next year.”
The coach is also hoping that winning breeds further winning.
“Now we’re kind of setting that tradition going forward,” he said. “Now the expectation is where you make it that far in states, and even further.”