MATULONIS STRIKES GOLD WITH 1:01 LEFT IN 1ST HALF
Prepared by DAVID B. CORBIN
Something had to give after the fifth-seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School boys soccer team was constantly pounding the eighthseeded Ridge Red Devils’ turf for nearly the entire first half of the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 4 semifinal game at Scotch Plains on November 1. Finally, junior midfielder Caden Matulonis, after a fine tap from sophomore forward Jayvon Young, positioned himself well in the box and ripped the ball past Red Devil goalkeeper Oliver Perks with 1:01 left in the half for a score that would hold up for a 1-0 victory.
The home field advantage was a pleasant surprise for the 12-4-3 Raiders since the Ridge Red Devils, who beat Woodbridge, 4-0, in the first round, stunned top-seeded 17-2-1 Newark East Side in a 4-2 shootout to reach the semifinals. The Raiders knocked off 12th-seeded Perth Amboy, 1-0, then ousted fourthseeded Hunterdon Central, 1-0, to reach the semifinals.
The Raiders did have several opportunities but the set-back Ridge defense was able to ward off all assaults. Eight minutes into the game Raider co-captain Luca Passucci lofted a right-side corner kick high into the Ridge box near the 18-yard area, which resulted in a scramble and a successful Red Devil rejection.
Three minutes later, Passucci took another right-side corner that had the same result. With 27 minutes left in the half, co-captain/forward Aaron Casterlow broke loose and got off a pointblank shot that Perks (5 saves) absorbed. Ridge seemed to be looking to make good on a quick strike but had very few opportunities, but within
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Young got off a center shot from 30 feet out that was stopped by Perks then with 21 minutes on the clock, Casterlow sent a cross from the right side into the center of the box where Young took another shot that was rejected.
Probably the closest that the Red Devils came to scoring came with 12 minutes left in the half when senior George Chamberlain’s long free kick from the left center was knocked away near the Raider goal. Four minutes later, Luca Passucci got too much foot on a free kick as it sailed over the net from 40 feet out.
As time was running down in the half, the Raiders stepped up the pressure. Passucci’s short shot from the center was deflected then with 1:01 remaining, Young set up Matulonis for his goal. The goal only fueled more fire into the Raiders as Young, Passucci and Casterlow kept storming the Red Devil box until time expired for the half.
The second half was a 0-0 standoff. With the victory, the Raiders would vie for the championship on November 4 in Westfield against the thirdseeded Blue Devils, who ousted the second-seeded Elizabeth Minutemen, 2-1, in overtime. The Raiders and the Blue Devils had battled to a 0-0 tie during the regular season at Red Bull Arena.