PLEASANT POINT BORO –Lacey’s senior captain Kody Besser could barely see Thursday afternoon, so try to play his usual center-back position for the Lacey boys’ soccer team in a huge Class B South Shore game Conference at Point Pleasant Boro was basically a non-runner.
Still, with Lacey chasing his Premier League championship in 11 years, the 6-foot-4-inch senior was not going to leave a scratched retina he suffered in Lacey’s win on Tuesday against Barnegat to keep him completely out. ground. Unable to wear his contact lenses, he would still find a way.
“He couldn’t read balls in the air and he really couldn’t see anything,” said Lacey coach Steve Torre. He said, ‘Coach, I don’t think I can play center today because I don’t think I can judge anything in the air. “So we kicked him in the middle and he’s an All-Shore player for a reason, so he just fought and things went well.”
Besser – an All-Shore defenseman as a junior – played 70 minutes in midfield and top for his team and although he couldn’t find the back of the net he found the guy who got it. made.
Junior Ethan Riley scored an assist from Besser to respond quickly to Point Boro’s opening goal, then converted a counterattack for the game-winner in the 76th as the Lions beat the Panthers, 2-1, to remain undefeated on the season and at the top the Class B South table with two remaining division games.
“It was definitely a big change for everyone, especially the guys at the top,” Riley said of playing with Besser closer to the front of the roster. “The guys who played from the back, most of them have experience in the back, so for the most part we were doing fine. At the top we were able to block a little faster and he knows how. hold the ball, so there were positives. “
Lacey can clinch the B South title with at least a 1-0-1 record against Jackson Liberty and Lakewood, or a lower record combined with assist from Lakewood against Pinelands (division record 5-1) and Barnegat against Point Boro (4-2 division record).
After a scoreless first half without serious threats from either side, Point Boro picked up the pressure and struck the first in the 55th minute. Senior Aidan Huhn rounded a defender and served the ball to the left near post, where senior Jeff Thompson received it and played it at the far post. Senior Charles Latendorf lined up the center, slid towards the ball and hit it for the game’s first goal.
The Panthers’ lead was short-lived, however. Lacey came right back to the 58th, with Besser slipping a pass to a wide-open Riley for the finish after Lacey quickly worked the ball up the field.
“I was super grateful because I know he totally could’ve done this,” Riley said. “I was super important (to score quickly). It was like life and death because we needed this win.”
Point Boro dominated possession and made a serious push to score the tiebreaker, but Lacey responded in the 76th, with Dean Dom Vecchio playing the ball over the defense and Riley running over it for the end of the breakaway.
“My mind was all over the place when I got to (the ball),” Riley said. “But as soon as I touched him, I knew he was coming in.
“As soon as I saw him play, I raced,” said Riley. “As soon as I saw him bounce off the head (of the last defender), I gave it my all.”
Lacey also played without another center-back at junior Mateo Musmanni due to an ankle injury and had to move senior Bryan Cardoso to defense from the front of the roster while trying to fix things. This challenged the rest of the Lions to weigh the value of helping to defend their goal rather than going after scoring chances on the other end.
“I think we’ve gotten away from our game of finding the feet and keeping the ball on the ground, but when you have a six-four guy with a top speed, it’s like having a new toy,” he said. said Torre. “Let’s let him go and see what happens. It helped in that regard and even though we strayed from our game a bit, we made adjustments.”
With Wednesday’s win, Lacey is one of two undefeated teams remaining in the Shore Conference and the other – Toms River North (6-0) – must move to play at the Christian Brothers Academy (8-1) on Saturday. in a clash of the top two Shore Sports Network Top 10 teams.
Point Boro, meanwhile, have lost three straight after opening the season 7-0.
“There has only been one division title here in the last 27 years, so it’s a great opportunity,” said Torre. “We’ve been knocking on the door for a while now, so it’s exciting to be in this position, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”