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Knights earn their stripes versus Zebras in state game

November 15, 2012

NEPTUNE— It was certainly cold on Saturday night.

Wall senior Tom Bogert beats New Brunswick’s goalie for the golden goal in double overtime during the Crimson Knights’ 2-1 state tournament victory over the Zebras. Photo courtesy SALLY FOLEY

So cold, in fact, that Wall senior Tom Bogert had the frigid temperature on his mind while celebrating his golden goal in double overtime that sent the Crimson Knights into the Central Jersey Group III quarterfinal.

“I was just running,” said Bogert, whose goal off an assist from sophomore Zachary Hetzel in the 97th minute of play against New Brunswick gave Wall, the No. 6 seed, a 2-1 victory over the 11th-seeded Zebras in the first round of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association [NJSIAA] Tournament. “I just kept running and was thinking, don’t take my shirt off — it’s too cold.”

Bogert’s dramatic goal on Saturday was able to cap off a special night for the Wall boys soccer team, which was back on the field for the first game since Hurricane Sandy left the area in a state of devastation. The Crimson Knights were scheduled to return to action earlier in the week, but last Wednesday’s nor’easter further delayed the process.

Wall head coach Garry Linstra was proud of his players’ patience and perseverance during a trying time for the entire Wall community, which, he thought, ultimately led to a win on Saturday.

“It has been a tough two weeks for everybody — we were all wondering when we were going to play, and then the snow came,” Linstra said. “The kids’ mentality, though, is to do whatever it takes to win. They were able to do that today.”

With snow covering their home field at the Wall Athletic Complex, the Crimson Knights, despite being the lower seed, were forced to play New Brunswick on a neutral, turf site at the Springfield Elementary School in Neptune.

Though the team was on unfamiliar grounds for its “home game” versus the Zebras, Wall looked comfortable from the get go. With a goal from senior Alan Burdge in the 9th minute, the Crimson Knights took a 1-0 lead over New Brunswick in the early going.

Burdge knew that despite Wall being the slight favorite, it was important for the club to start off well against New Brunswick, a team that brought a fleet-footed offensive attack with it to the state tournament.

“When it comes to the playoffs, it doesn’t matter what any team has done all season,” said Burdge, whose goal held up as the lone one scored in the first half. “It comes down to one game and which team is going to play better that day.”

In the second half, New Brunswick proved it was not ready to go quietly into the crisp, dark night.

After trailing for just over one hour of play, the Zebras finally struck in the 62nd minute, tying the game at one with a goal from forward Omar Garcia. Garcia’s goal would force the two teams into overtime.

Following a scoreless first overtime, and with the minutes dwindling down toward penalty kicks late in the second OT, Bogert was able to see the deal for Wall with arguably the biggest goal of his soccer career.

“It was a great game,” Bogert said. “They type you expect to play in the state tournament.”

NO PENALTY KICKS, PLEASE

It would be hard to find a soccer player, or coach, from any club who looks forward to a game coming down to penalty kicks [PKs]. The Crimson Knights did not want their game with New Brunswick to go to PKs, as evident from their comments following the win.

“We certainly didn’t want to go to PKs,” said Bogert.

“I don’t like PKs — these guys will tell you that,” Linstra said. “I don’t even watch when we kick. I didn’t want us to go to PKs one bit. We will always push for the win [in overtime] because we don’t want the game to be decided with PKs. We want to win games outright.”

CAPTAIN, OH, CAPTAIN

It was fitting the Wall’s two captains, Burdge and Bogert, notched the two goals scored during Saturday’s victory. Linstra relied on the two seniors to keep the Crimson Knights motivated and fresh during the long gap in play caused by Hurricane Sandy.

“Both those guys have been plugging away hard over the past couple of years,” Linstra said of his captains. “Over the break, when we couldn’t have practices with the kids, they were having captains’ practices. They got the guys that were in the area together and did whatever they could. I am proud of the type of leaders they are.”

SOPHOMORE HETZEL NOTCHES KEY ASSIST

Sophomore Zachary Hetzel wanted his upperclassmen teammates to feel they could trust him this fall. Hetzel’s assist of Bogert’s game-winner against the Zebras will undoubtedly leave a fond memory of his play with the class of 2013.

“Zach picked his head up, very smartly, and saw me,” Bogert said. “That ball could not have been better. It was a great ball.”

“Zach gave Bogey [Bogert] a great through ball,” added Burdge.

When asked to describe the feeling of recording the game-winning assist, Hetzel was nearly at a loss for words.

“It was awesome — I don’t really know how to describe it,” he said. “It’s the best feeling ever.”

KNIGHTS FALL TO PRINCETON

With their win over New Brunswick, the Crimson Knights took on Princeton, the No. 3 seed and defending Central Jersey Group III champion, in the quarterfinal round on Monday.

Wall fell to the Little Tigers, 2-1, in overtime, to end its 2012 season.

The Crimson Knights were able to force overtime against the favored Little Tigers, before Princeton’s Chase Ealy scored the game-winner in the 82nd minute.

With the loss, Wall ended its season at 14-5-1.

The loss ended the high school soccer careers of a stellar 2013 senior class.

The group includes Bogert, Burdge, Eric Doucette, Chris Jakuc, Sean Dailey, Dan DeGenova, Don Kessler, Shane Thompson, Connor Ritchey and Andrew Block.

Linstra was not sure when the season would end earlier in the week, but did not look forward to saying goodbye to his seniors.

“I am going to be very sad when this season ends,” said the coach. “This is a great group of kids. They are super competitive, fun to be around and are just great all-around kids — the whole team.”

Follow me on twitter: @samcostantino

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