By Rich Fisher | Contributing Editor
For a frenzied final 10 minutes, it looked like the St. Rose of Belmar boys’ soccer team would be able to keep its magical run alive.
But the ninth-seeded Purple Roses just missed several late opportunities to get the tying goal as third-seeded Rutgers Prep took a 2-1 victory in the NJSIAA Non-Public South Jersey B championship game at Holmdel High School Nov. 8.
Photo Gallery: NJSIAA - St. Rose vs. Rutgers Prep
After Rutgers Prep scored twice in the first 15 minutes, St. Rose (9-11-2) trailed 2-0 for most of the game until senior Jono Caputo scored with 12:11 left to make it a game. Just prior to that, the Roses’ Christian Bodine rifled one from a difficult angle that went off the crossbar.
Caputo’s goal gave St. Rose new life.
“I truly expected we were going to come back and tie it,” coach Brian Pringle said. “We just had the momentum going.”
From that point on, it was all St. Rose. Pringle made a slight adjustment, moving Luke Fahy to the outside and pushing Caputo further up top to take advantage of his scoring ability. Caputo had several scoring opportunities that he could not connect on, however, as the Argonauts held on for the win.
Asked what happened on the breakaways; Caputo could only shake his head.
“I’m asking myself that for the next month,” he said. “I have no idea; my footing lost it most of the times. Just frustrated. I guess I got a little excited, and unfortunately I couldn’t put it in.”
The fact he was even playing was impressive. After missing much of last season with a pulled hamstring, Caputo suffered the same injury to the same leg this year and missed a month. He returned in time for the states, playing sparingly in 3-0 and 1-0 wins over Trenton Catholic and Immaculate, while scoring a goal and playing the entire game in a 5-1 win over Moorestown Friends in the SJ semifinals.
“I’m gonna sacrifice my body for this team no matter what,” he said. “All last season and this season I’ve been fighting injury. I’ve been sick, but I was coming back. I tried my best.”
Which was not a surprise to Pringle, who took him out late in the game but couldn’t keep him out.
“He’ll give you 110 percent,” the coach said. “I was actually surprised the last three or four minutes when he asked to go back in. I really thought he’d been the difference. He normally would have buried those three chances but it shows, he is still just a high school kid, he’s not immortal.”
He’s good enough to draw interest from college coaches and has several options, including Drew University in Madison and New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark.
Just the fact St. Rose got to the finals was impressive. The Roses entered the tournament having lost four straight and going 2-9-2 in their last 13 after a 4-1 start. Pringle said he wasn’t concerned about the late losing streak, saying that was more a time for tinkering.
“I wasn’t playing 100 percent to win,” he said. “I didn’t have everybody 100 percent. I was giving other kids time and just focusing on this run and it paid off.”
It nearly paid off in a sectional title, but a rough start against Rutgers Prep proved too much to overcome.
“They came out very strong the first 10, 15 minutes, we came out flat,” Pringle said. “We finally started playing the last 20 minutes. If we played the way we played the last 20 minutes of the first half and the last 40 minutes of the game we would have won.”
To St. Rose’s credit, it kept the outcome in question until the buzzer sounded.
“It’s just the drive of this team,” Caputo said. “We knew how important this was, we’ve been fighting all season.”