• Dan Russoman

Late goal lifts Blue Devils to win


Gavin West (left) sends a shot past Camden Tech goalie Lucien Maslin to give Hammonton a 3-2 win in last week’s playoff game. (THG/Dan Russoman.To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940.)

HAMMONTON—Gavin West’s goal with less than six minutes remaining in the game lifted Hammonton High School’s boys soccer team past Camden Tech 3-2 and into the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals.


Hammonton hosted Moorestown in the semifinals, which ended too late for this edition.


West’s late score broke a 2-2 stalemate in a game that looked to be headed to overtime after Camden Tech scored in the 55th minute.


“We wanted to get it done in 80 minutes and get out of here. They [Camden Tech] are a really good team and they fought us hard,” West said of winning the game in regulation.


Camden Tech, the eighth seed in the tournament, gave Hammonton, the top seed, all it could handle for 80 minutes. The Warriors played aggressively and put constant pressure on the Blue Devils at both ends of the field.


“We knew coming in that they would be aggressive and direct and that’s what they were,” Hammonton coach Steve Adirzone said.


With the game tied and time winding down, Hammonton was able to score when it needed to pull out the win.


A quick throw in was headed by Marco Schiano and as Camden Tech goalie Lucien Maslin sprinted toward the ball, West sent a sliding shot past Maslin and into the net for the game-winner with 5:30 remaining in the game.


“I saw the throw in and someone had to get a tip in and I was there. It felt great. I had to get a foot on it, he [Maslin] reached out and I put it on net,” West said.


Both West and Adirzone said Hammonton was confident it would break through and score before time expired.


“We felt if we played our game, we would eventually get a goal. We saw what their tactic was, to kick it up and over and it worked. They got the one goal off of it and we knew if we just kept playing our game, something would give on the back side and it did,” Adirzone said.


Early in the game, Hammonton appeared in control as the Blue Devils dictated the action and put pressure on Maslin and the Camden Tech defense. In the 23rd minute, Nick Iuliucci fielded a cross by Carter Bailey and scored on a header to give Hammonton a 1-0 lead.


Camden Tech was able to tie the game when a shot was deflected by Hammonton keeper Chris Volk and Bryan Calderon grabbed it and sent a shot into the Devils net.


With 11:25 remaining in the first half, Hammonton scored again, this time off a penalty corner. West sent a pass across the box and Sernio Aumenta drilled a shot past Maslin for a 2-1 halftime lead.


The game stayed close as Camden Tech pressed and missed a few shots before Antonio Jimenez broke free behind the Hammonton defense and beat Volk for a goal that tied the game with 25:37 remaining.


The teams traded scoring chances the rest of the way, with West’s late goal giving Hammonton the win against a Camden Tech team that was looking to upset the top seed.


“They [Camden Tech] came out ready to go. We expected it. We scored early and they fought back but we found a way to win,” West said.


According to Adirzone, Hammonton is growing more comfortable playing as the tournament’s top seeded team.


“Coming in as the number one seed, the first game we started a little slow but we got our feet under us and right now I feel as though we’re playing as a confident team. I don’t know if the kids feel it. I think the coaches, there’s some pressure being the number one seed, but I also think that’s gone now. Once you get past the first 10, 15 minutes it goes away,” Adirzone said.


The win marked the first time Hammonton has won two postseason games in a season since 2017.


“I knew it was coming [winning twice]. It hasn’t happened in a while for us, to win two playoff games. We have a good group of guys. People had doubts about us, but we’re getting better and that’s the goal, move on to the next game,” West said.


Earlier in the week, Hammonton topped Mainland 2-0 in its opening-round game. West and Schiano each scored in the win, while Volk had four saves to earn the shutout.


Earlier this week, Hammonton hosted Moorestown in the semifinals, but that game ended too late for this edition. The winner will take on either Toms River South or Cherry Hill East for the title on November 11.