• Dan Russoman

Late goal lifts EHT past Hammonton


THG/Dan Russoman. To purchase photos in The Gazette, call (609) 704-1940. Hammonton’s Carter Bailey (11) dribbles through two EHT defenders during last week’s game.

HAMMONTON—A tight, intense game ended in disappointment for Hammonton High School’s boys soccer team last week as the Blue Devils lost to Egg Harbor Twp. (EHT) on a penalty kick with just 16 seconds left in overtime.


Until then, the teams had played a close game, with each scoring once. The matchup had multiple implications on the race for the Cape Atlantic League (CAL) championship, as it likely eliminated Hammonton from contention for the American Division title and also impacted seeding for the upcoming CAL tournament.


“We were tied [for the division lead] coming in, so now we’re a little behind them,” Hammonton coach Steve Adirzone said.


Last season, EHT topped Hammonton twice, including in the CAL championship game, and the teams have developed a friendly rivalry. Earlier this year, the Blue Devils won at EHT 3-1.


In last week’s game, Nathan Biersbach scored in the 10th minute of play to put the Eagles ahead 1-0. The game stayed that way until early in the second half, when Hammonton’s Carter Bailey controlled the ball between two EHT defenders, dribbled to toward the goal and sent a shot past Eagles’ goalie Brett Barnes to tie the game 1-1.


Bailey’s shot was the only one to slip past Barnes, who was outstanding, especially in the second half, when he made several diving saves to keep Hammonton off the scoreboard.


“Their goalie played an outstanding game, he saved them multiple times,” Adirzone said.


Barnes’ play frustrated the Blue Devils who controlled the game for most of the second half and overtime periods.


“We made adjustments at the half and these guys, their soccer IQ is so high that they understand what we’re trying to tell them and they go out and execute. You saw that in the second half, the adjustments we made and we really dominated in the second half. We got one, could have had a few more,” Adirzone said.


After playing one scoreless overtime period, the game went to a second, and with less than 30 seconds remaining there was a scrum in front of the Hammonton net. Blue Devils goalie Michael Darnell deflected a shot to the left of the goal, but as player scrambled to control the ball, officials whistled a foul inside the penalty area with 16 seconds left on the clock.


Biersbach then connected on a low penalty kick that gave EHT the win.


“We lost to them on our field last year and today, I thought we were the better team on the field today, especially in the second half and overtime. But that’s what happens sometimes.

Tip your cap to them and move on,” Adirzone said.


The loss snapped a streak of 10 games without a loss for Hammonton. As for the CAL tournament, the Blue Devils received the third seed, while EHT was seeded first.


The loss to EHT highlighted a week that also saw Hammonton defeat Atlantic County Institute of Technology (ACIT) and lose to Shawnee in the Coaches Cup.


Against EHT, Hammonton took control early and rolled to a 6-0 win.


Gavin West scored twice in the victory, while Bailey, Marco Schiano and Ethan Dustman each added goals. Darnell had two saves and shared time in goal with Luke Griscom, who made one save.


The week ended at Shawnee, where the host Renegades ousted the Blue Devils from the South Jersey Coaches Cup tournament with a 5-1 win.


Jaxon Miller tallied Hammonton’s lone goal late in the second half. Darnell made six saves and Griscom had one in the loss.


Despite the two losses last week, Adirzone is pleased with Hammonton’s play and focused on the postseason.


“we still have things to play for. At this point our focus is on [Group 3] states. The way we’re playing, I’m happy with what we’re doing on the field right now,” he said.


As for the CAL tournament, Hammonton hosted Oakcrest in the quarterfinals earlier this week, but that game ended too late for this edition. The winner advances to play at second-seeded Middle Twp. on October 20.