There are wins. There are playoff wins. And then there is the type of win the West Deptford High School boys’ soccer team experienced Saturday afternoon.
Led by a goal less than two minutes in and a phenomenal defensive performance, the Eagles excised past demons while also keeping their playoff run alive in a 1-0 win over Haddonfield, at Scout Field.
Senior Joey Mingrino scored one minute, 38 seconds into the game and Brendan Gill made the goal stand up with several key saves, helping No. 9 West Deptford end a five-game losing streak against No. 1 Haddonfield.
“I can’t even describe it,” said Mingrino. “I was probably the happiest kid on earth. It was great. I have never beaten them in my high school career and beating them in the playoffs and going to the semifinals of the playoffs is great.”
Haddonfield won a pair of one-goal contests against West Deptford during the regular season, including a 3-2 decision at West Deptford Park. The loss seemed to be a rallying point for the Eagles who have played their best soccer over the last month.
“We’ve kind of marked this on the calendar, knowing going into the playoffs this was going to happen and we were going to be overly prepared for it,” first-year coach Steve Jakubowski said. “When we had that devastating 3-2 overtime defeat to them at home I guaranteed to these guys that we would see them again and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”
Mingrino’s goal was set up by Lewis Hunter, who took the ball down the end line and fired in a shot that went off the Haddonfield keeper and bounced right to Mingrino. The Eagles’ forward didn’t miss, sending the team into a frenzy.
The win was West Deptford’s sixth-straight shutout and 10th overall. Gill has been in net for nine of those, after starting the season in a rotation.
“I just kept my head in it and knew I was going to get a chance,” Gill said. “When my chance came I was going to show coach and show everyone else that I was supposed to be between the pipes.”
Gill’s biggest series of saves came with 20 minutes left in the first half when he made a lunging save on a strong shot from the Bulldawgs' Jeff Sabatini, then made a diving save on a header attempt by Sabatini on the ensuing corner kick.
“Those are his biggest saves of the year,” Jakubowski said.
Gill got some help from defender RJ Eckley a few minutes later when a shot bounced out of his hands and right to the feet of Haddonfield's Luke Pease. The Haddonfield forward looked to have an easy goal, but Eckley was able to clear the ball off the goal line to preserve the lead.
“The ball came out and I saw (Pease with it) and my heart just dropped,” Eckley said. “I just sat on the goal line and tried to do whatever I could to stop it from going in. I just sat on it, sort of.”
Haddonfield continued to apply pressure throughout the second half, getting several set pieces. However, the Eagles defense tightened and didn’t give up many quality looks the rest of the way.
“We’ve really turned it on defensively, obviously we haven’t given up a goal in six games,” said Jakubowski. “We are playing extremely well defensively; we just have to keep on building off of Gill’s movement and motivation.”
The loss was a stunner for the Bulldawgs, who had visions of returning to the South Jersey finals as the top seed.
“We didn’t play well,” said Haddonfield coach Joe Falana. “The guys we count on to have a good game had bad games. They played well. We beat them twice in the regular season and for them to come and beat us is a feather in their cap.”
West Deptford, meanwhile, is off to the semifinals where it will take on No. 4 Buena or No. 5 Deptford.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Gill. “It’s something you would never think we could do as a nine seed coming in and taking on one seed and not only beating them, but shutting them out.”