Boys’ Soccer players overcome illnesses for playoff win

Nate Mulberg ('10)/Eastside Sports Editor

East’s boys’ varsity soccer team has been enjoying a lot of firsts lately. Last Tuesday, October 27, East won the Olympic Conference American Division outright for the first time in eleven years. Today, the Cougars won the program’s first playoff game in eight years when East beat the visiting Shawnee High School Renegades 3-0 in the first round of the NJSIAA State Playoffs.

The  game started out with a bang- literally- as 27 seconds into the first half East midfielder and captain Brian Reynolds (’10) was taken down hard by a Shawnee defender in the box, awarding the Cougars a penalty kick. East Sweeper Kevin Hansen (’10) took the penalty shot and kept it inside the left goalpost for the first score of the game.

But the penalty kick goal was not as easy as it may have appeared for Hansen, who came close to not playing in the game today. Late last night, Hansen was extremely sick with a 104 degree fever. This morning, his temperature was still at 102 degrees. Somehow Hansen found the will power to fight through his illness and play.

“I knew I had to play somehow because the chemistry in the starting lineup has been so good this season. I didn’t want to let the team down,” said Hansen, who sat out the entire second half to rest.

Surprisingly, Hansen was not the only sick Cougar who started the game and made a significant contribution to the win. Defender Brett Duffey (’10) contributed to the shutout on defense, midfielder Ben Gerstein (’10) scored the third goal for the Cougars, and forward Francis Schmutz (’10) had an assist even though all three were also under the weather.

Later on in the first half, the Cougars took a commanding 2-0 lead over Shawnee when Reynolds scored a beautifully set up goal from Schmutz, who found Reynolds in the middle of the box after dribbling around a couple Shawnee defenders. Gerstein secured the win for the Cougars after scoring his second half goal, pushing the lead to 3-0.

“[This win] makes a statement for the soccer program at East. It sets the tone for the team next year,” said Reynolds, who also had an assist in the game.

 Goalie Mike Randall (‘10) had 6 saves in the contest and continued his stellar play with his tenth shutout of the year.  Randall, who is widely considered as one the top goalies in South Jersey, has been on absolute fire as of late, as he has only allowed two goals in his last ten games in net.

 “Randall played great in net for us today. [Midfielder Brett ]Morris (’10) and Reynolds played extremely well and really controlled our transition game. Other players were not feeling well but everyone really stepped up,” said East head coach Karl Moehlmann.

 East’s next playoff game is on Friday, November 6, when the fifth seeded Cougars will take on the winner of the matchup between Southern Regional and Lenape High School.