It's hard to imagine how much a win over Ocean City High School means in the world of boys soccer programs. Sure, the program isn't what it once was.

But, there's a great saying that comes from the English soccer fields: form is temporary, while class is permanent.

Every time I go down to the Tennessee Avenue complex, a wave of nostalgia washes over me. Trainer Drew Breckenridge is always there, like he is at all the Ocean City Nor'easters games (he was my high school physics teacher; I graduated from the school in 1988).

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The point is that there are always benchmarks. The Hammonton boys soccer team didn't just reach one on Wednesday afternoon ... the Blue Devils vaulted over it.

Coach Dave Thompson has this team kicking on all cylinders. The fact that you can beat Ocean City 2-1 on the road like Hammonton did on Wednesday and still say there's a lot left to accomplish this season speaks volumes.

But when you have leaders like defender Kevin Melchiorre, a 17-year-old senior from Atco, your team is in good shape. Melchiorre helped to repel wave after wave of Ocean City attacks on Wednesday, and it's that kind of senior leadership (combined with talent) that wins games in this league.

Hammonton is now 4-4, and the Blue Devils look like they're poised to keep a multi-year streak of making the state playoffs going. And, in an unabashed football town, that would really be an accompishment.

As far as Ocean City is concerned, a 3-4-1 record is no cause for alarm. This is the second time I've seen the Red Raiders this year, and while the naysayers do their best to put this team down, the athleticism and quality of passing is still top-notch.

I asked Hammonton's Melchiorre and his fellow senior, Nowlan Thomas, what a state-playoff run in boys soccer would mean to the community. They were not shy in their assessments.

"It would mean the world," Melchiorre said. "Everybody in Hammonton loves football, but soccer matters too. We're just trying to make everyone proud."




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