Osbert Guzman was simply waiting his turn.
The Absegami High School sophomore started Wednesday’s Cape-Atlantic League interconference showdown with Middle Township on the sidelines, watching his teammates intently.
Guzman liked what he saw.
“I saw how they were playing in the defense,” Guzman said. “When you’re sitting on the bench, you just get hungry. You want to play out there and give it your all.”
Guzman made the most of his opportunity, scoring his first goal of the season with 1 minute,10 seconds left in the first half to lead the Braves to a 2-1 win.
Absegami (9-1-1) is No. 10 in The Press Elite 11. Middle (10-2) is No. 11.
Pete Varsalona carried the ball down the right side of the field late in the first half.
The senior forward played a ball across the mouth of the goal.
“That was a beautiful ball,” Guzman said with a smile. “Best cross I’ve seen this year.”
Guzman beat his defender to the ball and headed it into the net.
The late goal staked the Braves to a 2-1 lead. Neither team would find the net in the second half.
“It was a great win,” Absegami senior Sean Milligan said. “We’ve been working so hard and preparing as a team for this win.”
Milligan ended the game laying on his back inside Middle’s box after missing a wide-open net in the game’s final seconds
after running nearly the length of the field.
Milligan is one of the area’s top scorers with 11 goals this season and may never have an easier goal, but he didn’t seem too upset.
“I was tired,” Milligan said with a laugh. “We worked hard the whole game. We’ve been working for this win.”
The pairings for the upcoming South Jersey Coaches Tournament were announced Monday. The Braves felt slighted to find out that Middle was the only area team invited.
“In a way, we’re taking it like we have to show them this is what you get for not putting us in the tournament,” Absegami senior captain Payne Vazquez said.
Vazquez is the team’s stopper but was asked to play man defense on Middle Township’s Jacob Cowan, one of the premier players in South Jersey.
Cowan scored his league-leading 19th goal of the year four minutes into the game to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.
But Vazquez and the defense clamped down from there.
“They wanted me to man-mark him because we knew he was good,” Vazquez said. “I followed him wherever he went.”
Vazquez, who played all 80 minutes of the game, showed a little offensive touch with a goal midway through the first half to tie the game.
It was difficult to find anyone smiling as hard as Guzman following the game.
Chances are he’ll remember scoring the big goal in one of the team’s biggest games of the season for a long time to come.
“That was just an amazing feeling,” Guzman said.
Contact John O’Kane:
Middle Township 1 0—1
Absegami 2 0—2
Goals—Cowan MT; Vazquez, Guzman A.
Goalies—Hand (0)/Kerr (4) MT; McCormick (4).
Records—Middle 10-2; Absegami 9-1-1.