Two Cape-Atlantic League high school boys soccer teams will compete in South Jersey finals today.
Ocean City, which is ranked No. 3 in The Press Elite 11 and the top seed in the Group III bracket, will host Timber Creek at 2 p.m. Timber Creek is No. 2 in the Elite 11 and the third seed in the sectional field.
In Group II, second-seeded Middle Township will travel to reigning champion and top-seeded West Deptford for a 2 p.m. game Middle is ninth in the Elite 11 and West Deptford fifth.
Ocean City (18-4-1) has history with Timber Creek (20-2-1).
The teams met twice this year, in a preseason tournament at Richard Stockton College and in the semifinals of the Coach's Tournament on Nov. 2. Timber Creek won their most recent meeting, 3-0.
They also played each other in the 2011 S.J. Group III final. Timber Creek won 5-4 in a shootout that decided a 1-1 tie.
"They are more than ready," coach Aaron Bogushefsky said of his players Thursday. "I guess you can kind of say there's a rivalry now between the two schools. Every year it seems we always play them, and we're going to beat them sooner or later."
Middle won a tight game to reach its sectional final.
After a pair of convincing wins over Pemberton and Cedar Creek, the Panthers (17-3-2) overcame a 3-0 deficit to Woodstown to win in penalty kicks. Coach John Maher said that type of win will fuel his team today against West Deptford (20-2-1).
"In hindsight, it doesn't matter how many goals were scored if you match it," Maher said Thursday. "I think that the way the game carried out could work to be a big boost. It's not the kind of thing you have a letdown from. I think this is the kind of thing that charges you."
The semifinal was the first time all season that Middle let up more than one goal in a game. Senior goalkeeper Tanner Kerr has 15 shutouts this year.
Kerr isn't the only senior leading the Panthers. They are loaded with senior leaders who were on the teams that lost in the semifinals each of the last two seasons.
The last time Middle won a South Jersey title was 2008. Current seniors Corey Daniels and Cody Stanford had older brothers on that team, Maher said.
"I have no doubt that they are going to respond to the challenge," Maher said of the Panthers. "There is no doubt in my mind that they will be ready to play."
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