Dennis Heenan has a unique perspective on Egg Harbor Township High School goalkeeper Brad Watkins.
Watkins broke the school's career shutouts record on Friday in a 1-0 win against Cape-Atlantic League American Conference foe Vineland. The shutout was Watkins' fifth this season and the 20th of his career.
Heenan has been an assistant with the team since head coach Pete Lambert took over five seasons ago. He has watched almost all of Watkins games.
But Heenan is more than a coach.
He was also the previous record holder and is one of Watkins' biggest fans.
"Truthfully, I couldn't ask for a better kid to take all these records," Heenan said. "He deserves the recognition for being such a talented goalkeeper. I'm very proud of him."
Watkins passed Heenan (class of 1997) for second place on the school's all-time wins list earlier this year and is just three victories away from tying that record, which is held by John DeAngelis (class of 2005).
Heenan is the first to heap praise on Watkins.
"From all the goalkeepers that I have seen at EHT from when I was younger to now,... he is hands-down the best goalkeeper that has every come through the program."
Watkins is in his third year as the team's starting keeper and said that Heenan has been a big part of his success.
"I've never seen someone want their record broken as much as he did," Watkins said with a laugh. "He was really proud to see me break it."
Watkins knows he's fortunate to have an assistant coach with a goalkeeping background.
"He's honestly like my left hand," Watkins said. "Anything I need to work on goalkeeping-wise, he's there to help me out.
"It's great. He can relate to anything that's going on or of there is a situation going on he can relate to it. He's not just going to say, 'Stop the ball.' He can help me progress as a goalkeeper."
Watkins has been in net for some of the best seasons in school history. He had seven shutouts last season as the Eagles won the first Cape-Atlantic League American Conference title in school history.
"I think he's probably one of the best in the league," Heenan said. "He's very coachable. He's a student of the game and he's a great leader. He's been a great asset to our team over the last three years and allowed us to play as well as we have."
Many expected this to be a rebuilding year after the team graduated almost its entire varsity lineup.
The Eagles are 6-5-1 this year with a 4-1 record in CAL American Division I.
"We can do anything we set our mind to," Watkins said. "Not too many people thought we would be in the position we're in right now, but the way things are going now in the CAL, anything can happen. We're just going to try to keep winning games because that's all we can do."
S.J. Coaches Tournament
The pairings for the prestigious South Jersey Coaches Tournament were announced Monday.
Middle Township (10-1) is the only area team to qualify for the 16-team field.
The Panthers are the No. 15 seed and will play second-seeded Washington Township in the first round.
Hammonton keeps rolling
No team in the area is hotter than Hammonton.
The Blue Devils are 6-0-1 over their last seven games.
Goalkeeper Andrew Slater has reeled off six straight shutouts and hasn't allowed a goal since a 4-2 win against Mainland Regional on Sept. 20.
Contact John O'Kane: