Half of the teams representing South Jersey in the boys soccer state tournament are from Cape May County, something that Ocean City High School boys soccer coach Aaron Bogushefsky is proud to point out.
Bogushefsky's Red Raiders and the Middle Township Panthers reached the state tournament after winning the South Jersey Group III and Group II championships, respectively.
"We never really get that much respect from the Gloucester and Camden County schools," Bogushefsky said of the Cape May County programs. "I think it's time they start to recognize that we can hang with the best of them and beat the best of them."
Ocean City (19-4-1) will face Allentown (16-4-1), of Monmouth County, in a state semifinal Tuesday night at 7:30 at Toms River North High School. Middle Township (18-3-2) will face Delran (17-6-1), of Burlington County, at 7:30 Tuesday night in a state semifinal at St. Augustine Prep in Buena Vista Township.
Both sites are artificial turf fields, which Bogushefsky said won't be a problem for his team. The Red Raiders and Allentown play their home games on grass fields, but Bogushefsky said Ocean City likes to keep the grass cut short, so the transition won't be difficult.
The Red Raiders, who jumped into the top spot of The Press Elite 11 this week, put together a dominant 2-0 win over Timber Creek on Friday for the S.J. Group III title. Timber Creek had beaten Ocean City 3-0 in their previous meeting on Nov. 2.
"The win over Timber Creek really gave our guys a lot of confidence going into this game (against Allentown)," Bogushefsky said. "We feel like we can hang with anybody right now, and I don't know if we'll always win against whoever we play, but we can hang with anybody right now.
"We're playing our best soccer of the year. We're excited to still be playing and to take advantage of this opportunity."
Middle Township, ranked No. 7 in the Elite 11, also seeks to avenge a loss today when it faces Delran, which is ranked eighth. The Panthers won their last S.J. Group II title in 2008 but then lost to Delran in the state tournament.
"I spent the last two years talking (to the kids) about the 2008 team and our accomplishments, and this group has wanted to compare themselves (to them)," coach John Maher said.
After Middle's win in a sectional final shootout over West Deptford on Friday, the team was comparing itself to the 2008 team again, the coach said.
So he challenged his players.
"The last thing I said to them Friday night at the high school when we departed was, 'You now have a chance to do something that the 2008 team didn't accomplish, and you can do it against the same team,' " Maher said.
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