GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Absegami High School forward Sean Milligan’s final shot today was an easy one to stop.
At least it would have been.
Milligan’s shot from 40 yards out trickled harmlessly across the goal line and into the net with 18.1 seconds left to play because every Southern Regional player, including goalkeeper Luke King, had pushed forward for one last-gasp effort at a game-tying goal.
Absegami beat the Rams 2-0 in the first round of the South Jersey Group IV boys soccer tournament. Absegami (17-2-1), which is ranked No. 7 in The Press Elite 11, will host No. 8 Cherokee on Thursday at 2 p.m.
Milligan’s goal was his19th this season.
“I just picked up my head real quick and saw the open net, so I took the opportunity and took the shot,” Milligan said.
Senior midfielder Eder Solano assisted on Milligan’s goal. He also assisted on Pete Varsalona’s first-half goal.
“I take pride in my passes because I feel like a good pass can turn into an opportunity for a goal,” Solano said.
Southern earned a pair of late corner kicks as well as a free kick, so Southern coach Evan Brosniak pushed King forward to attack with the Rams losing by one in the final minutes.
A failed clearance by a Southern defender went straight up into the air with time winding down in the game.
Solano beat everyone to the ball, timed his jump perfectly and knew just where to put the header.
“My instinct was to play (the ball) to the corner,” Solano said. “We just have that thing where he is going to the corner. I just had to play him the ball.”
Milligan took care of the rest.
“It was a great feeling,” Milligan said. “This was a great win. Going in here as the No. 1 seed, you know they want to come in and knock you off.”
Just eight minutes into the game, Solano carried the ball deep into Southern’s end and played a low cross into the middle. Varsalona won the battle for the ball and scored.
King had 10 saves for the Rams. Absegami’s Matt McCormick made three saves for his 11th shutout of the season.
Brosniak took the time to shake hands and console just about every one of his players after the game, and not just for Monday’s loss.
Hurricane Sandy pummeled parts of Stafford Township and the surrounding areas, particularly Long Beach Island.
“After everything was said and done, we were finally able to practice on Saturday,” said an emotional Brosniak. “We were trying to find people and get people back to get some kind of normalcy. The kids really stuck together like a big family. I can’t say much more than that.
“It was devastating. People lost houses. People lost everything they own. To come and try to do this is remarkable. They gave everything that they had. I’m proud of them. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
Contact John O’Kane:
Southern Regional 0 0—0
Absegami 1 1—2
Goals—Varsalona, Milligan A.
Goalies—King (10) SR; McCormick (3) A.
Records—Southern 9-8-3; Absegami 17-2-1.