Sean Milligan made a habit out of playing well in big games this season.

Milligan scored one big goal after another in the Absegami High School boys soccer team's run to the South Jersey Group IV final.

The senior midfielder was a big reason why the Braves won the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference overall and Division I titles as well as a school-record 19 games.

Milligan is The Press Boys Soccer Player of the Year.

"I just went with the game," said Milligan, 17, of Galloway Township. "I just wanted to set a name for myself in the school for people to remember."

Milligan finished the season with 21 goals, including six game-winners, and 10 assists.

"He's an outstanding playmaker for us," Absegami coach Bill Rose said. "He's a playmaker with the ability to finish.

"He had a big year with some big goals in big games. Usually you have that guy that comes up big in big situations, and he was our guy this year."

Milligan scored four of the team's five goals in the postseason en route to the sectional final, a 1-0 loss to Washington Township.

After scoring once in the team's opening round 2-0 win against Southern Regional, Milligan scored the only goal in a 1-0 overtime win against Cherokee in the quarterfinals and both Absegami goals in a 2-1 overtime win against Cherry Hill East in the semifinals.

Milligan said he tried to keep an even keel during the season.

"After scoring the winning goals in overtime, I just kept thinking about the next game ahead of us," Milligan said. "The next day it was right back on the training ground and I was thinking about the next game ahead of us."

Milligan said this team's success started well before the high school season.

Almost the entire starting lineup plays club soccer for the Hamilton Attack. A core group of them has played together for years.

"At the end of the club season, we were saying this was going to be our year," Milligan said. "We said we were going to work hard during the summer and not slack off because this is our year and it paid off. We didn't get what we wanted (sectional title), but we're going to remember this for the rest of our lives."

The Braves entered and won the Shawnee Preseason Tournament to earn early accolades and then more than lived up to the hype during the year.

Milligan played well as a junior but really came into his own this season. He wants to play in college but hasn't decided yet where.

"I think this year he was more consistent," Rose said. "He was consistent through each game."

Team of the Year

It was a special season for Absegami.

The Braves won a school-record 19 games on their way to the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference overall and Division I titles.

Absegami won three games in the state tournament before falling in the South Jersey Group IV final.

The Braves are The Press Team of the Year.

"It was a really great accomplishment," said senior captain Payne Vazquez. "I know we're all going to remember it. I know I will. I think we're probably one of the best teams in 'Gami history so it was good.

"Out of my four years in high school, this is probably the most fun I've had on the soccer team."

Absegami had 16 seniors on this year's roster.

"It was a great run," Rose said. "I can't say enough about this team. I don't think we've ever had so many seniors, so needless to say it's going to be tough to replace these guys. They're a special bunch."

Coach of the Year

Hammonton's David Thompson got the most out of his team.

Thompson's team just about flipped its record from a year ago on its head en route to the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference Division II title and the semifinals of the South Jersey Group III tournament.

Thompson is The Press Coach of the Year.

"I told them in order to have individual success we need to have team success," Thompson said. "I stressed being a teammate and thinking about what is best for the team."

It worked.

The Blue Devils went 4-14-2 in 2011 but went 16-4-2 this season with a pair of postseason wins.

"They all came into the season wanting to work hard," Thompson said. "That was the big thing."

Contact John O'Kane:

609-272-7210