"Winning the title may have been a surprise to other people, but not to us," said Washington Township coach Tom Patterson, whose school had most recently won the league in 1985. "But when you are in a division with great teams like West and East, it's tough not to be an underdog."
Washington Township got a big boost when senior midfielder Nick Bozine transferred from Bishop Eustace. Bozine has scored 10 goals.
"Nick is a quality player and gave us a dimension we didn't have," Patterson said. "He has taken the pressure off the other midfielders by scoring. He draws a lot of attention and opens up areas for others."
The leading scorer is senior midfielder Jami Levins, who has 13 goals. Only three other seniors start on this young team - defender Carl Heil, stopper Mike Walsh and forward Travis Black.
Defense has been the key for the Minutemen. Patterson considers junior Paul Heil, the brother of Carl, to be one of the best sweepers around. Sophomore goalie Jeff Kiesel has been a major factor in the Minutemen recording nine shutouts.
A CLEAR CHARGE. One of the great late-season rushes toward a division title belonged to Tri-County Royal Division champion Clearview.
The Pioneers started the season 3-3 in league play before winning their last 12 in a row. Anything short of a 12-game winning streak would have given the division title to Pennsville. Both teams finished with 28 points, but Clearview was 2-0 against Pennsville, giving the Pioneers the edge.
"When we were 3-3, I thought we would be lucky to make the playoffs," Clearview coach Chris Adamkiewicz said. "At that point, we weren't thinking conference title."
The Clearview coach made a change after four games that helped turn the Pioneers' season around. With a 2-2 record, he moved senior John Ditzler out of goal and onto the forward line. Last year, Ditzler scored six goals as the first forward off the bench.
Ditzler has scored 13 goals, second only to senior midfielder Dan Bischoff's total of 16.
Senior Tryg Farstad went into goal and earned 12 shutouts.
Clearview has also been aided by an offense-minded defense. Senior stopper Jim Sheehan has scored nine goals and sophomore sweeper Chad Dear had no goals, but the incredible total of 30 assists. Dear was voted the league's top defender.
"I'll be the first to admit that we were really lucky," Adamkiewicz said. ''It's tough to win 12 in a row in any league. It was such a fluke thing, but the kids deserve it for all the hard work they've put in."
INJURED CINNAMINSON. Cinnaminson's team is beginning to resemble a MASH unit. As many as seven starters have been sidelined with injuries recently. Despite the injuries, Cinnaminson won its first South Jersey Group 2 tournament game over Manchester Township, 4-3, in overtime on Tuesday.
In that game, sophomore goalkeeper Anthony Mazzarelli left the game with a concussion and is one of many Pirates players questionable for tomorrow's second-round Group 2 tournament game at West Deptford.
"He didn't remember anything about the game after the game, and he still doesn't now," Cinnaminson coach Chip Candy said. "He is very questionable for Friday. I literally won't know until we go on the field whether he will play or not."
In Mazzarelli's absence, Candy used stopper Scott Hughes in goal. Hughes also has a knee injury and is questionable for tomorrow, according to Candy.
Candy said senior midfielder John Damian is probably out for the season after hurting a knee in Tuesday's game. Linemen Matt Kiss and Brian Hearn and stopper Brian Donnan have ankle injuries.
Kiss scored two goals in limited action against Manchester Township to raise his season total to 17.
"I would love to play a game with my whole team," Candy said. "We have been moving people around so much that I don't have a true starting lineup. The thing is these aren't nagging injuries, they are more serious. It's been frustrating, but we'll continue to show up."
ODDS AND ENDS. Delsea and Kingsway have played each other three times and each game has been an offensive shootout. Kingsway has won two, including Tuesday's 6-3 South Jersey Group 2 tournament win over the Crusaders. The teams have also tied once. In the three games, Kingsway has scored 13 goals, while Delsea has scored nine times. . . . Through Tuesday, hard-luck Woodbury had lost its last three games by 2-1 scores, to West Deptford, Audubon and Sterling. Five of the Thundering Herd's last six losses have been by one goal. . . . Holy Cross has been involved in five consecutive one-goal games, losing to Willingboro and Bishop Eustace and defeating Paul VI, Cherokee and St. Augustine. . . . When Dennis McFadden scores a goal, it is usually a good omen for Shawnee. The Renegades are 6-0 in games in which the junior has scored at least one goal. . . . In its 17 games through Tuesday, Palmyra has scored at least two goals in every game. By comparison, Kingsway's Frank Cristaudo has had 13 multiple-goal games, including eight in which he scored three or more goals. Cristaudo, a senior midfielder, is leading South Jersey with 43 goals. . . . Cherry Hill West has excelled at winning the close games. The Lions have won six games by 1-0 scores. . . . Vineland has shutouts in six of its last seven games.