High expectations for Delran boys’ soccer team

Posted: September 21, 2010

Delran boys' soccer coach Mike Otto runs a tight ship, but he is looking the other way after his players broke one of his rules.

Owner of two consecutive Group 2 state titles, Otto tells his players to not pay attention to rankings.

While the players would run through a wall for the coach, this time, they haven't listened.

That's because once again Delran is ranked highly, No. 4 in South Jersey by The Inquirer, and the expectations are even higher despite losing all but one full-time starter from a team that finished 22-2-1 and No. 2 in last year's South Jersey rankings.

And no doubt the rankings are of particular interest now that Delran has improved to 2-1-1 with Tuesday's 3-1 home win over No. 7 Burlington Township in a typical Burlington County Liberty Division struggle.

Clearly ahead for the Bears is No. 1 St. Augustine, which Delran will visit Friday.

"Coach says don't look at the rankings," said senior midfielder Jackson Machado, the lone returning full-time starter from last year. "To us, it's really a noteworthy game when we are playing a ranked team, especially somebody who is No. 1."

Of course, playing in the Liberty means seeing ranked teams on an almost daily basis. Cinnaminson is No. 5 and Rancocas Valley is No. 9, giving the Liberty four of the top 10 teams. And Moorestown is the defending South Jersey Group 3 champion and is no pushover. Neither is Northern Burlington, which has already tied Rancocas Valley.

Make no mistake, Burlington Township (3-1 overall, 2-1 Liberty) should also be handful in the Central Jersey Group 3 playoffs.

"I think the Liberty is more up for grabs than it has been in a while," Otto said.

Tuesday's game was a story of two halves. Delran dominated the first 40 minutes, getting goals from Jared Ruff in the second minute and Brett Sanson in the 30th to take a 2-0 halftime lead.

Burlington Township cut the lead to 2-1 when junior Caio Machado, who was the most impressive player on the field, took a feed from Brendan Stringfrellow, beat a defender, and shot a low liner into the far post from inside the box in the 60th minute.

Machado, who was a football player, was constantly breaking down defenders in tight space.

Delran then got some breathing room when Jackson Machado sent a long through pass to Laris Brkic, who connected in the 76th minute.

"We only played for 40 minutes, and you can't beat a team like Delran playing only one half," Burlington Township coach Jon Marks said.

Actually, teams that put together two strong halves haven't had much success against the Bears, who were 56-9-3 in the previous three years.

With Jackson Machado acting as the lead distributor, this is a Delran team that has its typical toughness, but the Bears, at least in the first half, were also knocking the ball around well, showing the ability to keep the ball on the ground.

The second half was a different story, but the Bears still came out with the win, which will no doubt send the players looking at the latest soccer rankings.

When Otto was told his players haven't paid attention to his rankings mandate, he smiled.

"I was once in their shoes," said Otto, who won a state title as a player at Delran and has added four as a coach. "I know they get excited reading the papers."

Burlington Township   0 1 – 1

Delran   2 1 – 3

Goals: D-Jared Ruff, Brett Sanson, Laris Brkic; BT-Caio Machado.

Saves D-Michael Reyes 5; BT-Ryan Liberty 5.

Contact staff writer Marc Narducci at 856-779-3225 or mnarducci@phillynews.com.

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