Clifton vs. Kearny soccer

Boys Soccer Recap: Clifton Roll Past Ridgewood into Sectional Final

On the Wednesday after Halloween, the top-seeded Clifton High School boys soccer team hosted fifth-seeded Ridgewood in the North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 semi-finals.

On a chilly afternoon, the Mustangs ran onto the turf in front of a crowd of student supporters, who provided the home players with a boost akin to the New York Yankees' bleacher creatures.

The visitors had more possession of the ball to start the game, which put Clifton on the back foot. However, the Mustangs were coming into this game as the top-seed in their bracket for a reason and it didn't take long for them to back that up. Just six minutes into the first half, the Mustangs earned a corner and made Ridgewood pay when defender Christopher Reece one-time volleyed the corner kick into the right side of the net.

Ridgewood nearly tied the game when one of their players one-time volleyed a corner kick that senior Cliton goalkeeper, Cameron Zutic, dove to his left and just managed to keep out with a strong left hand.

Ridgewood ended up ruing that missed opportunity when Clifton capitalized on a corner kick soon after. Another great delivery from a Clifton corner kick taker, found sophomore Simon Deossa making a run to the back-post. Deossa headed the ball into the right side of the net and the visitors found themselves with a two-goal-deficit heading into halftime.

Clifton Keep Pressure on in Second Half

In the first half, the Clifton Mustangs frustrated Ridgewood by allowing them just one shot-on-goal. Ridgewood were able to possess the ball in the attacking third, but Clifton's team defense refused to let them breakthrough.

About 10 minutes into frame two, Zutic played a long ball all the way from Clifton's 18 into Ridgewood's half. A Ridgewood defender raced Senior Mustang forward, Vitali Datsyk to the ball, but Datsyk won and dribbled into the 18-yard box where he finished a cool right-footed strike past the oncoming goalkeeper.

Ridgewood came closest to scoring in the 60th minute when they earned a free kick edge of the 18-yard box and their shot rang off the cross bar and back into the fray in front of Zutic where it was cleared by a Clifton player.

In the last 10 minutes of the match, a Clifton midfielder's longshot was saved by a diving Ridgewood goalkeeper while Zutic made a comfortable save at the other end.

Straight from the Mustangs’ Mouth

When the full-time whistle blew, the Mustangs knew they had made it through to their second straight appearance in the Section I, Group IV final. After the game, Coach Limbryk discussed what has helped his team succeed to the tune of a 15-1-1 overall record and a ticket to the Section 1, Group 4 final.

I just think the key is the consistent work that my players put in every game, every day in practice. You put the work in every day and you know you're bound to get good results and they by far have bought into the work that has to be done and the product is on the field.

This game could have been closer if Clifton's goalkeeper, Cameron Zutic hadn't preserved his team's 1-0 lead in the first half. The senior Mustang described how he feels about his team's play heading into what will be the biggest game of their season.

We we’re here last year and lost in the finals. It was heartbreak, but this year we’ve had more outstanding wins, our offense is clicking. We’re all clicking at the right time.

The 2022-23 North Jersey Section 1 group 4 final was played at Clifton High School's soccer stadium and so will this year's. That game will be played on Saturday in Clifton's barn and although time and opponent are yet to be determined, one thing is certain and that's that Clifton will need to overcome any demons left over from being upset in last year's section final.

Last season, Clifton had almost as strong a regular season as they have this year. They posted a 16-2-1 record during September and mid-October and wound up the one-seed in the section tournament. But they were upset by the second-seed West Orange 2-1. This year, the team may be a bit stronger and posted a regular season record that reflects that.

"Once we get that first goal, that’s when the team really starts to roll," Christopher Reece said, who got Clifton started today.

One thing that seems to be true about Clifton high school's students is that they support their soccer team, strongly. Part of the reason why maybe that the Mustangs have been so good in recent years as they won the 2019 section 1 championship and group 4 championship but that doesn't mean that this year's Clifton boys soccer team isn't trying hard to win their section for the second time in four years.

The crowd was great. It's the same one from last year. Same crowd, same energy and yeah, this is what we need and on Saturday, if we bring it, it's gonna be the same story.

-Simon Deossa, Mustangs sophomore forward

Anthony Paradiso
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