By: John Franklin
As the leaves on the trees fall to the ground marking the fall end and the winter beginning, we take a look back on this past season of boys’ soccer. The season for the Chiefs was marked by great success. With key wins against very talented sides, such as Newark Academy, Newark East Side, and Columbia the Chiefs were in great form heading into the post season. They were able to get the fifth seed in the state sectional tournament creating the opportunity for home field advantage in the first round. The Chiefs would face a very physical side in 12th seed Lyndhurst on Bonnel Field in the first round. Throughout the day there was confidence brewing and an aroma of victory as the Chiefs walked the halls waiting for 2:00 pm to strike. The Chiefs took Lyndhurst and all those in attendance at Bonnel Field by storm as a three goal performance by Alex Nicol who scored 17 goals all year as well as a goal by Vini Linear tallied a four nothing win for the “swans.” Senior captain Cooper Milano and Sophomore Jordan Bustamante each had an assist as well. The next game would be against a tough Madison side at Madison. The game went into half time at a 0-0 score line. The Dodgers would score early in the second putting the Chiefs in an unfamiliar situation playing from behind. The team never put their head down though as Colin Hill showed great leadership in goal by keeping the Chiefs in it the entire game. Then one of the most extraordinary things happened. On a free kick taken by Stefano Russillo, a Madison defender tried to clear the ball, but by doing so hit his own teammate and scored an own goal. The Chiefs were filled with jubilation knowing their season was still alive and one could look on and admire the shock on the face of Madison players and the joy on the face of the Caldwell boys. The game would head into overtime where the Chiefs had all the momentum. The overtime had little excitement until Caldwell got a throw in with two minutes left. Cooper Milano set up to take the throw when all of a sudden left back Stefano Russillo made a dead sprint into the box. Milano launched the ball into the box where it took a bounce onto the right foot of Russillo where the ball would rocket into the roof on the net keeping the Chiefs’ season alive and putting the nail in the coffin for Madison. The next round against top seeded Harrison would prove to be the Chiefs’ kryptonite. The Chiefs fought and clawed against top ranked Harrison. Colin Hill had a career day with nine saves, one of which was on a penalty kick. The Chiefs fell to Harrison 1-0 on a goal that barely kicked in off the outside post. Every player left their heart on the field that day and played the seventh ranked team in the state to the tightest game they had played all year. Captain Cooper Milano stated when asked about the season, “We had a great season last year and I expected the same this year based on the talented group of kids coming into the program, coupled with the experience of the seniors. Our work ethic day in and day out was phenomenal and everyone would work to achieve that one goal, a state championship. With that came a lot of team work and this team was easily the closest team I’ve ever been a part of and that is definitely a huge reason for our success. Even though we fell short of our goal of a state championship to a top ranked team in the state, I couldn’t be more proud of this team. I can’t wait to watch this group of boys develop the next few years because the talent level is phenomenal.” It was an unbelievable year for the Chiefs scoring 55 goals as a team and only allowing 25. In the voting for Super Essex Conference Awards, Alex Nicol and Stefano Russillo received honorable mentioned, Jordan Bustamante and Sam Grossman received second team all-conference, and Cooper Milano and Colin Hill both received the highest of conference honors as they were named to first team all-conference. The team also has its own awards where each team member votes on the MVP of the season, offensive MVP, defensive MVP, and most improved player. The most improved player was sophomore Lorenzo Roselle, the defensive MVP was Sam Grossman, the offensive MVPs because of a tie in votes were Cooper Milano and Alex Nicol, and MVP was won by a well-deserving goal keeper in Colin Hill. This team was one of the best teams in Caldwell soccer history and have set a bench mark that every player wants to achieve and that is reaching the state semifinals. A great group of seniors including Cooper Milano, Sam Grossman, Mike Dul, Matt “Rick” Garrity, Colin “Pin” Hill, Zach “Bag” Izraeli, Kevin “Yarl” Gray, Erik Machi, Nick “Brother” Rizzo, and Robbie Facella will all graduate JCHS this spring and move on to bigger things than being a Chief but wherever they go, as well as everyone on this year’s team, we will all be swans forever.