ABC top Seton Hall Prep to win non-public A football title

SOMERSET – During his stellar career as a two-sport star at Christian Brothers Academy, senior Will Thygeson has earned a reputation as a high-caliber player.

On Saturday, in the nonpublic NJSIAA Championship Game A against Seton Hall Prep at Franklin High School, with the state’s No. 1 ranking on the line, Thygeson delivered the biggest play in the biggest game of his decorated career.

Thygeson scored the winning goal in the 77th minute and the ABC dethroned defending champion Pirates with a 1-0 victory, winning the program’s eight non-public A championships and the third in the last seven seasons.

Photo: Matt Manley

Photo: Matt Manley

The ABC victory avenges a 2-0 loss to Seton Hall Prep in the 2021 Championship Game and caps a 19-game winning streak by the Colts to end the 2022 campaign. The ABC lost its opener to Marlboro, 1-0, in overtime and won every game played since then this season.

Saturday’s result also marks a 44-game unbeaten streak for Seton Hall Prep against competitive New Jersey, dating back to a late October loss to West Orange in the truncated 2020 season.

“It’s kind of poetic,” Thygeson said. “Coming back, playing in the State Finals for the second year in a row and this time leading against, once again, another incredible team from Seton Hall Prep. It took literally every ounce of energy our boys had, but I’ll tell you: it feels a lot better to get out of here this year than it did last year.”

Since beginning his college career at the CBA in the fall of his second career, Thygeson has played in six championship games – three section finals, two state finals and a Shore conference tournament final – and scored at least once in all but one. them, giving him six goals in six title games.

Along with his clutch performance on the field, Thygeson also scored a goal in the CBA Hockey State Championship win over Delbarton to cap off the 2021-22 season.

“I’ve said it time and time again: Will is a winner,” CBA coach Tom Mulligan said. “The bigger the moment, the more Will Thygeson plays. He’s a winner, he will be missed so much by this program, but the impression he left will be forever.”

Thygeson’s latest championship score is likely to become his most memorable. After his team held the possession advantage against Seton Hall Prep for most of the game, Thygeson and the Colts were still looking for that first goal as time ticked into the five minutes to play in regulation. .

“In the first half we fought for chances and we just didn’t seize the end,” Thygeson said. “They have guys who can, on any play, score, so it was important to get a goal as soon as possible.”

In the 77th minute, the opportunity finally fell in CBA’s lap. Junior Dimitry Corba pounced on an attempted clearance from the Seton Hall Prep defense and redirected it to the Pirates end on a touch-down.

Thygeson made a diagonal run and turned upwards to execute Corba’s long pass. With Seton Hall defender Alex Oladapo on his hip, he took out goalkeeper Aidan Donovan and slipped a left-footed shot into the far corner of the goal with 3:26 on the game clock.

“I had been against Alex the whole game,” Thygeson said. “He’s a hell of a defender. I played him the second last year and he’s a great athlete, a great defender. I found myself a bit on the right side of the pitch and made the diagonal to the left. It was a great through ball and then it was just a one-on-one run to the ball and luckily I came out on top and was able to put it away.

“It was kind of a surreal moment. It was an incredible feeling. I’ve never felt anything like it.”

With his goal on Saturday, Thygeson played back-to-back games in which he scored the only goal in a 1-0 CBA win to claim a championship. The senior striker broke the ice with a 68th-minute goal on Wednesday in the CBA’s 1-0 win over St. Peter’s Prep to win South Jersey’s non-public Section A.

Will Thygeson (center) lifts the NJSIAA Non-Public A Championships trophy surrounded by CBA teammates. (Photo: Matt Manley)

Will Thygeson (center) lifts the NJSIAA Non-Public A Championships trophy surrounded by CBA teammates. (Photo: Matt Manley)

While Thygeson remained a constant for the ABC in title games, the ABC’s defensive group remained a constant for the Colts throughout the state tournament. The unit put in a solid but unspectacular performance in the Shore Conference Tournament, in which the Colts allowed four goals in four games en route to a second straight conference championship.

“We won the Shore Conference, but everyone on the back line knew we didn’t play our best,” elder Charlie Paparella said. “Going into the States, we don’t let anyone score.”

“We knew if we put a zero on the board in defense we were going to win the game,” junior Max Koczan said. “That’s all our strikers said: ‘If you keep them at zero, we’re going to win.’ And they were right.”

During the non-public Race A, however, the ABC defense was impenetrable. Junior keeper Miles Gallagher and his back four of senior Joe Lucignano and juniors Koczan, Christian DeOliveiro and Lawrence Mancino produced four consecutive clean sheets to close the season, giving them a total of 14 for all of 2022.

“Our back line, plus Miles Gallagher and Charlie Paparella at six – all year there was a lot of talk about our three forwards, but the team MVPs were on the defensive,” Thygeson said. “We’ve ruled out a Seton Hall Prep team that has a lot of firepower and we don’t talk about our defense enough. I think it’s one of the best defenses to ever come through the CBA and I think the stats reflect that and I think anyone who watches these games can see that we have real talent there.”

The final shutout was the group’s masterpiece, as the CBA limited Seton Hall Prep to two dangerous chances, which came from the power foot of junior forward and leading scorer Eddie Krupski. The first of those shots hit the right post thanks to a light parry from Gallagher in the third minute – the first of three saves for Gallagher to earn his clean sheet.

“We knew that on any free kick they were trying to look for (Krupski),” Koczan said. “He’s a big lad and it’s really hard to get around him, so we just put one in front and one behind and kind of locked him in that way. Any chance he was going to have, he was going to having to shoot the ball from outside the 18 and you saw it.”

“A remarkable group at the back,” Mulligan said. “I told them they haven’t received their credit yet, but it’s coming.”

CBA was also tight on set pieces and corner kicks from Seton Hall Prep, shutting out a Pirates team that totaled 11 goals in the two games before facing the Colts.

Last year, Seton Hall Prep capped off a dominating defensive season by shutting out the CBA, 2-0, in the state finals and finishing the season with five goals allowed in 21 games. This year’s CBA team was nearly as dominant, finishing with seven goals against in 20 games.

“It started last year after the game against Seton Hall Prep,” Lucignano said. “We all got together and talked about what we thought we could do as we approached the season. We’re really good friends, so the chemistry has really set in. We’ve conceded seven goals the whole season, so it really paid off.”

Not only was the rear performance dominant, it was also unexpected. Mancino was the only returning starter on the backline, with Paparella moving into defensive midfield after playing on the outside a year ago. In addition to the new faces on defense, a knee injury ruled out returning starting goaltender Joe Grossman for the season, putting Gallagher in the lineup.

“Losing guys like Declan Kelly and Jack McGagh at graduation and watching Joe Grossman go out at the start of the season, there was a bit of nervous energy at the start of the season with our defense,” Thygeson said. “But I played with those guys there and I knew they were going to come together and figure it out. I was just into them and they exceeded even my wildest expectations.”

While the season-ending championship was the first for this group of CBA players and the first for the program since 2018, the scenario was familiar to Mulligan. The Colts have now won three state championships since Mulligan took over as the program’s head coach and each time the CBA lost in the Finals the previous season and scored all of their goals in the game. championship in the 72nd minute or later.

“These championships never get old,” Mulligan said. “They’re always exciting, they’re always fun and I guess that’s one of the things that keeps me coming back. I can’t wait to start work from June and finish, for us recently, a week -end of mid-late Nov. Well worth the work, that’s all I can say.

While not on the team in 2018, Thygeson was present at Kean University when the CBA shocked Delbarton with a golden goal in the final two minutes of the second overtime – his introduction to the ABC’s resilience and flair for the dramatic in a championship setting. .

“I think (our tradition) is a real advantage for us because our coaching staff has experience in big moments,” Thygeson said. “I remember being in eighth grade and watching Luke Pascarella hit an overtime winner in 2018 and hoping one day that I’d be in those shoes and have a chance like that, and it all comes from our coaching staff.”

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