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Vol. LXV, No. 46
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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(Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)

BECH AND CALL: Princeton High boys’ soccer senior midfielder Scott Bechler boots the ball in a game earlier this season. Last Friday, Bechler’s throw-in led to the lone goal as top-seeded PHS topped No. 3 Allentown 1-0 in the Central Jersey Group 3 sectional crown. The Little Tigers are slated to play Timber Creek on November 15 in the state Group 3 semis with the winner advancing to the title game on November 17 at The College of New Jersey.

Sparked by Bechler’s Endurance, Throwing Skill, PHS Boys’ Soccer Wins Sectional, MCT Crowns

Bill Alden

On a Princeton High boys’ soccer team that features a number of players with dazzling ball skills, Scott Bechler brings something different to the table.

“My role is just getting up and down the field and tiring out the other team and throwing the ball far,” said junior midfielder Bechler.

“I try to work around the other guys because they know what they are doing.”

Last Friday as top-seeded PHS faced No. 3 Allentown in the Central Jersey Group 3 championship game, it was Bechler’s talent at throwing the ball in that helped make the difference as the Little Tigers pulled out a 1-0 win.

With the teams knotted in a scoreless tie and just under eight minutes remaining in regulation, Bechler chucked the ball towards the Allentown goal, setting in motion the sequence that led to Jordan Phelps finding the back of the net.

“We have a play where I throw it in and someone tries to flick it on and the next guy shoots because I can’t get it all the way in,” said Bechler, noting that he is following in a family tradition as his older brother, Chris ’09, also excelled at tossing it in for the Little Tigers. “On that one, Jordan just happened to be there.”

The Redbirds, though, didn’t go down easily, making several forays into the PHS defense over the last several minutes of the contest.

“They put lots of pressure on and we put a lot of guys behind the ball,” said Bechler.

“We just tried to make sure that any time they got the ball into our box that it was our ball to kick it out. They move the ball around, they pass it well.”

The Little Tigers, who were slated to play Timber Creek on November 15 in the state Group 3 semis with the winner advancing to the title game on November 17 at The College of New Jersey, can move the ball around pretty well too.

“We have got some great players, everyone just works together,” said Bechler, who helped the Little Tigers produce another great effort last Sunday as they edged Pennington 1-0 in the Mercer County Tournament championship game.

“It is not just about one person scoring, it is about the team moving on. We are moving the ball better instead of just kicking and running. When we work together, it is easier to score.”

PHS head coach Wayne Sutcliffe likes the work he is getting from Bechler, particularly on his throw-ins.

“Scott does have a knack for that; we have had many players who can really throw it,” said Sutcliffe.

“We work on it every single day, Scott on those throw-ins and Aidan [Passannante] and Zach [Halliday] on the corner kicks and set pieces.”

PHS’s attention to detail made the difference in the win over Allentown. “It was just the little things, the defending and staying sharp,” said Sutcliffe.

“We were trying to exploit what Allentown does; they get real cheeky with it in the back and we tried to pressure the ball and force turnovers.”

Sutcliffe was proud of how Phelps came through under pressure when he got his chance late in the contest.

“He had a good game today, all credit to him,” said Sutcliffe. “It was nice work on the goal, he really gave us what we needed. We are all so happy for him because he has persevered through the season. He had some good stretches and some stretches where he was a little challenged.”

Senior goalie George Kusserow was up to the challenge as well. “George played great, that save at the end on the set piece was exceptional,” added Sutcliffe of Kusserow who came up big in the MCT win over Pennington as he made nine saves. “The players he has out in front of him are great.”

It is a great feeling for the Little Tigers to make it back to the state Final 4.

“We are back for the fourth time in eight years and we are so proud of that,” said Sutcliffe, whose team improved to 20-0-2 with the win over Pennington.

“Our goal was to win at least one major championship. We are here because of Ben [Davis], Kyle [Ehrenworth], Aidan, Zach, Bruce [Robertson], Kellen [Kenny], Ajami [Gikandi], and all of them and all of their hard work over the past year.”

In Sutcliffe’s view, the win over Pennington in the MCT title game should help PHS as it goes after a second state title in the last three years.

“What a springboard this is into the state semifinal,” asserted Sutcliffe, who got a second half from Kevin Halliday as the top-seeded Little Tigers edged No. 3 Pennington (15-4-2).

“We couldn’t be going in with more experience in championship games, not only with this one but previous ones. We have guys who have been to Toms River before. All these things add up in the end.”

Bechler, for his part, is confident that PHS can end things on a high note. “At the beginning of the season, we were a little rough and shaky,” said Bechler.

“Everything just got better. I remember the Hightstown game where we won 30 seconds into overtime; everybody felt good after that one. We are playing our best soccer at the end of the season.”

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