Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXII, No. 38
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
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WINNING STRIKE: Princeton High boys’ soccer star Sam Kotowski controls the ball in a game last fall. This past Friday, Kotowski scored a second-half goal to give PHS a 2-1 win over Lawrence High in the season opener for both teams. PHS hosts Hopewell Valley on September 18 and Nottingham on September 23.

Senior Striker Perez Seizes Opportunity as PHS Boys’ Soccer Survives in Opener

Bill Alden

It was pouring rain last Friday afternoon but that didn’t dampen Anastacio Perez’s joy as he scored the first goal of the season for the Princeton High boys’ soccer team.

After deftly striking a ball into the back of the net early in the first half of PHS’s season opener against visiting Lawrence High, Perez went head over heels as he launched into a series of flips.

PHS, though, was spinning its wheels for a big stretch of the game as a physical Lawrence side gave the Little Tigers trouble and evened the game early in the second half.

But a moment of brilliance by Sam Kotowski let PHS enjoy the final celebration of the day as the senior striker slid into the box and blasted a volley over the Lawrence goalie to provide the margin of victory in a 2-1 win.

Afterward, a soaked but smiling Perez acknowledged that Lawrence had given PHS a stern opening day test.

“They were better than what I thought; I remember last year when we beat them 4-0 or something like that,” said Perez.

“They are a pretty good team; they are big. We probably could have played a little better. If we would have played our game, it probably would’ve been a different score. We just have to get better at being connected in the game.”

Perez enjoyed making the first scoring connection for the Little Tigers. “It’s all about being first to the ball; that’s what coach [Wayne Sutcliffe] always says,” added Perez. “I saw my opportunity there and got a foot in there.”

Seizing opportunity gave Perez the chance to show his acrobatic prowess.

“I do wrestling and we do that for our warm-ups,” said Perez. “We have made that a little part of the celebration.”

As he develops a chemistry with Kotowski up front, Perez is hoping the Little Tigers will have plenty of goals to celebrate this fall.

“I am always thinking about scoring during the game; if I have an opportunity I’m going to try to make the best of it,” said Perez.

“It’s the same with Sam, he is very good on his feet. We are working together. I give him compliments; if he misses a shot, I try to cheer him up a little. We are definitely getting better at working together. We have had three scrimmages before today. Within a couple of weeks, we’ll be there and we’ll know what our roles are.”

PHS head coach Sutcliffe was relieved that his team survived the challenges presented by pesky Lawrence.

“It was a great test and a good result; it’s all about the result every time,” said Sutcliffe, the 11th-year head coach who guided the Little Tigers to a 17-1 record and the Mercer County Tournament title last fall.

“They came at us with some things we don’t really see too often. They are physical, they are big, and they are strong. They connect well. I’m just happy we got that win.”

Sutcliffe was happy to see Perez start the scoring account for the Little Tigers.

“Anastacio played well; he was active,” said Sutcliffe. “He has improved his game a lot over the past year.

“There is plenty of room for improvement for PHS’ strike force. “It’s a work in progress with all of them, Sam, Anastacio, and Andre [Spirin],” added Sutcliffe, whose team hosts Hopewell Valley on September 18 and Nottingham on September 23.

“It’s a long season, we have only been at it for three weeks. We showed a lot better in terms of some areas of the game in these scrimmages against some tough teams like Scotch Plains and Montgomery. We can do it; the chemistry has to get better.”

PHS also needs to work on its defensive chemistry. “Our defense had their hands full; they gave us some problems,” said Sutcliffe, who credited senior center back Chris Bechler with being a disruptive force for his side.

“They had some big guys who could hold the ball with their back to the goal … they did a good job there. Defensively, we are not where we need to be in terms of holding the ball and being able to play it wide to our backs. But it was a tough day to play with the rain. The defense played OK; well enough to win and that’s what matters most.”

Perez, for his part, believes PHS is going to pile up a lot of wins this fall. “Most of the players are definitely looking to make it to the finals of states this year,” said Perez.

“Everyone is really into the team; everyone is focused. The seniors are trying to make the best of our last year playing for PHS and setting an example for the other teams to come.”

Perez set a good example last Friday as he seized the opportunity to get PHS on the board.

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