By Rich Chrampanis |
UNION – Any high school athlete would give the shirt off their back to win a state championship.
On a cold, frigid Sunday night at Kean University, CBA junior Luke Pascarella did just that. Pascarella’s 33-yard low liner strike with 19 seconds left in double over time gave the Colts a 2- 1 win over Delbarton to win the Non-Public “A” state championship and, after the ball went in the net, Pascarella shed his dark blue jersey and climbed the stands shirtless to celebrate with family and friends.
“I’m a little crazy. I’m a little screwed up in the head,” Pascarella joked on his shirtless celebration.
“Celebrating the final game of the season with 19 seconds left, I just ripped my shirt, run into the crowd and celebrate with my brothers.”
You have to go back to 2016 to find the last time the Delbarton Green Wave lost on the soccer pitch. With a 53-0-4 record in that span, the No. 4 team in the Top Drawer national rankings looked like it would extend the unbeaten streak to 58 when Delbarton scored in the fifth minute. Brendan McSorley pounced on a long throw-in from close range to make it a 1-0 Green Wave lead.
The game took a dramatic turn in the 49th minute when Delbarton’s Sam Burvill received a double yellow card for dissent. The Green Wave would play the rest of the game a man down with just 10 players on the field. New Jersey’s No. 1 ranked team for the entire 2018 season did a great job of hunkering down and things looked bleak for CBA despite their man advantage. That all changed with 5:08 to go in the state final. Delbarton made a clearing attempt that landed in open space. Colts defender Jack Hempstead was able to launch a missile from 24 yards that was high rising and scorched the back of the net in the upper 90 region. It sent CBA’s bench into a frenzy. Hempstead’s goal was the kind you see on highlight reels from the World Cup or English Premier League. The Hempstead equalizer set the stage for over time.
The NJSIAA instituted a new rule for 2018 that took away a shared state title if there was no score in extra time. Penalty kicks can now decide the fate of a state championship. All arrows pointed to a dramatic five-round showdown that would ultimately be decided by the goalkeepers. But in the final minute, Joe Lozowski was hauled down giving CBA one final chance before the end of the second overtime period. Pascarella previously had a long direct kick in the second half and got off a solid low bouncer that was steered away by Green Wave keeper Kyle Swift. But with 19 ticks on the clock, Pascarella was able to bend the ball around the wall and hit the inside left post to deliver one of the great goals in New Jersey high school soccer state championship history.
“I’ve kicked plenty of free kicks before, but this is the state finals. I was shaking,” Pascarella said. “I just hit it and it went in. It went off the post, thank god. There’s no feeling like it.”
While Delbarton’s loss sent shock waves through the state, CBA is hardly a Cinderella. The Colts (19-4) now have won seven state championships in its rich soccer history and have won two state crowns in the last three years. It took two incredible goals to end Delbarton’s reign of dominance and Luke Pascarella has a lifelong memory that his entire family will savor.
“My Dad was a soccer player. My grandpa is 87 years old and he comes to all my games, no matter what the conditions are – rain, snow, he’ll be there,” Pascarella said.
“My sister, my Mom, all the Colt Crazies, they are all there supporting. It’s just insane.”
While everyone was bundled up at Kean, some might have thought Luke Pascarella was insane for meandering through the crowd with no shirt on. But the magic of a golden goal has a radiating effect that brings joy and yes warmth no matter what the temperature is.
This article was first published in the Nov. 15 – Nov. 21, 2018 print edition of The Two River Times.
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