By TOM WILLIAMS
Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. Ocean City High School’s boys lacrosse team will take to the Carey Stadium field seeking to complete a goal.
Joe LaTorre’s team (12-6) will will be playing to become the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 3 champions.
LaTorre’s Raiders have won titles before. They’ve won the Cape-Atlantic League four of the last six seasons, including this spring. But this will be their first shot at a South Jersey crown. They lost in the semi-finals in 2019 and in the second round each of the previous three seasons. But, on Saturday, they scored early and held on late to defeat Clearview, 7-5, and advance to the championship game.
In the last six seasons, OCHS boys lacrosse has compiled a 95-29 record, gradually strengthening the schedule until this year, when they played one of the toughest and most challenging schedules in South Jersey. They lost to the state’s No. 1 ranked team – Don Bosco Prep – plus No. 5 Rumson-Fair Haven and No. 11 St. Augustine Prep. The other three losses were also to highly-rated teams from Lenape, Haddonfield and Ridge.
They played that schedule, likely as tough as any played by any OCHS team, to get ready for tomorrow.
Led by a solid group of veteran athletes, plus a freshman who leads the entire Cape-Atlantic League in goals, these Raiders should be ready for the challenge, much like their response on Saturday when Clearview applied pressure down the stretch.
Monday afternoon’s opponent is Shawnee (11-6), a 13-10 winner over Moorestown in their Saturday semifinal and the team that knocked OCHS out in the 2019 semifinals. The Renegades also played a good schedule, losing to to Lenape, Haddonfield and St. Augustine. In Saturday’s win over Moorestown, Ryan Popolo, a 5-11, 160-pound senior, scored a career-high six goals. Popolo is committed to James Madison University but his next high school loss will be his last – he does not plan on continuing to play in college. He is surrounded by a group of talented young players like sophomore Ethan Krauss (37 goals, 47 assists) and junior Nate Sears (33 goals).
Tomorrow’s winner will move on toward a state championship later in the week with a Tournament of Champions set to begin on Saturday. But for Joe LaTorre and his talented lineup of athletes tomorrow is special.
They are aiming for more, you can be sure, but their hard work and dedication has them where they wanted to be on the first Monday in June – playing for a South Jersey championship.