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PHOTO GALLERY: Raiders steamroll Middle to continue hot streak

  • Middle Township's Tim Saywer possesses the ball in the midfield.
  • Ocean City's Luke Varallo shields the ball from Middle Township's Chase Deegan.
  • Middle Township's Sean Geary (foreground) and Ocean City's Billy Farnan compete for a ball in the air.
  • Middle Township's Brendon Bartha uses a slide tackle to knock the ball away from Ocean City's Adam King.
  • Middle Township's Vince Wilson (right) and Ocean City's Matt Brook collide while going for a ball in the air.
  • Middle Township's Chase Deegan shields off Ocean City's Matt Brook as he attempts to retrieve the ball.
  • Ocean City's Billy Farnan (center) and Adam King play against Middle Township's Brendon Bartha.
  • Eddie Proud, who scored Middle Township's goal, holds the ball from Ocean City's Matt Brook.
  • Ocean City's Billy Farnan looks to get off a shot.
  • Middle Township goalkeeper Braiden Scarpa makes a save as Ocean City's Reed Lindsay pressures.
  • Middle Township's Sean Geary blocks a pass attempt by Ocean City's Thanasi Koutsfetsoulis.

CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – The first time the Ocean City High School boys soccer team played Middle Township this season, the Raiders needed a goal from Hunter Paone in extra time to secure a 1-0 victory.

They needed no such heroics in their second meeting with Middle on Friday.

Ocean City erupted for six goals in a 26-minute span in the opening half to stun the host Panthers, en route to a 6-1 victory that extended its unbeaten streak to eight games following its only loss of the season, which came Sept. 13 against Oakcrest.

The result also means that Ocean City (10-1-1 overall, 7-1, Cape-Atlantic National Conference) can do no worse than tie Oakcrest for the conference championship. The Raiders need only one victory or draw out of their final two conference games – Wednesday at Cedar Creek and Oct. 23 at home against Absegami – to clinch the conference championship outright.

Trevor Paone provided two goals and an assist and Luke Varallo, Hunter Paone, Matt Brook and Reed Lindsay also scored in the first-half barrage for the Raiders against Middle.

“We’ve been telling our guys that we have a stretch of games here where people are going to be looking at the scores and that we really want to come out to play and show our best,” Ocean City coach Aaron Bogushefsky said. “But I would have never expected to score six goals in about 25 minutes against a team like Middle.”

The victory also should clinch a South Jersey Soccer Coaches Association Tournament berth for the Raiders, who entered the game ranked 11th in the association’s poll. The top 16 teams in the poll are offered invitations to the tournament. Invitations are set to go out Sunday evening.

“I think we’re going in the right direction,” Bogushefsky said. “We’re getting better, we’re getting stronger and we’re getting more confident as the end of the season comes. You want to be playing your best as the state tournament comes – and the coaches tournament, too.

“I like how we’re playing. I’m not sure if we can win every game, but with the way we’re playing I like our chances.”

Middle Township (6-5 overall) got its goal on a wonderful strike from 20 yards by Eddie Proud just prior to halftime. The Panthers played a solid second half to keep Ocean City from extending its lead.

“We trained all week for this game so we’re very disappointed,” Middle coach Matt Gilbert said. “(Ocean City) got some opportunities and they capitalized on them and we didn’t stand up to the challenge at the start. But I’m proud of how we played in the second half. I felt like we competed very nicely. But unfortunately it was too late.”

— Brian Cunniff