By BRIAN CUNNIFF
STONE HARBOR — A mostly inexperienced Wildwood Catholic High School boys soccer team struggled through much of last season.
Now filled with a large group of seniors, the Crusaders have loftier goals in 2019.
This already looks like a much more promising season through two games. On Tuesday, Wildwood Catholic held off a second-half comeback attempt by rival Cape May Tech to post a 4-2 victory.
Sean Dougherty scored twice and Connor Farrell struck from the penalty spot to lead the Crusaders to a 3-0 lead at halftime.
But the Hawks rallied valiantly shortly after the break. Joel Sheptock scored only a minute after the interval and Scotty Whiltshire connected on a penalty kick shortly thereafter to quickly draw Tech to within a goal.
“We have to raise our level coming out in the second half,” Wildwood Catholic coach Jim Lushok said. “Tech really stuck it to us the first 20 minutes (of the second half). We did not react well.”
Wildwood Catholic slowly began controlling the contest over the second part of the second half but Tech’s defense held strong for most of the barrage, thanks to a couple of key saves by goalkeeper Lucas Gehring, who had also stopped two penalty kicks in the first half. Matt Moretti clinched the win for the Crusaders with a gorgeous goal, chipping from the right side of the penalty area into the left side panel of the net.
“The last 15 minutes or so the kids kind of turned it on,” Lushok said. “I’m proud of the way our defense played as a unit. And I really liked what Matt Moretti did for us today.
“We had a lot of chances that we probably should have finished. But at the same time, their goalie made a couple of really good saves. So you also have to give credit to him, too.”
Wildwood Catholic, which had also beaten Buena in its opener, moved to 2-0 overall. Both victories came in Cape-Atlantic United Conference games. They’ll play another CAL United foe, St. Joseph, on Thursday.
“This was exactly what our plan was from the start, to secure the first few divisional games,” Lushok said. “We’re a senior heavy squad, so our goal from the beginning was to win the division. But we knew we needed a strong start to put us in position to do it.”
Cape May Tech fell to 1-1 with the loss. The Hawks routed Pennsauken Tech, 10-1, in their season opener Monday.