It was during the first week of October that Delran suffered its first loss of the season, a close 1-0 draw to a talented Cinnaminson squad.
The loss was the the Bears first on the season following a 9-0-1 start to the year, and although Delran would lose their next game by the same score to Scotch Plains-Fanwood before going on another winning streak, first year head coach Tommy Orr at that time said he hoped the loss would serve as an opportunity for the team to pull together and learn from their mistakes.
“The first 11 games have been great, we’ve been rolling lately … these guys are hungry and sometimes with a special group a loss after a hot start is what the team needs to somewhat humble you and make sure that fire is still there on the inside,” Orr said following the teams first loss over a month ago.
Following a 4-0 home victory over West Deptford in the South Jersey, Group II sectional championship during a playoff run in which Delran outscored its opponents by a score of 17-1, it’s safe to say the fire was there all along.
“We really took it personally, those two losses and were able to weather the storm, that week was a tough week for us,” Orr said following the victory over West Deptford. “They never forgot about it and they’ve been playing with a chip on their shoulder ever since.”
Delran secured five consecutive sectional titles from 2015 to 2019 in the final full five years if Mike Otto’s coaching career with Delran before his last season in 2020 was heavily altered, with the team only playing four games due to a rash of game cancellations due to COVID.
For many of this year’s seniors, such as Pat Little, the opportunity to make a statement this year was one he and many others looked forward to.
“That hit us hard last year, we came into this year so driven and ready to work in every area that we could,” Little said. “I can’t give enough credit to everyone, we worked our butts off all year and it’s starting to really pay off now.”
Senior goalie Earmon McLoughlin has played an obviously crucial role of protecting the net for the Bears, posting nine clean sheets during the regular season before shutting out their opponents in the final three games of the sectional playoffs. McLoughlin’s increased confidence and trust in those in front of him, he says, has helped make this season his most comfortable in net yet.
“This has been one of my most confident seasons ever and I’d say it’s because of the boys in front of me,” McLoughlin said. “I’ve only been called on a handful of times this year because the guys in front of me do so much and save me sometimes before I even have to react. There’s some games where I don’t have many difficult saves to make because of the work they put in.”
Both Little and McLoughlin were members of the team that lost the 2019-’20 state title game to Bernards High School, both then playing as sophomores. The aforementioned mid-season loss earlier this season to Cinnaminson, following an abbreviated 4-0 season last year and 9-0-1 start to this year, was therefore the first high school loss to some of the teams younger players, such as sophomore Drew Roskos, the team’s leading scorer.
“It was an emotional day after that loss, a lot of us were pretty upset,” Little said. “For a lot of these younger guys, it was their first high school loss so it could be difficult to handle. We said after that game that we didn’t want to have a losing mentality, but just understand that everything happens for a reason and use that loss to be a turning point and it was.”
Roskos has continued to experience a breakthrough season for Delran this season, registering 29 goals on the season, including one in the sectional championship, heading into the state playoffs.
“We were on such a roll in the beginning of the year but we ended up hitting that speed bump,” Roskos said. “What good teams do is battle through adversity and we were able to have that hard work pay off … this team makes me want to work hard and play hard for each other.”