The scene following the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association South Jersey Group III final was a tough one for those involved with Shawnee boys soccer.
For the second straight season, the Renegades reached a sectional final, and for the second consecutive year, that appearance ended in a loss, first to Cherry Hill West last season, and then on Nov. 4 to Clearview by a score of 3-1.
The loss snapped what was a six-match winning streak for Shawnee and its chances for a sectional and state title. But coach Ryan Franks believes the season was far from a failure.
“The standard we’re trying to set for ourselves, and what we’re trying to achieve, was winning South Jersey championships and state titles,” he acknowledged. “It feels disappointing. I know the boys were heartbroken to not achieve that, but we won the conference again this year.
“To be able to come away with at least a conference title is a nice consolation.”
Shawnee (13-3-3) had a daunting schedule on top of what would be an incredibly tough year in the Olympic Conference, one of the best soccer conferences in the state. Not only did the Renegades become conference champions, they repeated their feat from last season, just as they had in reaching the sectional final.
Franks joked that in any other year, winning a conference title would be a great achievement, but with the heightened success of Shawnee boys soccer, the program yearns for more, and this season showed that.
“We have a saying, ‘Process over results,'” senior goalkeeper Braeden Hurley noted. “We like to focus on the process of getting there, and hopefully a state championship in the future. This year, although we weren’t able to reach that goal, we were able to get a lot of experience for (the) younger guys.”
Hurley played a large role in what was for him a second consecutive all-conference campaign this season. He’s part of a strong senior core of talent that includes defender Jake Wheeler and midfielder Joe Albert, among others.
They’ve helped pave the way for future teams to succeed, and that fusion of talent really took shape this season as the juniors for the Renegades went wild. Junior forward Sean McFadden and midfielder Jacob Santamaria both earned All-South Jersey honors, with McFadden leading the team with 10 goals and 16 goal contributions, and Santamaria playing a steady hand in the midfield.
Santamaria’s brother, Aiden, had 13 goals on the year, including a team-high eight assists, and forward Anthony Carabasi had 10. The four – McFadden, the two Santamaria brothers and Carabasi – make up the new core of talent likely to make a statement next season, and they’ll be playing for their teammates past and present to bring hardware home to Medford.
“Next year, when they do make it to that game again, they have that experience and they can learn from the mistakes that they made, and hopefully go and win a title,” Hurley pointed out.
“… I think the sky’s the limit for them.”