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‘This group was special’

Bears come up short in quest for three-peat of NJSIAA Group II finish

Courtesy of Tommy Orr
“We knew it was going to be tough this year, but we made sure to stick together, always think positively and just take it day by day, game by game,” said Delran senior forward Drew Roskos of the season.

Just like New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter, Delran senior forward Drew Roskos has been called Mr. November for a reason.

Time and again, in the biggest of moments, it was Roskos who carried Delran boys soccer to victory and his talent was on full display in the NJSIAA Group II semifinals this school year. Facing Holmdel, he managed a first-half hat trick as the Bears advanced to their fourth-straight state title game in as many full seasons, having won their last two consecutive matches.

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This year, the quest for a three-peat was one match short, as the Bears lost 2-0 to Ramsey in the state title game. But even that doesn’t diminish what Delran was able to accomplish yet again.

“I was definitely happy with this group,” Coach Tommy Orr said. “A lot of it stems from our culture and the work that we put in earlier in the season … This group was special.”

There hasn’t been a Group II team in recent memory in New Jersey – let alone any other high-school soccer program – with the consistent run of success that Delran (14-8-1) has had. Excluding the COVID-shortened 2020 season, the Bears have rattled off eight straight sectional championships, including in 2021 and 2022.

The standard of excellence for the program is nothing short of a state title, because the Delran program has the results to show for it and it isn’t looking to slow down.

“We knew it was going to be tough this year, but we made sure to stick together, always think positively and just take it day by day, game by game,” Roskos said. “Even with some tough losses, the schedule that we play just prepares us for the playoffs.

“We were just excited and ready to prove ourselves.”

Such was the case for this season; the Bears faced a tough non-conference schedule with the likes of Lenape, Clearview, Paul VI and Cherokee among their opponents. Delran has been battle tested in recent seasons, and this one was certainly no different. 

A late three-match losing skid in the regular season really made the Bears turn on the after burners, and from Oct. 17 on, Delran rattled off seven straight victories, including a shootout win over West Deptford in the South Jersey sectional championship.

“We knew we just had to lock in and be ready for that last part of the season,” Roskos explained. “… We’re all proud of what we accomplished. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get that final piece, but we’re all proud and honored to have been there the last three years.”

The senior once again led Delran in goal contributions, scoring 25 or more goals, with 30 or more goal contributions for the third consecutive season. Scoring was relatively balanced for the Bears, with four players scoring six goals or more and two scoring in double figures: Roskos and fellow senior Willyam Vega.

Courtesy of Tommy Orr
Delran forward Drew Roskos celebrates a win with a back flip.

Passing and spreading the ball really showed its worth for Delran, with six players recording five or more assists and three recording six or more.

“We had great leadership from our captains,” Orr said. “… It’s amazing. It’s super hard to get there twice in a row and win two state championships in a row, let alone getting back there for a third straight year. The pressure was there from day one, but this group dealt with pressure all year long.

“They kept their eyes on the prize.”

Compared with two previous seasons, this year might seem like a down year for Delran without a state title to take home, but it was far from that. Another sectional title can be added to the trophy case and a fourth straight state championship appearance isn’t that bad a consolation prize.

But while success was plentiful, the final goal for this season’s team wasn’t achieved and has almost certainly left next season’s returning players hungry to finish the job for a third state title in four years.

“My expectations are to keep the standard high,” Orr noted. “As long as I have guys that are coming in and they’re ready to buy in, that will just continue to fuel the fire and keep things going.”


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