Brigantine residents and longtime friends Jack Crooks and Luke McGovern were senior co-captains on an Atlantic City High School varsity boys soccer team that set school records in most major categories this fall.
Ryan Duchat is another Brigantine product who helped anchor a defense that posted eight shutouts behind senior goalie Jonathan Murillo. As a junior, Duchat was one of only two starters who were not seniors on an ACHS team that will graduate 12 seniors in June.
The Vikings finished with more single-season wins in team history with a 17-3-1 overall record. They reached the South Jersey Group IV state semifinals for the first time in team history, and qualified for the South Jersey Coaches Association Tournament for the first time ever.
Along the way, ACHS upset top-seeded Jackson Memorial 2-1 in the South Jersey Group IV state quarterfinals, and dealt Mainland Regional (19-2-1) one of its two regular-season losses before the Mustangs went on to win their second straight South Jersey Group III state title.
Individually, senior striker Shadrach Asadu broke the previous single-season goal total of 31, and annihilated ACHS's previous-high career total of 42 goals with more than 80 for his high school career.
“He's incredible,” Crooks said of Asadu.
Crooks was not too shabby himself this fall, contributing eight goals and nine assists as an attacking midfielder. He and McGovern, a defensive midfielder, were varsity starters since their sophomore seasons and have been playing soccer together since about age 5, starting as members of the peewee division of the Brigantine recreational league.
“I remember loving rec-league soccer,” Crooks said. “Luke and I have always played on the same team most of our lives, and pretty much dominated rec league, junior travel and middle school, and it carried over through our high school years.”
Crooks holds the record for most goals on a Brigantine North Middle School team that twice won its league title and had an unbeaten season. He said he noticed a chemistry start to develop with others on the Atlantic City High School team once he and McGovern got to 10th grade.
“Ever since sophomore year, we kind of knew that by the time we were seniors we were going to have something special,” Crooks said.
“The group of us had an amazing sophomore year together. Last year we hit a rough patch, but we worked really hard over the summer and came into this season knowing it was going to be something special – something we've been working toward since we were about 14 years old.”
The Vikings' season ended with a 2-1 overtime loss in the Group IV semifinals. Atlantic High entered the tournament as the eighth seed, and after bumping off top-seeded Jackson Memorial Oct. 31, got nipped by fourth-seeded Rancocas Valley on the Red Devils' home turf on Nov. 7.
Other senior starters for the ACHS team include Duoy Luong, Cesar Romero-Pineda, Givoanni Paz and Eduardo Puerta.
“It was a little sad playing our last game together,” Crooks said.
Crooks and McGovern will now rejoin ACHS's varsity swimming team, and in the fall both will again be varsity starters in lacrosse for the Vikings. Soccer is the sport both are most passionate about, however.
“College soccer is still up in the air for both of us,” Crooks said. “Academics will be the main focus once we get to college. Depending on where we each end up, though, I'm sure we'd both jump at the opportunity to play college soccer if we could.”
Crooks has been accepted at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also considering the University of Maryland, Georgetown and Rutgers.