HAMILTON TOWNSHIP – The Oakcrest High School boys soccer team registered a grade of “incomplete” in its Cape-Atlantic League game against Hammonton on Wednesday, Oct. 11.

After a sleepy first half, the Falcons pushed forward with some urgency and produced a flurry of chances and shots on Blue Devils goalkeeper Caden Hurst in the second half, but failed to close the deal, losing 1-0.

It was Oakcrest’s second straight one-goal loss. In fact, all four of the Falcons’ losses have been by one goal.

“We have a good defense, we just have to finish,” said sophomore forward Gabe Paz. “We play aggressive. We just all need to do it as a team. We need to win the ball and play smart.”

Hammonton’s Vincent Petulla scored the game’s only goal, assisted by Daniel Norcross, in the first half. Hurst recorded the shutout with seven saves, including big ones late in the game against Michael O’Brien, Wiley Markley and Shawn McCourt. Jack Markley finished with three saves for Oakcrest.

Coach Joseph Seaman praised the effort of several players, in particular Logan Berman and Leonard Bustos, whom he said played fearlessly, rushed the net and didn’t shy away from contact. But he said the Falcons need that kind of effort from every player.

“We need to finish our runs. We need to be more disciplined on the re-starts and we need to do our jobs,” Seaman said. “This was a winnable game and we let it get away.”

Seaman said the first half of Wednesday’s game was among the worst the Falcons have played all year. “Our goalie (Jack Markley) and defense basically kept us in the game. We dug ourselves a hole and just couldn’t get out of it in the second half. We had some late chances, pushing kids up out of the back, but their keeper played a very good game. We just couldn’t put the ball away.”

“We had chances. They were there,” Paz said. “We just needed to execute them.”

Clearly the Falcons were missing the playmaking ability and scoring touch of sophomore Mason Stokes, who suffered a broken wrist in the previous game against Ocean City and could be out for the season, depending on if he needs surgery.

“Our offense is hurt because of that,” Seaman said. “We’re still going through growing pains to make up for the loss of Mason.”

The Falcons have a young team, with four starting seniors (including goalie Markley), one junior and the rest sophomores and freshmen. After a 3-0 start they have dropped to 8-4 with back-to-back losses to Hammonton and Ocean City.

The Falcons will try to get back on a winning track Friday, Oct. 13 at intra-district rival Absegami, a 3:45 p.m. start. “We should have won the first time we played them (a 1-0 loss),” Paz said. “We had way more chances than they did, but they finished one of theirs.”

That’s been the story of the Falcons’ season, so far. But they still have time to write a great “finishing” chapter.

“We’re looking forward to (the state playoffs) and we’re just going to keep growing and teaching and trying to get better, and hopefully peak in November,” Seaman said. “That’s what it’s all about.”

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