Delran coach Mike Otto gathered his team around him, searching for the words to console his heartbroken players.
"Stay strong. Stay strong," Otto said. "It's soccer. It happens."
The end of Delran's dream season in boys' soccer was a shock to the players, the coaches, and the large contingent of brown-and-gold-clad spectators who made their way to St. Augustine Prep for the Group 2 state semifinals Tuesday night.
Bernards 3, Delran 0.
"Honestly, I don't know how we're going to deal with it," Delran senior forward Skyler Diggs said. "The sun will come up tomorrow, but this is tough to deal with right now."
The Bears entered with a 22-2 record, with zero losses to NJSIAA teams. They owned a victory over national power St. Benedict's of Newark.
But things spiraled out of control for Delran after a scoreless first half on the cold turf at LaRosa Field on the St. Augustine campus in Richland, Atlantic County.
Bernards (21-1-1), the Central Jersey champion, jumped in front on a Nico Arce Arza header off a corner kick in the 53rd minute. Then it used its lethal counterattack to add a pair of goals and squash any hopes of a Delran comeback.
"That's soccer for you," Otto said. "I thought we had some opportunities early to put one away, but the ball didn't bounce our way.
"I give my guys all the credit in the world. We're a real proud team, and we had a great season."
Delran had the better of the action in the first half, generating a few good scoring chances.
But Bernards goalie Andre Lezme and his back line defenders were sturdy under pressure, sweeping away chance after chance. The Mountaineers still haven't allowed a goal in five playoff victories.
Delran 0 0 - 0
Bernards 0 3 - 3
Goals: B-Nico Arce Arza, Nick Neptune, Dan Paez.
Saves: D-Phillippe Alves, 5; B-Andre Lezme, 6.