In a historic season in area boys' soccer, records were broken, milestones were reached, and precedents were set. This year's Inquirer all-South Jersey team is a reflection of all of it.
One of the most significant milestones was Cherokee winning its second consecutive Group 4 title. It was Cherokee's first time winning back-to-back titles and the first time any team won consecutive Group 4 championships since Shawnee did it in 1992-93.
Senior forward Mike Ryan, this year's South Jersey Player of the Year, scored the winning goal in the Chiefs' 2-1 victory over Bridgewater-Raritan in the state final. His 33 goals this season set a Cherokee record, as did his 64 career goals.
A teammate, first-team midfielder Angelo Dambalas, also had a goal in the state title game. Dambalas finished his senior season with 10 goals and 15 assists.
Cherokee senior keeper Barry Fitzgerald also earned a first-team nod after allowing just four goals in six postseason games. Fitzgerald broke the Cherokee single-season record with 13 shutouts, and his 31 career shutouts are also a Cherokee mark.
The area's other state champion was Group 1's Haddon Township, which took home its first state title in a 3-1 win over Waldwick. The team has two representatives on the all-South Jersey first team: senior forward Zack Curl and senior back Collin Andrew.
Curl had 24 goals and eight assists, including two goals and an assist in the state final. Colleges on his short list include La Salle and Stockton.
Andrew was the catalyst of one of the best defenses in the state. He spent a season marking opposing teams' best scorers. And as a sign of his versatility, when Haddon Township needed a goal late in its sectional final against Maple Shade, Andrew was moved up top and recorded an assist and the winning goal in less than 18 minutes of play.
Timber Creek broke several records en route to its first Group 3 title-game appearance. Among them was the race between first-team forwards Jeff Morgan (23 goals, 10 assists) and Giuseppe DeLuca (23 goals, 17 assists) for the program's career record in goals. Both broke the previous mark of 53. But DeLuca scored in the state final, giving him 55 for his career - one more than Morgan.
With first-team midfielder Sonimi Halliday, who was strong on both ends of the field, Timber Creek fielded arguably the most dangerous offense in South Jersey.
Halliday is joined in the first-team midfield by Cherry Hill West senior Ramadan Bayyan. Bayyan might have been the most versatile player in South Jersey. He finished with five goals and 13 assists but was the team's most important player in each third of the field.
Finally, Sacred Heart senior Mike Mazzochi was the top player in the Cape-Atlantic League this season, finishing the season with 22 goals.
Rounding out the first team is Eastern senior Zev Fayer, an athletic defender who was the top man-marker in an Olympic Conference that had plenty of scorers.