Oakcrest beats Absegami to claim share of first CAL title in school history; Matt Hess nets 100th career goal

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — Teammates rushed from the sidelines and mobbed Oakcrest attacker Matt Hess when he scored his 100th career goal in the first quarter of the Falcons’ 15-5 win over Absegami on Monday afternoon. The stoic senior finally cracked a smile in the post-game huddle, after Oakcrest had secured a share of the Cape-Atlantic League championship — its first in school history. Ocean City beat Egg Harbor Township last week to claim its share of the league title as the only other team with just one loss in league play. Hess exemplifies what this Oakcrest team is all about — the players are all business on the field, but know how to have a good time after the game. Exhibit A was senior defensive midfielder Trevor Little doing back handsprings as the junior varsity game was about to start, and also letting coach Brett Hoffecker know his jacket size for championship gear fitting. This group of seniors went 9-9 four years ago as freshmen, and Paulie Stablini struggled to find a way to put into words the progress the Falcons have made since then. Senior attacker Matt Hess scored three goals in the first period, including the 100th of his career, to lead Oakcrest past Absegami 15-5. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Senior attacker Matt Hess scored three goals in the first period, including the 100th of his career, to lead Oakcrest past Absegami 15-5. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) “It’s amazing. Especially to play with this group of guys. It’s been four years and a lot of us seniors have played together. I wouldn’t want to be out here with anybody else to share this experience with,” Stablini said. “It seems unreal, but real at the same time. We were able to finally do it and show people that Oakcrest can play lacrosse. We started 9-9 my freshman year and every year after that we just kept fighting and got hungrier. We went from the first round of the playoffs to the second round, and now CAL champions. It’s been a great experience.” The outcome wasn’t really in doubt by halftime, as Oakcrest (12-4) built an 8-3 lead powered by three goals from Hess. His second of the game was his 100th and gave Oakcrest a 3-0 lead. He scored again just before the end of the first quarter to push the lead to 4-0. Absegami’s Ryan Ward scored with one second left in the first quarter to make it 4-1, but the Falcons ripped off four straight goals to extend their lead to 8-1. “There’s no better feeling,” Hess said of the win. “I knew I was one away (from 100). It was a big goal for me coming in to get that, but I wasn’t forcing it.” “I’ll never forget the first year with Matt. He shed about 50 pounds since the first year I was here, and you can tell. He’s just a beast,” Hoffecker said. “It’s just perseverance. He’s worked so hard to get where he is, and that’s what life is all about. If you don’t give it everything, you’re not going to get it. But if you give an effort and try, you’ll get something out of it. That 100th goal, he deserved it. He’s not flashy, and we don’t run up the score with him (to get him goals). You saw today, we had nine people score and that’s pretty impressive. It’s not just one person. That’s what this group is all about. We all work together.” [adrotate banner=”15″] Like Hoffecker said, nine players scored goals for Oakcrest, with Hess’ three leading the way. Stablini added two, as did Tom Giardino, Trevor Holak and Mariano Cassara. Dylan Vargus finished with three assists for Oakcrest, while Zach Hermenau led Absegami (11-5) with a pair of goals and an assist. “There’s a lot more to come, definitely. I can’t wait for playoffs,” Hess said. Oakcrest's Mariano Cassara tries to get around Absegami's Quentin Jennings along the left sideline. Oakcrest’s Mariano Cassara tries to get around Absegami’s Quentin Jennings along the left sideline. “It’s pretty emotional. For me, it’s all about them. This is my third year with them and I knew it was going to come faster (than expected),” Hoffecker said. “We didn’t focus on who was going to win this and who was going to win that, I just knew that if we only had one loss we would be pretty close. Whoever we share it with or whatever happens, I’m happy.” Hoffecker said what has carried his team this far is a combination of leadership, sportsmanship and concentrating on executing the basics of the game. “That’s our thing, the leadership and the sportsmanship. We only had one penalty for 30 seconds the whole game. We rarely have penalties, maybe two per game. We do the simple stuff. You can go far if you can do the simple stuff. It’s a lot easier said than done, but we looked sharp today,” Hoffecker said. Contact Dave O’Sullivan:; on twitter @GDsullysays  [adsense]


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