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Zellers, Tutelian save the day as Ocean City advances to South Jersey Group 3 championship game

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By DAVE O’SULLIVAN Publisher OCEAN CITY – For 73 minutes on Monday afternoon at the Tennessee Avenue fields, the Ocean City boys soccer team was as frustrated as a toddler who just had his favorite toy taken away. Cherry Hill West’s possession and kick-and-run style didn’t allow the Red Raiders to get into the normal flow of their offense. But it’s only a matter of time until a team as talented as Ocean City gets its house in order. Zach Zellers was in the right place at the right time with 6:07 left to go, corralling a rebound off a shot from Aaron King that was initially stopped by Lions goalie Diego Restrepo and tapping it home to give the Ocean City a 1-0 win the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals. The top-seeded and defending sectional champion Red Raiders (19-3-1) will host No. 2 Toms River South (16-3-2), a 2-1 winner over 14th-seeded Seneca, on Thursday afternoon. “All I was screaming to King was, ‘through ball! through ball!’ I just wanted the ball. I knew it was coming and I was open on the left side. It hit the goalie and came right to my foot and I just thought, ‘I just have to dribble this in, there’s no one here,'” Zeller said. Kyle Millar hoists teammate Zach Zellers onto his shoulder following Ocean City's 1-0 win over Cherry Hill West on Monday in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Kyle Millar hoists teammate Zach Zellers onto his shoulder following Ocean City’s 1-0 win over Cherry Hill West on Monday in the South Jersey Group 3 semifinals. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) Zellers said he was nervous, having such a wide-open chance, that he might squib the ball off the side of his foot and miss the net. “It was nerve-wracking, but you have to do what you have to.” King’s ability to win the ball in traffic helped set up the play, and that’s something the senior has been doing all year. He’s one of the top assist men on the squad. “He was kind of struggling today, but at the end of the game he always finds a way to make a play,” Ocean City coach Aaron Bogushefsky said of King. “The other day he had two assists and today he got the assist to the goal. He’s always in the mix. He’s so unassuming, but then all of a sudden he’s right there putting the game-winner away on you. He’s invaluable as a player.” Ocean City, which has lost just one game since the end of September, avoided disaster in the 66th minute. Keeper Russell Lindsey came off his line, but Cherry Hill West (11-10-1) got a shot off before he could get to the spot. The ball floated toward the open goal, but at the last moment defender Frank Tutelian raced over and cleared the ball. “I just saw Russ leave the line and I knew there was no one else in the box, and I knew he was going to shoot,” Tutelian said. “So, I just took Russ’ spot and it came right to me. I was afraid I was going to miss it, honestly, but thank God I connected.” Unselfish plays like that are what have come to characterize the Red Raiders during the past few seasons. “We have a lot of seniors this year and we’re working really hard,” Zellers, a senior, said. “With our hustle we can out-work teams. I think we are getting better and better as we go, and the program keeps developing.” Tommy Matera dribbles the ball upfield during the Red Raiders' win over the Lions. Tommy Matera dribbles the ball upfield during the Red Raiders’ win over the Lions. Bogushefsky said he has a host of players in the 10-goal vicinity for the season, showing the variety of talent he has available on his roster. “(Tutelian) saved the day. That’s why we have guys like that. He has the wherewithal to be back there. I’m kind of a defensive player in my mind, so I’m always talking about those kinds of things in practice. Where to be and when to be there. But a lot of that is just instinct and I think his instinct took over and he saved the day,” Bogushefsky said. “I have a guy with eight (goals), a guy with nine, seven, eleven. All these different goal scorers. Who are you going to stop? It’s a team effort and that’s why I like our soccer better than most other teams, although we didn’t play the best version of our game today. But it was enough to beat a team that had only been shut out twice all year. I was proud of my guys today.” Ocean City was clearly frustrated throughout the first half at the officiating, and two Red Raiders players were booked with yellow cards. Bogushefsky said he had to get his players refocused during the halftime break. “I don’t think we played that great today. If you watched the last game we played and then this one you wouldn’t even think it’s the same team. So I’m hoping people came and scouted us today, because it’s not anything like what we usually do,” Bogushefsky said. “But this is a pretty resilient team and they find a way to win in the end. We’re trying to build off that. I don’t really care how it comes, as long as we have one more win than they do. “I told the guys that they can only control one thing, and that’s themselves. I said don’t beat yourselves today. Don’t let yourselves get taken out by the referee. I said to just focus on what you know how to do. I don’t know that we did that, but we got the win. We did score the way our game plan was planned, but the rest of the game, I give (Cherry Hill West) credit because they disrupted us.” Tutelian said it doesn’t matter that the win wasn’t pretty, he’ll take it. “We really couldn’t get into our game in the first half, but luckily we came out in the second half stronger. We put one in late with Zach Zellers, so I couldn’t be happier right now.” Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullsays [adsense]

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