MEDFORD >> Shawnee didn’t seem to be bothered by a layoff of more than two weeks when the Renegades returned to the pitch on Thursday.
The top-seeded Renegades (9-1) scored two goals within five minutes early in the second half to eliminate visiting No. 4 Egg Harbor Township (12-2) in a NJSIAA South West E (Group 4) Boys Soccer semifinal playoff game.
"I was pretty happy with how we played considering our long layoff the last couple of weeks," said Shawnee coach Ryan Franks, who has a career record of 86-55-18 in nine seasons. "I don't think you really could tell we had a long layoff. That's a testament to the mindset and intensity that our boys brought to training the last week since we've been back. They did a great job challenging each other and getting themselves ready for today."
Shawnee’s offense against the Eagles consisted of the play-making skills of two players – sophomore Andrew Kitch and junior Matt McFadden.
Kitch opened the scoring with his team-leading ninth goal of the season in the 50th minute on a feed from McFadden. McFadden then found the back of the net with his third tally of the season five minutes later on an assist for Kitch.
"Our first goal came off of a great through ball by Matt to Andrew who got in behind Egg Harbor's defense and tucked away a great finish when he was in one-on-one with the goalie," said Franks.
"The second goal came a few minutes later when Braden Short was able to get the ball down on their end-line and draw it back to Kitch, who found McFadden. He ripped a shot that deflected partially off of one of Egg Harbor's defenders and into the goal."
Junior goalie Dan Ferrer stopped all six shots he faced for his seventh shutout of the season. Ferrer and the Renegades’ defense have only allowed five goals in 10 games this season.
Egg Harbor Township advanced to the semifinals with a 1-0 victory over No. 5 Cherokee two days earlier at home.
"They have a ton of good players all over the field to be worried about and especially up front we were concerned with some of their strong attacking players all game long," said Franks of Egg Harbor Township.
The Renegades, which avenged a 3-2 loss to Egg Harbor Township in last year’s South Jersey Group 4 quarterfinals, had not played a game in 16 days since a 2-0 shutout at Bishop Eustace Nov. 3. After the game, Shawnee was informed it would be on a 14-day COVID-19 quarantine.
Shawnee, seven-time state champions, last appeared in a sectional final 10 years ago when they lost to Cherokee, 4-3 on penalty kicks, in the South Jersey Group 4 championship.
Shawnee hosts No. 6 Cherry Hill East (8-4-4) on Saturday, Nov. 21 (10:30 a.m. kickoff) for the South West E sectional crown. The Renegades beat Cherry Hill East, 2-1, in the season opener at home Oct. 6 and are 3-1-1 in the last five meetings against the Cougars.
"We played them earlier in the year and won 2-1 in a very tightly contested game," said Franks of Olympic Conference American Division rival Cherry Hill East. "We have been in some absolute battles with them over the past few years with multiple double overtime games and close scores. It should be a tough matchup."
The Renegades last sectional title came in 2006 when Shawnee beat Ocean City, 3-0, for the South Jersey Group 3 crown. The title marked the program’s and Brian Gibney’s 13th sectional title.
Goals: S-Andrew Kitch (50th minute, assist Matt McFadden), McFadden (55th minute, assist Kitch); Saves: S-Dan Ferrer 6; EHT-Nick Marin 6.