September 23, 2022 By Vaseline

No. 16 Scotch Plains-Fanwood stuns No. 4 Westfield in shutout at Red Bull Arena

As Scotch Plains-Fanwood walked out of the Red Bull Arena tunnel on Thursday night, it took it all in.

Playing under floodlights in a professional soccer stadium would be the pinnacle of young life for most soccer players, but for the Raiders it would mean nothing unless they came out victorious.

Scotch Plains-Fanwood, ranked No. 16 on the NJ.com Top 20, made the most of his trip to Harrison on Thursday, coming off with a stunning upset against rival and No. 4 Westfield 1-0.

It was the first loss of the season for the Blue Devils as they only gave up the second goal in their first six games. For Scotch Plains-Fanwood, it was payback.

“They beat us three times last year, they took a district final from us,” said Giovanni Marra of Scotch Plains-Fanwood. “It was about time to get her back, and where better to do that.”

After a disheartening 1-1 double overtime draw against Union County Conference Watchung Division opponents on Tuesday, the Raiders turned their attention to Westfield and knew they wouldn’t settle for less than a win.

“Our expectations were to win and nothing less,” said Patrick Watt of Scotch Plains-Fanwood. “We only had faith in our team and our expectations were very high.”

At the beginning of the game, neither team could muster much in the offensive, shots on goal, let alone good shots on goal, were hard to achieve. That changed when Watt almost found himself in the corner, beating his defender and sending a shot over the goal and through the legs of Westfield goalie Michael Lieberman in the 27th minute for a 1-0 lead.

“I remember being in the corner and trying to actually play it down the back and it went through the keeper’s legs and it was really cool,” Watt said. “It was a really cool experience.”

Defenses at both ends rose after the Raiders’ goal and Scotch Plains-Fanwood fended off numerous attacks from Westfield’s offense in the second half.

“We knew their guys, all three of their guys at the top, they rotate five, six, seven guys at the top, they’re all athletic and strong so we had to really push,” Marra said. “They’re all good with their feet, they can all beat us one-on-one, they’ve done it a couple of times. They’re dangerous at the top, but they just couldn’t get that last pass, that last look. I don’t think they got a clean look in front of goal, maybe they did in the first half, but they really just couldn’t get a clean look.”

Lieberman finished the game with three saves for Westfield while Graham Kois made three stops for Scotch Plains-Fanwood. It was the fourth shutout of the season for the Raiders, who have conceded just three goals in six games.

“We don’t play any team the same, there’s always a different group of 11 guys out there,” Watt said. “We’re doing our best to prepare accordingly, whatever that may be.”

Scotch Plains-Fanwood has a number of returnees from last year’s 13-5-2 team that reached the Union County Tournament Finals and Section Semifinals. That veteran presence has helped the Raiders so far this season, along with a slew of freshmen, including two freshmen who saw time Thursday night.

“We have a lot of experience with returning, we have about 16, 17 returners, but we also have guys coming down. We had two newcomers who played today, they played good minutes and they already know what it takes, they know, they have the mentality,” said Marra. “So we have a lot of people coming back, but we also have a lot of people coming to help us.”

Standing under the lights on the field, the Watt and Marra quickly realized it was a big win, but they also know there’s plenty of football left.

“We’ve got a long season ahead of us and after a really tough draw, a 100-minute game against Union, this is a great upswing in our division and we’re looking forward to an entertaining remainder of the season,” said Watt. “It will be fine.”

The two were also still amazed at what their team had achieved and where they had achieved it.

“We came to this stadium, (Marra) and I, we went to our birthday party about 10 years ago and we sat in these stands and it’s so surreal to play here,” Watt said. “The field is so beautiful and it was just a great experience, the fans, it was great.”

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Lauren Knego reports on boys’ football and can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @laurenknego.

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