After the first game of 2022, the Robbinsville High varsity football team couldn’t have predicted what the future held this season.
Their 2-0 home loss to a Colonial Valley Conference opponent on Sept. 8 proved to be the only time over the next 21 games that the Ravens were shutout.
That was impressive considering R’ville was without its star forward, Bory Turker, injured to start the season for the second year in a row.
Instead, seniors like Sean Smith and Nana Kofi Appiah and juniors like twins Adrian and Alex Ivanov have helped ninth-grade head coach Jeff Fisher’s offense become as steady as the defense.
The Ravens gave up just three runs from that first game to become CVC Valley Division champions, Mercer County Tournament semifinalists, Central Jersey Group III top seed and New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association Group III title finalist. evening on Saturday when they take on West Morris-Mendham at Franklin High in Somerset.
All of these achievements were firsts for the Fisher boys. The 19-year-old school has already made a name for itself in girls soccer, winning two Group I state crowns in 2008 and 2009, as well as a Group II runner-up finish in 2011.
As the school has grown, so has the boys soccer program, which is making its first state title appearance in just Robbinsville’s sophomore year at the Group III level.
It will be done Saturday against a Mendham team with more state tournament history. The Minutemen won Group III in 2015 and 2017 and lost in the state final to a powerhouse Steinert team in 1988.
Head coach Lindsey Schartner’s 14-9 club has won its last five games (in which it has outscored opponents, 11-3) to reach its fourth state final, this time as the seventh seed from North Jersey Section 2.
The team is led by seven goals and four assists from junior defenseman Griffin Coutts, six goals and three assists from junior forward Nate Quinn, and five goals and two assists from senior midfielder Patrick Kudron. Senior midfielder Collier McLeod leads the way with nine assists, while senior George Kaparis leads a trio of keepers who have helped Mendham to nine shutouts this fall.
In addition to their scholastic mission, the Ravens will try to become the first CVC boys team to win a state title since Allentown tied for the Northern Highlands Group III crown in 2013. In fact, despite Mercer County’s strong soccer roots, if R’ville wins, it would be the first CVC soccer title since the A’town girls won Group III in 2017.
The good news for the 18-4 Ravens is that Turker is back on Oct. 4 to bolster his team’s much-improved offense. Although he only played in 12 games, he has a team-leading 12 goals and two assists. In second place is Adrian Ivanov with 10 goals and six assists, and Smith with eight goals and five assists.
Alex Ivanov leads the team with 10 assists (plus four goals), while Kofi Appiah has six goals and four assists. Senior goalkeeper Ronit Rijwani has seven shutouts.
“Bora coming back really gave us confidence,” Adrian Ivanov said after scoring the game-winning goal against Cherry Hill West in Wednesday’s state semifinal. “I was also injured last season, so this is the first time I’ve played with Alex and Bora since high school. We put everything together well.”
“This year, while he was out, we had guys to get some confidence on the field,” Fisher said. “When Boro came back he saw the confidence of the other kids and we went from there. They believe that we are not finished. We need to get another one.’
Robbinsville, whose defense has allowed 22 goals in 22 games this season, has also won its last five games, outscoring opponents 10-3. The Minutemen, who lost to Delbarton in the Morris County Tournament final, scored 26 goals in 23 games.
How to get to Franklin High School: Take Route 1 north to the New Road interchange in South Brunswick. Take Route 1 and continue on New Road until you reach Route 27. Turn right onto Route 27 North and go through one light to South Middlebush Road. Turn left onto South Middlebush. Go 3.3 miles to Amwell Rd. and make another one on the left. After 0.7 miles, turn right onto Cedar Grove Lane. After 0.8 miles, turn left onto Weston Rd. After 0.7 miles, turn right onto Elizabeth Avenue. The school is located at 500 Elizabeth Avenue with a stadium lawn in the rear. Allow 45 minutes to an hour for travel.