July 23, 2024
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July 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

SAR Wins Historic Double Soccer Championship

By Michael Skakun

It was a landmark year for both the SAR High School boys varsity and junior varsity soccer teams as they won their respective championship final matches—the first time the double has been achieved in the same season in school history. After the disappointment of losing both finals last year, SAR players were determined to make this a winning year.

The SAR varsity team went the whole season unbeaten, scoring an incredible 145 goals. Andy Samuels at center forward and captain led the attack with finesse and proved to be a lethal marksman. His speed, precision ball control, passing and shooting was a joy to watch and his 45 goals were outstanding. His striking partner upfront was the ubiquitous Gabe Sklar, aka “The Governor” who covered every part of the field of play. He is the complete player, who can tackle, pass and finish, scoring 55 goals and was voted Player of the Year. In defense Micah Gazal was exceptional, his brilliant tackling and passing ability set up many attacking plays and he scored nine goals himself and was an integral part of the team’s success. Gabe Duerr once again showed what an intuitive player he is and both defensively and offensively was a dominant force, making timely interventions and scoring some terrific goals. Akiva Schanzer, “The General” led by example and brought his energy, positivity and leadership in every facet of his play. He made key defensive plays and also scored some important goals. In goal, Charlie Reich proved to be a tower of strength and made incredible saves throughout the season. His distribution from the back was excellent and his bravery was herculean. Eytan Krausz, Jack Hartman, Josh Fleischer, Ruben Mahgerefteh, Noah Brandwein, Jeremy Brandwein, Noah Ives-Kurtzer, William Major, Leo Rothenberg, Yonatan Marciano and Ezra Scwab each stepped up when called upon and made huge contributions to the team and David Shapiro showed his class throughout the season and returns next year.

After cruising to the New York Divisional Championship for the second consecutive year, SAR faced Kushner in the first round of the varsity play-offs and easily won 16-7. This set up the semi-final clash of titans with rival Frisch, last year’s champions. In a battle royal, Frisch and SAR traded the lead, to tie at 8-8, when with just two minutes left in the game, Samuels passed to Sklar who secured the winning goal for SAR in one of the most exciting matches ever witnessed in this league. In the final SAR faced a very strong TABC team, and the score was tied at the half at 4-4. The second half was near perfect for an incredibly determined SAR team who absolutely outclassed and outplayed their opposition with seven more brilliant goals from Samuels, Sklar, Gazal, Schanzer and Krausz. The final score 11-4 was a fitting finale to an exceptional campaign and the large contingent of SAR fans celebrated a very well-earned championship with their victorious players.

The SAR junior varsity soccer team was blessed with an exceptional group of incoming freshmen this season and expectations were high from the outset. Captain Sam Mandel, returning from last year, led the team with authority, and is a gifted athlete, his superb goals, assists and defending throughout the season were majestic. Noam Davies who originally hails from Manchester, England is a no-nonsense, mercurial player equally adept in offense and defense. His vision and intuitive knowledge of the game, coupled with sublime skill and ability to make decisive passes and score magnificent goals proved repeatedly to raise the team to new heights and deservedly he was player of the season. Jack “lion-heart” Linhart was a colossus of strength in defense and his never-say-die attitude, marking and tackling was outstanding. Goalkeeper Yishai Davidovics played with complete confidence in every game and commanded his area with total authority. He made miraculous saves, whether diving on the ground or leaping to tip a shot over the bar. His passing and throwing from the back was always accurate and exuding confidence, he scored superb individual goals dribbling through teams before unleashing unstoppable shots. Sophomore Eytan Rosenstock fought hard for every ball and also scored some particularly good goals. Co-captain Caleb Rosenberg is a natural leader and his overall contribution was massive. As a striker he scored a hatful of goals from every conceivable angle, even when completely marked, his ability to beat defenders and finish with style is proof positive of a very talented young player. When called upon, Halpert, Shor, Back, Siegel, Glass, Madof, Maryles and Regev all made valuable contributions to the team.

During the regular season, SAR lost tough games against Frisch and TABC, finishing in third place and faced TABC away in the semi-final. In a hostile environment in a packed Teaneck gym versus a very strong and confident home team, SAR were focused and determined to win the game and showed their class upfront and steel in defense to coast to a 9-1 victory. In the other semi-final North Shore miraculously defeated Frisch to set up an engaging final with two quality teams. The first half ended in parity at 6-6. However, in the second half, SAR took control of the game, and Davies and Rosenberg scored brilliant goals set into motion by Mandel who controlled midfield with Linhart resolute in defense and Davidovics supreme in goal. SAR won the final 18-6 with every member of the squad playing their part in the game and deservedly winning the championship.

Both SAR teams were coached by Englishman Jason Shela MBE, undoubtedly one of the finest, most inspirational tactical soccer minds in soccer. His passion and enthusiasm for the game are well-known throughout the USA and UK, and he brought his special brand of flowing creative soccer to SAR. “It has been a privilege to work with such a committed and exceptional group of athletes and the boys in both JV and varsity worked so hard in every practice … to win two championships in the same year is testimony to the effort and I’m so proud of all the boys,” said Coach Jason.

This is echoed by the players who said the following about their coach:

“When you have a coach like Jason it comes easy as everyone buys into their role and achieves to the best of their abilities. I think that is what led the team and myself to success,” said Sklar.

“Winning the championship was a beautiful experience and I will cherish the win and this team forever. Coach Jason is a great coach but more importantly he is an incredible guy and role model and I loved playing for him,” Schanzer said.

“While talent is something you can develop, passion and effort are what you are born with. Coach Jason’s passion and commitment he instills in each player inspired me to go out and play every game like it’s my last and helped create the memorable championship winning season we had,” shared Gazal.

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