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Latest News in Mountain Lakes, NJ

No. 1 Mountain Lakes boys lacrosse goes south for TOC, tops No. 2 St. Augustine (PHOTOS)

Senior Reid Tietjen and his teammates at Mountain Lakes had 128 miles to think about what they were going to do when they stepped off the bus and faced off with St. Augustine in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle.Two hours to go over strategy and amp themselves up for the biggest game of the year.That’s a lifetime for a group of kids that has been waiting all year to book a spot in the last Tournament of Champions final. The buildup was already more than enough, but Mountain Lakes had to wait even longer after a tire blew ou...

Senior Reid Tietjen and his teammates at Mountain Lakes had 128 miles to think about what they were going to do when they stepped off the bus and faced off with St. Augustine in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle.

Two hours to go over strategy and amp themselves up for the biggest game of the year.

That’s a lifetime for a group of kids that has been waiting all year to book a spot in the last Tournament of Champions final. The buildup was already more than enough, but Mountain Lakes had to wait even longer after a tire blew out on their bus. Not an ideal start on the day of the TOC semifinals.

The Lakers, No. 1 in the NJ.com Top 20, never let any fatigue show once they arrived in Richland though, playing even or ahead for the entirety of a 10-5 victory over No. 2 St. Augustine. Mountain Lakes now advances to Sunday’s TOC final, where it will play No. 5 Rumson-Fair Haven in the title game.

“It was pretty distracting, but once we got here, everyone was dialed in,” said Tietjen, who scored three goals and sent out two assists. “This was such a big game for us and we were all locked in. We tried to stay loose on the way down here and then once it started, we had so much adrenaline. We thought we got gypped out of the No. 1 seed, so it was awesome to show up and show how good we can really be.”

St. Augustine’s only loss before today came against prep power Lawrenceville.

The Hermits rattled off 14 straight wins after that game and entered Wednesday playing as well as anyone in the state. St. Augustine picked up wins over No. 11 St. Joseph (Mont.), No. 7 Seton Hall Prep and No. 3 Delbarton on its way to winning the program’s first-ever Non-Public A championship.

The South Jersey squad also beat No. 19 Shawnee, No. 15 Haddonfield and No. 5 Rumson-Fair Haven - the top seed in the Tournament of Champions - during the regular season. That strong schedule built up a strong enough LaxNumbers rating to earn St. Augustine the No. 2 seed in the state’s ultimate bracket.

And that ranking came with the gift of hosting in the TOC semifinals.

On the flip side, that meant Mountain Lakes would have to play in the first round of the TOC - a 14-4 win over Rutgers Prep - and then load up the bus and make its longest road trip of the season. It’s not the way that the Lakers pictured it playing out and the No. 3 seed its their frustration fuel a dominant semifinal win.

“We hated it,” senior Caz Kotsen said of the seeding. “We were pissed we weren’t the higher seed and we were pissed we had to make the drive, but we also knew we weren’t coming down here to lose.”

For the first 24 minutes, this game lived up to the No. 1 vs. No. 2 billing.

Kotsen scored the only goal of the first quarter, scooping up his own rebound and shoveling it into the back of the net. That was the first of a season-high goals for the senior, who also scored the last goal of the first half and gave Mountain Lakes a 4-3 lead going into the break. It was anyone’s game.

Then, Mountain Lakes completely took over.

The Lakers’ offense put together arguably its best quarter of the season and the defense did not budge, holding St. Augustine to one goal and just a few shots on net during that period. Kotsen scored twice in the third and led an attack that also got scores from Tietjen, Bradford Goodbar and Jake Troisi.

After St. Augustine tied it up at 3-3 in the first half, Mountain Lakes went on a 6-0 run.

It was a resurrection for an offense that struggled late in the Group 1 final against Haddonfield after cruising through the sectional playoffs. That attack was sort of lulled to sleep during its run to the North, Group 1 title and along the way it lost some of the rhythm and flow it had built up in the regular season.

The offense woke up against St. Augustine though and lit it up against one of the state’s best defenses. Only Lawrenceville and Rumson-Fair Haven had scored double-digit goals against the Hermits.

”Today, that Hermit defense came out, brought it every play and (St. Augustine) made us work for our goals. It was great to watch us come together and pick apart a defense that was evenly matched with us,” said Kotsen. “We came out of halftime with a ton of energy. We spent hours watching film for this game and we knew if we executed our offense the right way, we could give it to them. It took the first half to get used to their early slides and how they rotate, but once we figured it out, we let them have it in the third quarter. That was probably the best I’ve seen our offense play all year.”

Two years ago, Mountain Lakes went the distance and won the Tournament of Champions.

Last season, the Lakers went home early, losing to Summit in the semifinal round.

Now, Mountain Lakes is one win away from winning the last TOC title. New Jersey has always played down to one champion in boys lacrosse, but the NJSIAA decided to eliminate the Tournament of Champions in all sports this year and that makes this weekend’s final an all-timer.

That’s makes Sunday’s trip to Mount Olive an all-timer for this legendary program. No one else in New Jersey has won more state championships than Mountain Lakes and it’s fitting that the Lakers would get the chance to have the final say in who the best of the best in the Garden State is.

Tietjen said this is a dream come true for the seniors and they’re not going to waste the opportunity.

“We knew coming into the year that our goal was to bring that last Tournament of Champions title home,” Kotsen added. “We knew we were going to have to take care of these private schools to get there and now that we’ve done it, we’re excited to play in that last championship game.”

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No. 1 Mountain Lakes boys lacrosse takes next step, advances to TOC semifinals

The final lap around Wilkins Field is a right of passage in Mountain Lakes and after a 14-4 victory over Rutgers Prep on Saturday, the latest set of seniors completed that jog one last time.Mountain Lakes, No. 1 in the NJ.com Top 20, came into Tournament of Champions quarterfinal matchup as the heavy favorite and showed why, dominating in every phase of the game. The Lakers didn’t give up a goal until the fourth quarter and by then the final outcome was never in question.Seniors Bradford Goodbar, Caz Kotsen,...

The final lap around Wilkins Field is a right of passage in Mountain Lakes and after a 14-4 victory over Rutgers Prep on Saturday, the latest set of seniors completed that jog one last time.

Mountain Lakes, No. 1 in the NJ.com Top 20, came into Tournament of Champions quarterfinal matchup as the heavy favorite and showed why, dominating in every phase of the game. The Lakers didn’t give up a goal until the fourth quarter and by then the final outcome was never in question.

Seniors Bradford Goodbar, Caz Kotsen, Owen Pirolo, Reid Tietjen and Jake Troisi combined to put up nine goals and seven assists. On defense, UPenn commit Ryan McLaughlin and fellow senior Lucas Sawransky played leading roles along with senior short-stick midfielder Ben Buzby and senior goalie Jimmy Holda. That veteran core has made Mountain Lakes tough to beat in 2022.

“Our senior group has provided great leadership and they are relentless,” said Mountain Lakes coach Tim Flynn. “This was their last game on our home field and they wanted to make sure they went out with a great showing. I respect our seniors and they have done a great job all year.”

The only program to get get the best of Mountain Lakes this season was Don Bosco Prep, which won the Tournament of Champions title last spring. Don Bosco Prep is no longer a threat though after losing to Delbarton in the Non-Public A semifinals last weekend. The championship is up for grabs.

Mountain Lakes will now turn its attention to St. Augustine, No. 2 in the NJ.com Top 20, which beat Delbarton to win its first-ever state championship. That’s a heavyweight battle that will take place down at St. Augustine. The Hermits are the second-seeded team in TOC bracket behind Rumson-Fair Haven.

That semifinal showdown is going to be intense and Mountain Lakes is ready for the moment. The Lakers made it to the first Tournament of Champions final and they will do whatever it takes to play in the last one.

“Coach JC Valore does a great job and St. Augustine has a great program,” said Flynn, who has now led Mountain Lakes to 11 Tournament of Champions. “It’s an elite group and we’re going to do what we do and take advantage of our opportunity in the last TOC. It’s a complete and utter shame that other teams won’t have this moving forward and get that chance to prove that they’re the best in the state.”

The N.J. High School Sports newsletter now appearing in mailboxes 5 days a week. Sign up now and be among the first to get all the boys and girls sports you care about, straight to your inbox each weekday. To add your name, click here.

Thank you for relying on us to provide the journalism you can trust. Please consider supporting NJ.com with a subscription.

Mountain Lakes football stays undefeated as coach Darrell Fusco earns 100th win

Special to DailyRecord.comHANOVER TOWNSHIP — Whether it was the first win or landmark 100th victory, Mountain Lakes coach Darrell Fusco has been the portrait of restraint.“It’s always been business as usual,” Fusco’s wife, Eve, said. “He’s usually pretty low-key and downplays a lot of this. We think it’s pretty awesome.”Mountain Lakes’ undefeated season remained intact as the Herd scored on each of its four possessions to open the game ...

Special to DailyRecord.com

HANOVER TOWNSHIP — Whether it was the first win or landmark 100th victory, Mountain Lakes coach Darrell Fusco has been the portrait of restraint.

“It’s always been business as usual,” Fusco’s wife, Eve, said. “He’s usually pretty low-key and downplays a lot of this. We think it’s pretty awesome.”

Mountain Lakes’ undefeated season remained intact as the Herd scored on each of its four possessions to open the game to notch a 36-6 victory over Whippany Park Friday night. It marked the 100th win in Fusco’s coaching career at Mountain Lakes.

Over the past 57 seasons, only two men have been in charge of the Mountain Lakes football team. Fusco took over the program in 2010 from the legendary Doug Wilkins, who had a 328-105-5 record during his 44 years at the helm. Prior to being named head coach, Fusco was an assistant for 11 years under Wilkins and inherited a 25-game winning streak from his mentor.

“I learned that every year it’s important to play your seniors and build on them,” Fusco said. “We played every kid today and that’s special.”

Fusco continued the program’s standard of excellence with a pair of 12-0 seasons and North 2, Group 2 titles in 2013 and 2014. He has guided the Herd to nine, seven-win seasons and posted just one losing season in 13 years as head coach. He serves as a social studies supervisor in the district.

“We’re trying to stay focused on winning each week and I don’t like the extra attention,” said Fusco, who is 100-31 as head coach at the school. “We’ve had a pretty good run but it’s all about the players and guys who have surrounded me.”

The Herd have marched out to a 6-0 record with plenty of talent, which was on display in the win over Whippany Park (0-6). Mountain Lakes used a strong-but-balanced offensive attack to build a 29-0 halftime lead.

After the defense forced a three-and-out to open the game, Mountain Lakes needed just three running plays for its first score. One of the seniors that Fusco spoke about, Jimmy Elliott, ran two yards for the touchdown with 9:27 left in the opening quarter for the early 7-0 lead. Sebastian Borie batted a punt through the end zone for a safety.

Elliott contributed a second touchdown on a 26-yard scoring toss by Ben Miniter, who completed 3-of-4 pass attempts for 60 yards in the first half.

The Wildcats got on the scoreboard when Riley Barnet took a handoff from Andrew Declan, who hauled in a 23-yard reception, and carried it two yards for a touchdown as time expired. It was only the third touchdown allowed by the Herd in the past four games and first registered by the Wildcats in three games.

What it means

Mountain Lakes opens the season at 6-0, marking its best start since winning the North 2, Group 2 title during a 12-0 campaign in 2014. The victory is the third straight in a rivalry that has been dominated by Mountain Lakes.

The Herd, who lead the SFC American Gold alongside Caldwell, entered the week as one of 32 undefeated teams in the state and the top seed in the United Power Rankings in North Group 1. Whippany Park ranked 26th out of 27, putting the Wildcats out of the field.

The loss is the seventh consecutive defeat for Whippany Park dating back to last season. The two teams haven’t faced each other since Mountain Lakes earned a 49-7 victory in 2019.

Key play

On Mountain Lakes' second offensive play, Jordan Hernando ran toward the right and collected 32 yards to put the Herd at the Whippany Park 2-yard line. The rush was the longest of the game and set up a 2-yard touchdown by Jimmy Elliott with 9:27 left in the first quarter.

It was the first of four rushing touchdowns for Mountain Lakes, which led 23-0 at the end of the first quarter.

By the numbers

? Mountain Lakes outgained Whippany Park in yards from scrimmage, 194-53.

? Fusco has just one losing season in his 13 yards as head coach at Mountain Lakes.

? During Fusco’s 13-year tenure, he estimates he has coached 312 players and been alongside 17 assistant coaches.

Game balls

? Elliott had a pair of touchdowns – one receiving and one rushing – to lead the scoring for the Herd.

? Dylan Brown had a fumble recovery and tipped ball at the line of scrimmage in the first quarter for Mountain Lakes.

They said it

“One hundred is nice but I prefer winning 105 or 106 – the game in November or the game in December.” – Fusco said, referring to winning games late in the postseason.

“We enjoy football together and only enjoy the good parts together at home. Today was a great day, because we put it all together.” – Cosmo Fusco, Darrell's son, who is a junior tackle and defensive lineman for the Herd.

Up next

? Mountain Lakes (6-0) visits Boonton on Friday.

? Whippany Park (0-6) hosts Kinnelon on Friday.

Point Beach girls soccer falls to Mountain Lakes as Lakers win second state crown

UNION – Mountain Lakes had seen this movie before.In last year’s state final, the Lakers took a two-goal lead over Shore with two goals in quick succession. They were minutes away from a state title, but Shore came all the way back to steal the championship in overtime.That’s why when Mountain Lakes took a big lead on Saturday, it wasn’t taking chances.Scoring early and often and never taking their foot off the pedal, the Lakers rolled to a 5-1 victory against Point Beach to capture...

UNION – Mountain Lakes had seen this movie before.

In last year’s state final, the Lakers took a two-goal lead over Shore with two goals in quick succession. They were minutes away from a state title, but Shore came all the way back to steal the championship in overtime.

That’s why when Mountain Lakes took a big lead on Saturday, it wasn’t taking chances.

Scoring early and often and never taking their foot off the pedal, the Lakers rolled to a 5-1 victory against Point Beach to capture the Group 1 title.

For Mountain Lakes (16-8), it was the second state championship and program history and first since 2019.

“It’s absolutely amazing,” Mountain Lakes senior Elliana Caporusso said. “We had something to prove, and we left it all out on the field.”

The state championship came as a great relief for a team that lost an absolute stunner last fall.

“I’m relieved because I did have that in my head. I didn’t want that to happen,” Mountain Lakes head coach Sean Maurizi said. “At the end of the half, I was thinking do not let that happen, do not let that happen. We just maintained.”

The Lakers opened the scoring in the 12th minute when Maya Ritchie took a cross into the net. Two minutes later, a would-be Ritchie goal was disallowed due to offsides, but the Lakers scored again in the 24th when Sydney Sutter scored off a rebound. The lead ballooned to 3-0 four minutes later on a goal by Caporusso.

After what transpired last year, Mountain Lakes wasn’t going to let up.

Point Beach opened the second half with a goal from 40 yards out by Lily Hesse to cut the deficit to 3-1. The Garnet Gulls kept the pressure on in their attempt to pull off the huge comeback.

This time, Mountain Lakes held firm. Goals from Caporusso and Abigail Hawes put the game the away and slammed the door shut on a potential Point Beach comeback.

“You’ll always hear coaches from youth league all the way up say it’s 0-0, and we were putting that in our mind frame for the past week, knowing that you cannot give up at any point,” Maurizi said. “We’ve been there before. We knew we couldn’t do that. We had the mentality of fight, fight, fight and never stop.”

Unprecedented success in Point Pleasant

Despite the loss, it was a historic season for Point Beach.

The Garnet Gulls (13-7-1) reached their first state final in program history by advancing past Palmyra on penalties in the Group 1 semifinals. They also clinched their first sectional title since 2010 and second ever with a dominant 10-0 performance against Highland Park in the Central Group 1 final.

On their way to the sectional final, beat Shore 3-2 in the quarterfinals to end the Blue Devils’ unbelievable 10-year reign as sectional champions.

“We had a hell of a season,” Point Beach head coach Adam Curtis said. “The girls played their hearts out this year.”

While it was the end of the season for Point Beach, it’s likely not the last you'll hear from the Garnet Gulls. A senior class that includes Kami Turnbach, Morgan Highland and Naima Shortridge will graduate, but an exciting group of underclassmen that includes Baileigh Johnson, Gabby Kirchner, Izzy Kurzon, Samantha Miles and Ellie Loffreno will be back next year.

“It’s only going to make them hungrier,” Curtis said. “Now they have a taste of it.”

Danny LoGiudice has covered local sports across New Jersey since 2014. Contact him at [email protected] or @danny_logiudice on Twitter.

Group 1 Final stars of the game: Mountain Lakes vs. Woodbury

Mountain Lakes struck first, but Woodbury struck more often and with resounding authority.Woodbury (12-2) displayed speed and muscle on either side of the ball to bounce back from a one-touchdown deficit in the first quarter for a 31-7 victory Saturday in the first NJSIAA/Rothman Orthopaedics Group 1 state final Saturday afternoon at Rutgers’ SHI Stadium in Piscataway.Woodbury held Mountain Lakes to just 114 total yards while speedy junior running back Anthony Reagan Jr. carried for 211 yards on his own for the Thundering...

Mountain Lakes struck first, but Woodbury struck more often and with resounding authority.

Woodbury (12-2) displayed speed and muscle on either side of the ball to bounce back from a one-touchdown deficit in the first quarter for a 31-7 victory Saturday in the first NJSIAA/Rothman Orthopaedics Group 1 state final Saturday afternoon at Rutgers’ SHI Stadium in Piscataway.

Woodbury held Mountain Lakes to just 114 total yards while speedy junior running back Anthony Reagan Jr. carried for 211 yards on his own for the Thundering Herd.

Meet the five stars of this historic game below.

Justin Brennfleck, Mountain Lakes, Jr., Punter

Against the tremendous speed of Woodbury’s defense, Brennfleck quickly became of Mountain Lakes’ top weapons with his booming punts. He averaged 40.6 yards on seven kicks, knocking three inside the 20 and one just skipping into the end zone after unleashing it from the Woodbury 36. Brennfleck had a long of 64 yards.

Marco Dzamba, Mountain Lakes, Jr., TE/LB

Dzamba seemed to be thoroughly unfazed by Woodbury’s blistering speed, as he compiled a game-high 12 tackles (9 solos), many of them in the first half to keep Mountain Lakes within striking distance of the Thundering Herd. Dzamba recorded three tackles for losses and also a sack. He also provided several key blocks on his team’s nine-play, 62-yard scoring drive in the first half.

Derron Moore, Woodbury, Sr., LB

When Moore was on the field, he was the most intense player. He racked up 11 tackles, two tackles for losses and punished Mountain Lakes ball carriers with booming hits on the defensive end. His biggest play in the contest came on a forced fumble and recovery of Mountain Lakes quarterback Ben Miniter early in the fourth quarter. The turnover set up a touchdown drive that gave Woodbury a late 18-7 lead. Moore was also credited with another forced fumble later in the game and punched in a 1-yard touchdown at the end of the game to put The Herd up 31-7.

Avari Morton, Woodbury, Sr., DL

With the exception of one drive, Woodbury had its way with Mountain Lakes at the line of scrimmage. The largest player on the field, Morton was additionally the most important for The Herd defensively. He stuffed the Lakers’ Wing-T and created nothing but negative plays. Mountain Lakes ended the game with 42 rushing attempts for a mere 84 yards. Morton can be created for a majority of that superb defense. He was a space eater.

Anthony Reagan, Woodbury, Jr., RB/DB

Reagan ran violently for 211 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries for Woodbury. He fumbled on his first big run of the day, but rebounded with chunk plays that put The Herd in control of the game in the second half. His touchdowns gave Woodbury an 18-7 lead after the score from freshman Ibn Muhammad, which all but put the game out of reach before they scored two more times in the final few minutes. Reagan also reeled in a 16-yard reception in the win.

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