Hunterdon Central breezes past Ridge to advance to Group 4 state semifinal

On the hottest day of the year, Stewart Field played host to a Top 10 state matchup between the #7 ranked Ridge Devils against the #4 ranked Hunterdon Central.

In a rematch of a game played earlier in the season, Ridge was looking to get revenge after Central defeated them 8-2 early in the season.

Ridge controlled the opening face-off as Central quickly realized that this was a completely different team than the team they played earlier when Ridge was missing three of their key starters.

Both sides started off the first quarter slow like two boxers feeling each other out, and it wasn't until five minutes into the game that either side took the first shot on net.

After a couple of great passes, Ridge was able to break the seal with the first goal of the game with six minutes left to go in the first. The Ridge fans quickly made their presence felt as the left side of the bleachers burst into cheers after the goal.

After a Central timeout to quiet the crowd, the Red Devils led a quick attack as Sean Creter dished a perfect pass to leading scoring Dylan Johnson, who took a huge shot after his goal.

The goal sent the home crowd into a frenzy as the boos soon turned into cheers as a yellow flag came out seconds later, announcing a penalty on Ridge.

Looking to rebound after the goal, Ridge went into attack mode, but a tremendous save by Dillion Baehr in goal for Central kept the game tied up at one after one quarter.

Less than a minute into the second quarter, after a missed shot by Central, Vinnie Devito scooped up a ground ball and took a bounce shot that slid past the net to give Hunterdon Central their first lead.

However, this wouldn't last long as an illegal procedure by Central opened the window for Ridge as Jimmy NcNally got behind the defense to fire off an easy shot from right in front of the cage.

After a couple of sloppy passes, a turnover by Central created a fast break opportunity the other way. Ryan Otto capitalized on the opening as Ridge took a 3-2 lead.

This was when the game started to shift, and on the hottest day of the year, Hunterdon Central was able to channel that heat and catch some fire as four unanswered goals forced Ridge to take a time out.

Led by the senior group of Devito, Owen Bill, and an impressive left-handed goal by Johnson, Central was able to put the foot on the gas ending the half with a 7-4 lead.

As the temperatures started to rise, fatigue quickly became apparent as both fast-faced offenses slowed down in the second half to control the game's pace.

A slow third quarter made up for it with under a minute left to go when a massive hit by Ridge exploded the crowd when senior Dylan Johnson hit the turf.

Fortunately for Johnson, the hit served as a little extra boost as Central was able to capitalize on the man-up opportunity when "DJ," as his teammates call him, was able to find Brendan Lehrer to extend the lead to 10-4. The deficit proved to be too much for Ridge.

While Ridge sophomore Ryan Olivo led an impressive charge, the four goals weren't enough as Central was able to run out the clock giving them a 12-6 win.

Dominant second-half performances from defenders Frankie Lentine and Quintero anchored a great second half for the Red Devil's defense, only giving up two goals. Dylan Baehr keeps his undefeated strike in net to 17 games as his seven saves earned him a victory.

Dylan Johnson, a senior, finished the game with an outstanding 6 points with three goals and three assists to add to his record-breaking final high school season.

Two Down, Two to Go for Hunterdon Central

The Red Devils advanced to the semifinals, where they play familiar foe Westfield on Wednesday for a chance to go to the state championship.

Stay tuned as Jersey Sporting News will be there to cover the state playoffs beginning next week.

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