The Records: The second-seeded Arthur L. Johnson Lady Crusaders (13-6-1) battled the ninth-seeded Governor Livingston Highlanders (9-10-1) Friday afternoon in Clark for the NJSIAA Central Jersey, Group 2 sectional championship. Johnson defeated Governor Livingston twice during the regular season.
The Scene: With what seemed like most of the student body in attendance to show support for the inspired Lady Crusaders took the field in search of their first sectional title in six years. The Johnson senior class ran a fundraiser to help offset Underwood's medical costs, charging students $5 each for the privilege of getting out of class early in order to attend the game. The smart concept packed the stands with cheering students and raised more than $1,000 in donations. As in other games since the bonfire accident, Underwood's "#19" and displays of support could be found everywhere. At halftime, the Highlanders showed their support for Underwood, too, meeting Underwood's mother on the field with flowers and a card.
The Final Score: 1-0, Johnson. The Crusaders took an early 1-0 lead on an impressive Cat Hanley strike from about 20 yards out that soared over the head of the Highlander goalie and settled in the top left corner of the net. The goal came 20 minutes into the game and ended up being all Johnson needed on the scoreboard, thanks to a staunch defense and exceptional goal tending. Even in the final minutes of the game, the Highlanders were keeping the pressure on, but Johnson's defense held strong until the whistle blew and the Crusaders were crowned sectional champs. Sophomore goalie Jamie Cheeka finished the game with six saves and recorded her third shutout in the past four games.
The Heroes: Cat Hanley has been a leader for this team all season long, and she came through in a big spot, scoring the game's only goal. Cheeka's consistent goal tending has been instrumental and led the team to their biggest victory yet.
The Inspiration: "We didn't want to have to call Eryka with negative news," said Cheeka. "We wanted to tell her that we won, and when we all visit it's going to be great."
The Quote: "They give it their all for Eryka. She inspires the team," said coach Javier Velasco after the game. "Like I've said before, when this team comes to play, they're unstoppable."
What's Next: Johnson will play Middle Township (17-3-2), in the Group 2 semifinals at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. The game will be played at Washington Township in Sewell.