MADISON – Isaiah Flores was a little anxious as he warmed up for Dover’s soccer match against Madison on Monday afternoon. Players on both teams knew the NJAC-Liberty title was at stake.
But there was even more to this match for Flores, who had been called up from the junior varsity as an injury replacement just five days earlier. He didn’t expect to play on Monday.
Instead, Flores scored a pair of goals as Dover toppled Madison, 3-2, to win its second division title in three years. The Tigers ran across Madison’s field together — a couple of them pulling off their bright orange jerseys and waving them in celebration — dumped a water cooler on head coach Jeff Hoyt, then scooped up alumnus George Perez and sang “Happy Birthday” while throwing him in the air.
Dover senior Leandro Suarez scored the decisive goal. He received a pass from sophomore Sebastian Roman, took a couple of touches to settle the ball, and served it up with 14:14 to play. It capped the Tigers’ second-half comeback.
“I felt more welcome when I scored, and they celebrated with me,” said Flores, who had played in two varsity scrimmages during preseason before being sent to JV to get more playing time.
“(Coach Hoyt) pulled me to the side, and said he needed somebody, and I was his pick. I said OK, with a smile. I was really happy.”
Flores scored despite being surrounded by three Madison defenders to put Dover (15-3) on top with 13 minutes left before halftime.
Said Flores, “I didn’t think I would make it, but I pushed myself.”
But the Tigers kept giving up corner kicks, and Madison has prided itself on set pieces this fall. Sophomore J.P. Scheunke was able to connect with senior midfielder John Kerr with 8:15 to go before the break.
Scheunke slipped a shot just inside the left post nine minutes into the second half to give the Dodgers (10-5-1) their first lead. Madison held an offensive edge, but most of the 20 shots were off target.
“We got our chances, and we didn’t take them,” Scheunke said. “That was the difference. They took their chances and we didn’t.”
Flores reversed the momentum with a 25-yard rocket with 19:42 to play. Dover had an open shot when Madison goalkeeper Mike Noto came way out to make a play, but the ball trickled wide.
It was Dover’s second victory over Madison this season. The teams could meet again in NJSIAA North 1 Group II, which will be seeded on Wednesday.
“It’s too much to take in,” Suarez said. “It’s crazy. … It’s just the first step. We’ve been here before. We know what it feels like to win a (division) championship. Now we want to win a state championship.”
Staff Writer Jane Havsy: 973-428-6682; [email protected]; http://www.dailyrecord.com/writerjane/