EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP — The way to beat a team that is intent on packing it in and playing with a defensive strategy in mind is to be sure your passes are crisp, your runs to goal are on line and that you’re serving crosses into the box that can be played by your forwards.

That’s exactly what host Egg Harbor Township did on Monday afternoon, dominating from start to finish in a 3-0 victory over Millville. The win helped the Eagles improve to 8-1 overall and 6-1 in the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference, as they kept pace with conference-leading St. Augustine Prep (5-1, 4-0 heading into Monday). EHT’s only loss so far came at the hands of the Hermits, and they’ll get a rematch at St. Augustine Prep a week from Wednesday.

“We knew what we were expecting here. We went and scouted the Millville vs. Mainland game, so we had an idea and had a game plan in place. I thought we executed well early,” said EHT coach Pete Lambert. “We wanted to get on them early, and got three in the first half. I feel like we had good possession and good build-up defensively. I can’t ask for more from my guys in the back, and Tyler (Weller) in goal with a clean sheet. We know we can score goals.”

The Eagles kept up heavy pressure from the opening whistle, and it paid off about 10 minutes in as junior striker Ahmad Brock finished a beautiful cross from senior captain Burak Cimen (pronounced cha-MAHN). There was nothing Millville goalie Nate Goranson — one of the best and most experienced keepers in the Cape-Atlantic League — could do against a hard shot from the six.

“We tried to keep our spacing, keep our triangles on the field and not over-pursue and not rush. We tried to stretch (Millville) out and go forward with numbers, and I thought we did a good job with that,” Lambert said. “Millville has a good goalie, he came up with a couple of big saves. He saved a shot by Ahmad on a breakaway, saved another shot by Niko (Rubio), but we knew he was a good goalie so we had to challenge him, get balls in the air, play negative. I’m happy with the boys, we’re 8-1, which is right where we expected to be.”

“Ahmad is a good all-around player. You can send a ball into the corner and he’ll go get it. He’s a great player to play with. He’s good all around, crossing, finishing, he’s always there for us,” added E.J. Martin, the Eagles’ other senior captain.

A few minutes later, Brock finished off another excellent cross, this time from junior defender Jayden Guy, and Cimen capped the scoring a little more than halfway through the first half when he drilled home a penalty kick.

“Millville is a tough team to play every year, so we walked in with this mindset thinking that we have to take it to them. Fresh off the kickoff we had to be aggressive, and we did that,” Cimen said. “In the first 25 minutes we put three in, and that’s what we practiced. Take it down to the corner, whip it in, score off of it. Our strikers got in there, our midfielders got in there, everybody was up with the high press. That’s what we had to do.

“Coach Lambert always has this ideology that we need to play as a team, play like a family, and we take that chemistry that we have on and off the field very seriously. We take pride in that bond and we play well together,” he added. “Our game plan was to go in, take it to them, play our game, stretch them out, move the ball around and possess the ball, and finish.”

Millville dropped to 4-2 overall and 4-2 in the CAL American, while the win was the fifth straight for the Eagles, who have outscored opponents 27-2 during that stretch since a 2-1 loss to St. Augustine Prep on Sept. 11.

“We just need to work at finishing going forward. Millville’s a tough team because they pack it in, but that helps us work on possession,” Martin said. “Going into the weekend with Vineland and then Moorestown on Saturday, it’s good competition and that will help get us ready for a possible playoff run, and also possibly the Coaches Tournament, which would be a pleasure to be in.”

“We have a couple of big games coming up and then we go to Prep next week. We’re trying to get healthy, we still have a couple guys banged up. So if we can get healthy, stay healthy and continue to build off what we’re doing, get better at training — we’re hoping to make a run through South Jersey Group 4, maybe get into the Coaches Tournament, and turn some heads. We have the horses this year and we’re pretty deep off the bench. We returned 11 seniors, we have a good core of juniors, a couple sophomores and two freshmen who log a lot of minutes. Nate (Biersbach) has six goals, so he’s contributing in the attack, and Luca (Lainez) is kind of our utility guy. We try to beat teams with our legs by staying fresh,” Lambert added. “The boys are having fun. They all get along on and off the field, which is a good thing. That’s a positive. We’re just trying to stay positive and take it one game at a time.”

What’s next: EHT travels to Vineland on Friday at 3:45 p.m. then hosts Moorestown on Saturday at 11 a.m. Millville travels to Atlantic City on Wednesday at 3:45 p.m.

More From WPG Talk Radio 95.5 FM