The stakes are large, the pressure high. For the next year, until they meet again on the field under the bright lights, the winner of the Count Basie Cup gets bragging rights and the title of Red Bank champion.
On Friday, the respective girls and boys soccer teams of Red Bank Middle School and Red Bank Charter School met on the turf field at Count Basie Park for their annual rivalry games. Hundreds of fans gathered in the stands to cheer on their favorite team and the action didn’t disappoint.
After drawing to a tie last year, the girls teams looked poise to repeat the performance, playing a stalemate down to the final seconds. With less than 10 seconds left in the game, however, Jacqui Valdetano scored the game-winning goal off of a pass from Britaney Gonzalez. As the final seconds ticked away, the Middle School team rushed the field to celebrate their victory.
“There’s a lot of community support and a big turnout,” Middle School coach Adam Merklinger said. “The girls were nervous. There’s a lot of excitement, it’s a big rivalry. You can tell this is important to them.”
Though there can only be one winner, both teams shook hands following the match and hung out in the stands as they waited for their classmates to take the field for the boys game. In the first two years of the Count Basie Cup the two boys teams split victories. Fielding a soccer team with no eighth graders and plenty of fifth and sixth graders, the Charter School found itself at a disadvantage in terms of age, experience, and size.
Red Bank Middle School boys beat the Charter School team 2-1.
David Prown, a local business owner and super school supporter who developed the event, said the Count Basie Cup originated simply because kids from the same town, friends and neighbors, often didn’t have the chance to play soccer against each other during the school year.
“The schools are in different conferences so they weren’t playing each other during the season,” he said. “I knew it would be competitive, I knew it would be friendly, and I knew it would be a lot of fun.”