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Josh Mehl had big shoes to fill when he took over the Freehold Township boys soccer program in 2016.

Now, it is Mehl that will be leaving those big shoes behind as one of the top soccer jobs at the Shore is once again open.

Mehl told his team Friday and confirmed to Shore Sports Network that he will be stepping down as head coach of the Patriots boys soccer team to accept the position of athletic director at Freehold Boro High School.

"It was more emotional than I thought it was going to be," Mehl said. "I loved coaching this team. I loved it every year, but this year was special, so to have to break this news to them was tough. I know I made the right decision, but I will miss coaching and teaching for the rest of my life."

To this point, Mehl, who recently turned 40 and lives in Toms River with his wife and two children, was a history teacher at Freehold Township and served as an assistant under previous head coach Todd Briggs for five seasons before taking the reins of the program following Briggs's resignation at the end of the 2015 season.

Briggs, who still coaches track and field and cross country at Freehold Township, left Mehl a thriving program and Mehl continued to move it forward in his six years at the helm.

Josh Mehl center, hand raised) confirmed his resignation as Freehold Township head boys soccer coach on Friday. Mehl accepted the athletic director position at Freehold Boro. Photo by Matt Manley)
Josh Mehl (center, hand raised) confirmed his resignation as Freehold Township head boys soccer coach on Friday. Mehl accepted the athletic director position at Freehold Boro. (Photo by Matt Manley)
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Freehold Township lost some experience from teams that won the Shore Conference Tournament in 2014 and the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group IV title in 2015, but still reached the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals in Mehl's first season, when both Christian Brothers Academy and Marlboro had teams that measured up to the best in their respective program histories.

Three years later, Mehl guided Freehold Township to its fourth ever Shore Conference Tournament title and first since 2014. In that same 2019 season, Freehold Township won the Shore Conference Class A North division outright, beating out CBA and Marlboro for the regular-season crown. While CBA won the outright division championship in the other five years of Mehl's tenure, Freehold Township managed to secure public division championships in 2017 and 2021.

This past season, Mehl engineered what was likely his best season as a head coach. Freehold Township lost a deep, talented senior class from the 2020 season and then lost two of its top returning seniors -- J.T. Gold and Christian Mojares -- to injuries early in 2021.

Despite the injuries and inexperience, Freehold Township won the A North public title, reached the Shore Conference Tournament semifinals, and, for the first time since 1982, made it all the way to the Group IV championship game. The Patriots beat Howell to win the Central Group IV championship for the first time since 2015, then knocked out Toms River North in the Group IV semifinal on penalties.

Freehold Township's storybook run ended in the Group IV final against a loaded Kearny squad that pulled away late to win the state title, 6-2.

"It was nice that I didn't know I might be taking this job until recently so I could just enjoy this season as it was happening," Mehl said. "I don't know how it would have felt to be on that ride knowing that was going to be it. I didn't even interview (for the athletic director position) until after the season, so I had no idea that was going to be it."

Mehl -- a graduate of Fair Lawn High School and Monmouth University -- moves over to the administrative side with a career record of 82-31-7.

"One of the ways I've been able to reconcile taking this job is because when you are a coach in a given sport, you can only impact so many people," Mehl said. "In this new job, I'll get a chance to do work that has an impact on even more kids, not just at Freehold Boro, but also on Shore Conference soccer committees and maybe state committees down the road. I'm looking forward to bringing that same passion that I've always had for coaching and teaching."

His successor will inherit a program that will again have to replace some valuable senior talent in All-Shore forward Herman Colbert and All-Shore midfielder Josh Hocheiser, among others, but will return a number of quality players who gained significant experience this season.

Freehold Township owns the longest active streak in the Shore Conference with 18 straight years qualifying for the Shore Conference Tournament and are well-positioned to extend that streak next season.

"Whoever takes it over, I hope they realize that when Briggs and I got here, it wasn't the way it is now," Mehl said. "It took a lot of time and effort and energy to establish the kind of culture that it has today and you have to keep working at it every day.

"This program is my baby. In a lot of ways, I want to see the next coach do even better than I did."

 

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