By: Sarah Chagares
Editor in Chief
When the referee blows the whistle, either at the beginning of the game or the beginning of the second half of the game, Ramapo soccer fans undoubtedly notice that one of the home team’s players inconspicuously bends down to touch the 50-yard line. That team member is Aidan Bennett-Jones and that gesture is his traditional pre-game ritual. This ceremonial act, together with years of hard work and discipline, has served the senior soccer player well and has resulted in his selection as the recipient of this month’s Senior Spotlight recognition.
Bennett-Jones fell in love with what is known as “the beautiful game” when he was a young boy and tried out for his first soccer team. He knew that he had discovered his passion when each week he found himself looking forward to both his soccer practices and games. Fast-forward about thirteen years and Bennett-Jones has become just that . . . a “fast forward” soccer star for the Ramapo Boys Soccer Team.
Known for his quickness as well as his technical ability with the ball at his feet, the soccer standout relishes playing the “striker” position. When asked what he enjoys most about that role, he explained, “I am able to run and utilize my speed, creating goal opportunities for my teammates and myself.” Bennett-Jones has, indeed, excelled in goal scoring, amassing over 22 goals since he began playing on the varsity squad in his sophomore year. These impressive statistics and his well-honed skills on the soccer pitch have not gone unnoticed as he was named to the “All State–Second Team”, the “All Conference-First Team” and the “All Group-Second Team” as an underclassman. These accolades demonstrate what an asset Bennett-Jones is to the team.
When he is not scoring soccer goals for Ramapo, the athlete spends his time with his friends as well as playing other sports. Participating in athletic events helps the student-athlete relax and provides an escape for him from the demands of school responsibilities, homework and other obligations. As a matter of fact, during the winter months he dons a different Ramapo uniform and is a playmaker on the varsity basketball team. Quite appropriately, his favorite school subject is “Geography” which speaks to his knack for locating his teammates both on the soccer field and the basketball court.
Bennett-Jones’ senior season, sadly, has been cut short due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, the shortened season has dampened neither his enthusiasm to play for his high school nor his gratitude for the opportunity to proudly wear a Raider uniform. He shared, “There is a culture amongst the team. Every year that I have been in the program I have not thought of my teammates as part of a team. Instead, everyone sees each other as family.” He added, “the camaraderie on and off the field is unmatched.” The senior captain believes that this feeling of inclusiveness and collegiality begins at the top with Coach Evan Baumgarten. Speaking about his coach, Bennett-Jones posited, “Coach Baumgarten is one of the most caring people I have ever met. He really knows how to make a team’s culture stronger. It is safe to say that he is the best coach I have ever had.”
Bennett-Jones obviously has a great deal of respect for his coach and his teammates, and apparently, that respect is mutual. Fellow captain and senior, Colin McKenna, praised his teammate asserting, “Aidan is a very hard worker and brings a lot of offensive skill to the team. His speed helps us out a lot all over and he brings a lot of energy whenever he is on the field.” McKenna’s words exemplify the special relationship the teammates share.
In conclusion, Bennett-Jones’ dedication to his teammates, his consistent hard work and yes, his ritual of touching the 50-yard line right before kick-off, have all contributed to the senior’s reputation as one of the stars of the Ramapo soccer team. As this unprecedented soccer season winds to a close it is certain that the athlete’s brief touches of the sacred ground that is the Ramapo field will become even more meaningful to him and to his senior teammates. Even as Bennett-Jones touches that 50-yard line on the Ramapo soccer field for the last time as a Ramapo player, he can be assured that his contributions to the Ramapo Boys Soccer Team’s storied legacy will continue to shine brightly at his soon-to-be alma mater.