First impressions can be deceiving. Andrew Armstrong knows all too well.
The Pompton Lakes senior is the leading scorer in North Jersey soccer this year and the proud new owner of the Cardinals' record after scoring his 75th career goal last Thursday. Two days after making history, the star forward decided his future – committing to play Division I soccer at the University of Dayton.
I am excited and blessed to announce my Commitment to the University of Dayton to continue my soccer career and academics. I want to thank all the coaches who have supported me on this journey; Coach Robert Melendez, Coach Lee Leonard, Coach Robert Edgar, Coach Fernando Barboto, Coach Phil Swenda, Coach Adel Alchamat, and the entire CSA staff. You all contributed to my growth and I can’t thank you enough for your support.
A career on the next level was the natural progression for Armstrong, the son of two former college runners. Their speed and a little bit of persistence have come in handy.
"My parents love to tell me the story of when they brought me and my brother to a little soccer camp," Armstrong said. "My brother ended up loving soccer. But me, being me and stubborn, I hated it and said I never wanted to play it again. They forced me to play one more time."
Defenders around North Jersey have paid the price ever since. Armstrong proved that in the first game of his freshman year when he potted three goals on three shots for the 2020 regional champs.
This year, the sharpshooting striker has raised his game to an even higher level. Armstrong has scored 28 goals as a senior, helping the unbeaten Cardinals land a spot in the Passaic County semifinals. To put things in perspective, he's hit the back of the net more often than about half the teams in his conference.
Pompton Lakes coach Rob Edgar has talked up his intangible qualities, too, after hearing his voice all over the Wallington game tape. Sometimes, Edgar wishes he could sit in the bleachers and appreciate Armstrong as a fan – untethered from his usual workflow.
"He's just lethal in so many different ways, with the ball and without the ball," Edgar said. "His speed. His strength. He's the total package as a forward and a competitor. I was looking at him the other day and he had 12 goals in [the first] four games, and you don't get players like that in your career very often."
Armstrong passed Carlo Gonzalez (Class of 2018) on the Cardinal's all-time scoring list by nailing a free kick in the second half last Thursday against West Milford. The milestone had been on his mind since the start of his high school career.
While Armstrong is pleased to have the record, he is never satisfied with his game. He's worked on getting better with his weaker foot for a long time and wants to improve his 1-on-1 play. This summer, he trained in a semi-pro league with the Hillsborough-based Copa FC.
"I was playing against men, people committed to schools like Indiana, Wake Forest, Clemson," Armstrong said. "Obviously that helped and challenged me to make this season easier. It made me a better player and showed me what it will be like in the following years when I do get to college."
Armstrong is hoping to make one last trip to Bermuda before packing his bags for southern Ohio. His dad was born in the island nation and ran for the Bermuda National Team and at Rider. His mom, Marianne, grew up much closer to Pompton Lakes as a top athlete for Wayne Hills.