CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham’s Graham Delaney scored his first goal of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time as the Cougars defeated Morristown High School, 1-0, in the semifinal round of the North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state tournament on Tuesday.
The goal came in the 24th minute when Michael Barber set up for a corner kick. Barber launched the ball over the crowd towards the far side of the net and found Delaney, who booted it into the back of the net for the game-winning goal.
“Really it was a phenomenal ball,” Delaney said. “I was in the right place at the right time and was able to put away a goal for us, and then we were fortunate enough to get the win.”
After that point it was up to the Cougar defense and keeper Henry Stusnick to protect the goal and the lead as Morristown brought the pressure and raised the intensity.
“They obviously brought a lot of energy and effort and we had to contend with that,” Cougars’ head coach Mark Maka said. “Andy Mallone and P.J. DiBenedetto, our two captains and center backs, have been really stepping up the last couple of weeks in training.”
Morristown’s best opportunity came in the first half when Brian Alvarenga had an uncontested shot inside the box, but Stusnick was able to make the diving save to keep them off the board.
“We definitely weren’t going to take Morristown lightly,” Delaney said. “They really came out here to win and fortunately we got it done.”
Tempers were high throughout the game as yellow cards were being handed out, and even a Morristown fan was ejected from the game.
“Today it was just about our will more than anything else,” Maka said. “It wasn't a game where we played particularly well, as opposed to more recent games, but I think we played with great spirit and commitment and fight.”
Chatham (12-6-2) advances to the sectional final, where it will meet Morris Hills (15-4-1), 2 p.m. Friday in Rockaway.