MILLBURN, NJ - A first-half goal by Alex Migoya and some second-half heroics in goal by Zach Barr helped steer the Millburn boys soccer team to a 1-0 victory over Cliffside Park Thursday afternoon for the Section 2, Group 3 championship.
The last sectional title for Millburn (14-4-1) came in 2012, and this one came in the first year after the Millers escaped the cutthroat world of Section 2, Group 4 and were reclassified for this school year as a Group 3 school. Millburn was seeded third. Cliffside Park (15-4) was the ninth seed, and defeated the 12th seed, Matawan, to get to the final in a topsy turvy section.
Millburn will play the winner of the Paramus-Ramapo game in the state Group 3 semifinals next Tuesday at a site and time to be announced by this weekend.
Migoya, a junior forward, scored the game's only goal with 25:24 showing in the first half after Sam Meyerowitz and Jack Marx set him up.
"(Cliffside Park) plays a 3-5-2, so we knew the corners would be available to us," explained Millburn head coach Jason Robinson of the sequence that led to Migoya's goal. "Sam Meyerowitz played it to Marx, who took the guy on and was able to get us a service. We knew we could play the corners in this game."
Millburn had several opportunities to add to its lead in the second half. Zach Butter's shot on goal was saved with 21 minutes left, then a minute later Ano Chinogwenya sent a cross just wide to a waiting Alex Marx in the box. Evan Berney also had a good look with 18 minutes left, but his shot was also stopped by the Cliffside Park keeper.
"We talked at halftime about how if we could get that second goal, that would make it awfully tough for them to come back against us," Robinson said. "But that if we didn't, the last 12 minutes were going to be really hard and we would have to play defense then."
Indeed, Cliffside Park made the final stages of the contest nail-biting minutes for the Millburn faithful. With 14 minutes left, Cliffside Park got a free kick that banged off the left post and then ricocheted to the right, perilously close to the net. But Barr saved it with a dive to his left before the ball crossed the line. Barr then made three more tough saves with 7:25 left, 4:25 left and 2:14 left after a scramble in front of the Millburn net.
"Zach (Barr) is a sophomore, but he is a second-year starter, so he's not afraid of this and he's not afraid to get loud," Robinson said. "He also has decent size and a good set of shoulders."
The Millers' back line, featuring Zach Butter, Christian Clark, Aidan Grigorian and Rory McLaughlin, was also up to the challenge posed by Cliffside Park's attack.
"Every day, Zach Butter and Christian Clark, our senior captains, held this team to a high standard," Robinson said. "They were on a team that was 4-9 when they were freshmen."
Last year, Millburn reached the Section 2, Group 4 semifinals before being eliminated in PKs after a scoreless tie with Newark East Side in an icy, drenching downpour. But Thursday, under golden sunshine and in a different group tournament, the Millers won a championship.
"After we watched video of Cliffside Park on Tuesday, we were in the gym looking up at the banners," Robinson said, "and we said, 'The next game gets your team on that banner--forever'."