CHATHAM, NJ - The message to the Chatham boys lacrosse team was simple: Randolph stands between you and the Morris County Tournament semifinals.
"I told them that this was our first opportunity to get over .500 since early April and that 48 minutes and Randolph stood between us and the semifinals," Chatham coach Tony Calandra said.
Chatham didn't let the opportunity pass. The Cougars scored six goals in the first period and maintained a high level of play throughout its 14-5 victory over Randolph on Thursday at Cougar Field.
Chatham (9-8) has earned a date with Mountain Lakes (12-3) in the Morris County Tournament semifinals, set for Saturday at Madison HIgh. Chatham never has won the MCT, reaching the final once in 2013 when it lost to Delbarton.
"We've only been to one county championship in school history and getting back to one would be huge," senior Will Barnett said. "Everything has been building up. We haven't really played a full 48 as an offense. This is the best game we've played in a while. We were able to get some clean shots and put them away early."
Chatham suffered through a seven-game losing streak, one of which was a 10-8 home loss to Mountain Lakes on April 4. Since then, it's been a tough climb back for a Chatham team tested by a stiff schedule and, perhaps, a lack of focus on team goals.
"When you're winning faceoffs and the guys are unselfish and understand the big picture of what you're trying to accomplish, that's the result," Calandra said. "Everyone is doing their job. We're starting to hit our stride a little bit. Faceoff guys are playing well. We're picking up ground balls. It's coming together."
The offense was sharp in this one. Matt Coleman produced two goals and six assists, Austin Pierce finished with four goals and an assist and Barnett ended with five goals and an assist.
Pierce got Chatham started when h cut down the middle and scored after receiving a pass from behind the net from Coleman. Justin Hayes then won the ensuing faceoff and Evan Bernard (1 goal, 2 assists) connected with a high blast from up top.
Pierce then scored off another pass from behind from Coleman and Thomas Berger (2 goals) scored to make it 4-0 with 6:17 left in he first period. Barnett's goal pushed the lead to 5-0 when Coleman threw a pass that sailed through the crease to the far side, where Barnett threw it home.
"(Coleman) is making good decisions," Calandra said. "We want to be patient and take advantage of good opportunities."
Coleman's goal with 2.4 seconds left in the first period gave the Cougars a 6-1 advantage. Bernard had entered the field and picked up a ground ball before quickly sending it to Coleman for the goal.
In the third period, Coleman scored off a beautifully lofted touch pass from Nate Carson that cleared the defense. Coleman's finish made it an 11-3 game.