Chatham Football Knocks Barringer from Undefeated Ranks, 31-6; Plays State Semifinal at Home Next

Chatham seniors at Schools Stadium in Newark after victory over Barringer Credits: TAP Chatham
Colin Ness and Mike Kellstrom and the Cougars get ready for the start of the game Credits: TAP Chatham
Luke Sukiennik made two big punt returns and scored a touchdown for Chatham Credits: TAP Chatham
Chatham QB Alex Sands holds Cougar flag while being interviewed by Mike Kinney of MSG Varsity after the game Credits: TAP Chatham

NEWARK, NJ - Two plays and 25 seconds.

That's how long it took for the Chatham football team to serve notice that it had come to play in its North Jersey, Section 2, Group 3 state playoff game against undefeated Barringer on Saturday.

Chatham's first play from scrimmage was a pass from Alex Sands to Robbie Moskowitz for a 59-yard gain. The second play was a 17-yard touchdown reception by Ryan Barnett from Sands with 11:35 showing on the clock.

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No. 6 seed Chatham led from that point on in upending No. 3-seeded Barringer, 31-6, in the first round of the state playoffs at Schools Stadium.

"The first play, (Barringer) did a good job covering it," Sands said. "Mosk (Moskowitz) saw a little hole to sneak into. A little improv play gave us a lot of momentum going out of the gate and then, obviously, Barnett is huge in the red zone. That really set the tone for us.

"Our coaches told us whoever can get off the roller-coaster of emotions and set the tone for the game first is going to be the one that wins."

Chatham (8-2), which now owns the school record for victories in a season since Chatham became one high school, has earned a home game next weekend against 7th-seeded West Essex (6-4) in the sectional semifinal round.

After Timmy Adams kicked the extra point to make it 7-0 for the Cougars, Barringer (8-1) took the ensuing kick and advanced to the Chatham 1-yard-line. But linebacker Matt Nestler sacked Barringer quarterback Zamar Wise for a 4-yard loss. Then an errant snap led to a 25-yard loss and Chatham held and took over on downs at the 30.

"Our defense came up huge today all game long," Sands said. "I think that first drive set the emotion for them and they knew they could handle them on D. That first stop was the biggest because it really kills their momentum. It gives you a chance to go up two possessions in the first quarter and that was huge."

Chatham drove to the Barringer 10 on its next possession, but Adams' halfback-option pass into the end zone was intercepted. Three plays later, senior cornerback Greg Kurlak stepped in front of a sideline pass, picked it off and raced 30 yards for the score, diving into the end one at the corner marker. Adams' kick made it 14-0 with 2:44 left in the first period.

Barringer cut the deficit to 14-6 on the first play of the second quarter, but Chatham took a 17-6 lead into the break on a 36-yard field goal by Adams with 3:08 left in the half. Luke Sukiennik helped set up the field goal with a 24-yard punt return to the Barringer 16.

"We have (Adams) in the back pocket," Sands said. "We haven't kicked that many field goals this year, but we know he's good from anywhere on the field basically. The ability to go into halftime with a two possession lead rather than a one-possession lead was huge."

Barringer drove to the Chatham 6-yard-line in the closing seconds, but Cougar Jahanzab Khan sacked Wise on the final play of the first half to keep it at 17-6.

In the third quarter senior linebacker Dylan Ott made the sack for a 10-yard loss that thwarted Barringer's opening drive.

Sukiennik's 22-yard punt return led to a Chatham touchdown in the fourth quarter. His return put the ball at the 23 and, after a 6-yard rush by Adams, Sukiennik broke a number of tackles on the way to a 17-yard touchdown dash. Adams' PAT made it 24-6 with 9:30 to go.

"I wanted to see what happened and they had good (pass) coverage," Chatham offensive coordinator Steve Trivino said of the opening drive. "Our next philosophy was to trap off tackle. we weren't going to go outside on their speed, so we were going to go off tackle. Then at the end, I saw Nestler was getting a little winded by playing both ways and I put Luke (Sukiennik) in and that's what got us the touchdown."

Chatham took over on downs at the Barringer 34 on its next possession, and a 13-yard keep by Sands helped set up a 9-yard touchdown burst from Justin Hayes with 4:10 to play.

The impressive victory gave the Cougars a 6-0 mark on the road this season. The only losses have been at home to teams from Sparta: Sparta High and Pope John.

"When we go up against Randolph, Sparta and Pope John and Morristown, it's just a tad different than maybe some of the other teams (Barringer) play," Chatham coach Jason Izsa said. "They just looked at it as another game. We didn't hype it up as a playoff game. We didn't want it to be our last game.

"They went out there and played it like it was another football game. I wasn't worried that they were never in this because the last time we were in a playoffs in 2011 these guys weren't even in high school yet."

Scoring so quickly on the opening drive of the game told the Chatham offense a few things about the Barringer team.

"The pass protection on the first drive showed that we could handle them up front and that we could account for the extra guys they have in the box," Sands said. "So we said if we can keep the ball on the ground that makes it a little easier when it got windy. We still had the pass in the back pocket in case anything was missing.

"We're very fortunate that we have such a tough regular-season schedule. We came into the game knowing we played the Spartas, Pope Johns and Randolphs, programs that are perennial playoff teams and we came into it as though we were playing one of those teams." 

Robbie Moskowitz is caught from behind after gaining 59 yards on a pass from Alex Sands on the opening play from scrimmage for Chatham

Ryan Barnett receives pass from Alex Sands and turns it into a 17-yard touchdown play just 25 seconds into the game for Chatham

COUGAR NOTES: Barringer had outscored its opponents 337 to 69 before Chatham put up 31 points, representing 31 percent of the points scored against the Newark School in nine games. It was the most points scored on Barringer and the most the Blue Bears had allowed.

No. 7 seed West Essex upset No. 2 seeded Nutley, 28-7, in Nutley on Saturday behind three touchdown passes from West Essex quarterback Patrick Glenn.

"The fact that we have a home game is huge," Sands said. "The energy all year at Cougar Field has been insane. I think the fact that we can go there one more time, and, hopefully, the Cougar Nation will give us enough of an advantage."

Chatham is 6-0 on the road this season, having won away at Randolph, Montville, Vernon, Parsippany Hills, Morristown and Barringer.


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