CHATHAM, NJ – The Chatham Cougars fumbled twice in the first half and had little answer for the diverse Lenape Valley run game as they gave up 14 points in the fourth quarter en route to a 28-17 loss on Friday afternoon at Cougar Field.
The opening drive for Chatham looked promising, but they were unable to put any points on the scoreboard. Senior half back Corey Hiederan had two good runs on the drive; one good for 25 yards and another for 17. That set up Chatham for a 30-yard field goal try, but Dave Fiumara’s kick attempt was wide right.
After the defense forced a punt, Chatham was looking to put together another drive, but quarterback Sammy Failla’s miscued snap was fumbled and Lenape Valley recovered the football on the Chatham 33 yard line.
After Lenape Valley would score on their ensuing drive, Chatham would take the kickoff return to their own 33 yard line. After one play, Hiederan would again fumble a ball that was recovered by the opposition in Chatham’s territory.
“A lot of mental mistakes; the fumbles and miss snaps. Kids can’t make those mistakes and I’m not going to allow them to,” Chatham Head Coach Don Morgenroth said after the game.
And Nicholas Rafferty of Lenape Valley made Chatham pay for their mistake. After Chatham failed to stop a fourth and one quarterback draw, the halfback pounded in a one yard touchdown, his first of two scores in the game. The extra point put Chatham in a 14-0 hole with 8:42 remaining in the second quarter.
A bright spot for Chatham came when Failla completed his first pass of the game. It was a 41-yard catch and run strike to halfback Dylan Adams. Chatham went for two after the score, but failed to convert as they found themselves down by eight after scoring their first touchdown of the contest.
It appeared as if momentum was on Chatham’s side when they forced a three and out and took over possession at their own 13 yard line. Hiederan would put together a few nice runs, including an 8 yard blast on a fourth and six play, as Chatham attempted to put more points on the board before halftime.
However, with no time outs left and little time remaining in the quarter, Failla began running the ball down the sideline from the Lenape Valley 17 yard line. He did not get out of bounds on the play and when he attempted to spike the ball to stop the clock, the officials ruled he did not get the play off before time expired in the half.
“All of those little mistakes against a good team are going to hurt you,” Morgenroth said. “The offense just couldn’t get it going.”
Chatham would receive the ball first after halftime and would put themselves in good scoring position when Hiederan broke a long run near midfield to set his team up on the five yard line. They were unable to punch the ball in and would have to settle for a 20 yard field goal as Chatham still trailed, 14-9 with 7:48 remaining in the third quarter.
The defense for Chatham came up huge on Lenape Valley’s next possession to once again give Chatham a boost of momentum. The ball was on the Chatham two yard line when Lenape Valley decided to go for a touchdown on a fourth and goal play. The defensive line for Chatham got a huge push and stopped Rafferty to give their offense the ball.
“I thought our defense did a great job," Morgenroth told The Alternative Press. "They’re playing hard and they made some great stops…when they needed to."
With a long 99 yards to go, the Chatham offense could not get a first down and were forced to punt. The booted ball from the back of their own end zone gave Lenape Valley good field position at the Chatham 40 yard line.
The away team, working with a short field, would find the end zone once again as Chatham was down 21-9 with 9:54 left in the final quarter.
That score seemed to suck the life out of Chatham as a holding penalty, an incomplete pass and Hiederan getting injured on a run set up a third and eighteen from their own 31 yard line. Failla then threw an incomplete pass intended for Adams and Chatham was forced to punt with time winding down in the game.
Lenape Valley would score their fourth touchdown when Rafferty ran the ball in from five yards out to give his team a commanding 28-9 edge
Failla would find wide out Colin Brown for a 15 yard touchdown on Chatham’s next offensive possession, but the score mattered little as they simply ran out of time to mount a comeback at that point.
Chatham is now 3-2 after Friday afternoon’s loss. They will look to bounce back when they host Parsippany High School on Saturday, Oct. 15 at 1 p.m.