SPARTA, NJ - Through its first 20 games of the season, the Sparta boys lacrosse team had beaten every team it had faced.
That changed Wednesday afternoon when the Spartans were knocked from the undefeated ranks by a "Mac Attack" put forth by Chatham's Mac Bredahl.
In the fourth quarter, Sparta was doing everything it could to prevent Bredahl from getting the ball. By that time it was way too late as the sophomore attack already had piled up three goals and five assists in sparking Chatham to a 12-10 victory in the NJSIAA North, Group 2 state semifinals.
No. 3 seed Chatham (17-6) has earned the home-field advantage for the state sectional final against fourth-seeded Ramapo (13-5), set for 12 noon Saturday at Cougar Field.
Ramapo upset top-seeded Summit in double-overtime, 7-6, in its semifinal.
It was a total team effort by the Cougars with senior captains Matt Coleman, Austin Pierce and Nate Carson each scoring three goals and senior goalie Matt Nestler coming up big in the fourth quarter to quell a Sparta rally.
There also were key contributions from faceoff man Will Hosbein and the entire defense, including Kyle Kology, who made it as difficult as possible for Sparta's powerful lefty Owen Mead (4 goals).
"We had kids step up all day long," Chatham coach Tony Calandra said. "Mark McNally stepped in for (Geoff) O'Malley, out with an injury, and we didn't miss a beat."
Still, the one player Sparta had no answer for was Mac Bredahl, who was definitely the shortest and most dangerous player on the field.
"Mac has been terrific all year, he's a very special player," Calandra said.
Mac Bredahl talks about the third-quarter surge that turned the game in Chatham's favor against previously unbeaten Sparta
Carson started Chatham off with an unassisted goal that made it 1-1, but with the score tied at 2-2 late in the first quarter, Bredahl started to give signs that it was going to be his day. His remarkable field vision allowed him to thread a long pass through a crowd to Carson, who put his chance away for a 3-2 edge.
In the second quarter, Chris Francesco came up with a hard-fought ground ball and fed Pierce, who sprinted to goal before passing to a wide-open Bredahl for a goal that put the Cougars up 4-2. With 1:18 showing in the first half, Bredahl cut from behind to score an unassisted wraparound for a 5-4 Chatham lead heading into the break.
In the third quarter, Bredahl fired a pass through a crowd to Pierce in front of the net for a goal that put the Cougars up, 6-4.
After Sparta's Jesse West scored consecutive goals in a 49-second span to make it 6-6, Chatham regained the lead on a goal in transition. Senior long stick Ben Seitz-Sitek picked up a ground ball and sprinted forward, passing to Coleman, who quickly sent the ball to Pierce for the finish and a 7-6 edge.
Chatham netted five goals in the third quarter and the surge continued when Bredahl scored off a pass from Coleman with 2:47 left in the period. Bredahl then began to dish out passes like he was a point guard on the basketball court.
First he fed Coleman cutting in front from the far side for a goal. Thirty-eight seconds later, Bredahl pump-faked a pass away from the goal before turning to zip it the other way to Coleman, who scored to make it 10-6 with six seconds showing in the third.
Coleman and Pierce teamed up to make it 11-7 in the fourth quarter on Coleman's goal. Sparta battled back to within, 11-9, before long stick Pat Cosgrove intercepted a pass and ran it into the clear for Chatham with 55 seconds to go.
Carson completed his hat trick off a feed from Pierce with 23 seconds showing.
"I was comfortable with what we did all year long and deep down inside I knew that what we've done (in playing a tough schedule) would come to fruition and it did," Calandra said. "We made the plays we needed to to win the game."
Austin Pierce has his shot blocked by Sparta goalie Dan Smith, but Matt Coleman grabs the rebound and scores for Chatham
Chris Francesco wins the ground ball before Austin Pierce passes to Mac Bredahl for the goal