CHATHAM, NJ - Chatham knew that its boys lacrosse matchup with Westfield represented a big game on its schedule.
Perhaps, the Cougars were intimidated by the challenge because they played like they weren't ready for prime time in the first half on Tuesday at Cougar Field.
"At halftime, we told them, we've played in big games for years," Chatham coach Tony Calandra said. "This was just another regular-season game. We allowed ourselves to mentally get out of it in the first half and in the second half we just allowed ourselves to settle down and play. We told them to get back to doing what we do in practice every day. It's not a life-or-death situation."
A different Chatham team came out for the second half, turning a two-goal deficit into a convincing 10-5 win, led by a goal and two assists from Ryan Decker and two goals from Ryan Chase.
Chatham (7-1), winner of five straight, was still off its game early in the third quarter when the Cougars made an unforced turnover, leading to a goal by Westfield (3-3) that gave the Blue Devils a 4-1 lead.
But once Chatham got its act together, the goals came in bunches. Mac Bredahl got it started for the Cougars when he stripped the ball loose from a Westfield defender and scored (see video below) to make it 4-2 with 8:55 left in the third.
Mac Bredahl sparks the Cougar turnaround with this goal in the third quarter
After Bredahl's goal, Will Hosbein won the faceoff for Chatham and Max Schelling made a power move to the net for a goal just 14 seconds later. Decker followed with a sharp pass to Connor Byrd, who scored from in close to make it 4-4 with 5:56 showing in the third.
Decker then broke the tie with a downhill run and an overhand blast that made it 5-4 with 4:24 to go.
Chase then converted a feed from Decker to make it 6-4 with 3:19 showing in the third.
Ryan Chase and Ryan Decker talk about the big second half by Chatham vs. Westfield
"We came out a little timid," Decker said. "Last year, we got comfortable with the lead and we let them come back (Westfield won on a late goal)."
Decker, who used to live in Westfield, moved to Chatham when he was in sixth grade and he still plays lacrosse with his old friends.
"They're all very close friends," Decker said. "I still play club lacrosse with most of them. It's always nice to play against my old buddies and to get a W is huge."\
Hosbein won 12 faceoffs in the game, including 10 in the second half when Chatham dominated the scoring and the possession.
"He's the man," Calandra said. "Anytime you can score and get it back is big plus."
Francesco's second goal of the game (see video below) pushed the Chatham lead to 7-4 with 9:28 left in the fourth quarter.
Westfield cut its deficit to 7-5 before Thomas Berger scored for an 8-5 advantage. Byrd fired a cross-field pass to Berger, who ripped his shot into the net. Chase followed with a move from behind the net for an unassisted score.
Decker set up Frank Anello for the final goal of the game with 1:29 showing.
Chatham plays host to West Morris on Thursday before Summit visits on Saturday.