CHATHAM, NJ - The Chatham football team is showing signs that it is steadily improving. Unfortunately for the Cougars, their opponents are getting better as well.
Chatham was within six points of undefeated Millburn with eight minutes left in the fourth quarter before the Millers pulled away for a 49-28 win on Saturday at Cougar Field.
On most days, Chatham senior Peter Schelling's three-touchdown performance would have made him the player of the game, yet Millburn quarterback Shane Sullivan claimed the star for his own by throwing for 404 yards and five TDs.
"No one is coming out here to lose football games, coaches and players included," Chatham coach Dan Czepiga said. "We just have to trust the process here and keep working toward executing perfectly and we're not there yet. If we can just execute perfectly on both sides of the ball, the outcome will happen. We just have keep grinding and working.
"One day it's the offense that needs to be picked up and then today we needed to do a little more on defense. We'll come together."
Chatham trailed, 28-14, at the halftime break. But the Cougars came out strong in the third quarter. On the Cougar kickoff, Jack Crowley made the tackle to pin Millburn at its own 18. Two plays later, sophomore defensive end Gabriel Zeareban recovered a fumble to give Chatham possession at the Millers 14.
After a fumble pushed Chatham back to the 21, Chatham QB Luke McAloon hit Quinn Kelly with a 9-yard pass. McAloon followed with a 9-yard keeper before Kelly scored with a 2-yard rush on an end-around (see below). It was senior Kelly's first career TD. Kelly also kicked the extra point that sliced the deficit to 28-21 with 9:59 left in the third.
On the ensuing kickoff, Crowley got downfield again for the tackle, placing Millburn (3-0) at its own 14. Chatham's defense forced a punt and the Cougars drove to the Millburn 24 with the help of a 26-yard pass play from McAloon to Ryan Coughlin.
The Millers took over on downs and scored on Sullivan's 57-yard TD pass, but Ryan McArthur blocked the extra point to make it 34-21 with 3:25 to go in the third.
Chatham put together a 50-yard drive in the fourth quarter, keyed by McAloon's 13-yard pass to Jack Powers, and finished by Schelling's third TD of the game, a 14-yard burst (see below). Kelly's PAT cut the Millburn lead to 34-28 with 8:16 showing.
Sullivan threw another touchdown pass with 5:59 to go and then scored with 30 seconds left to make the score look more lopsided than it was.
In the first quarter, McArthur's interception in the end zone signaled the one down moment for Sullivan (see below) in the game.
After Millburn scored first in the final minute of the first quarter, it took Schelling just 12 seconds to tie the game back up. The kick originally skipped 10 yards behind Schelling before he picked it up, turned and raced 95 yards untouched for the TD (see below).
COUGAR NOTES: Chatham senior linebacker Ryan McArthur intercepted a pass, blocked a field goal and blocked an extra point ... In addition to his kickoff return, Schelling rushed 19 times for 95 yards ... Schelling has two kickoff returns for TDs this season, the first an 80-yard return vs. Morris Hills in the season opener ... Chatham QB Luke McAloon passes for 158 yards and was picked off once ... Ryan Coughlin had 2 catches for 60 yards ... Jack Crowley made two tackles on kickoffs for Chatham ... Chatham (0-3) plays a 1 p.m. game at Morristown on Saturday. The Cougars are 1-4 in its last five meetings with the Colonials, winning the 2015 contest, 42-31. Morristown came to Chatham last year and won, 24-15 ... Morristown (1-1) defeated Mendham, 34-29, on Friday.