MENDHAM, NJ - One of the first orders of business after Chatham's football loss to Mendham on Thursday night was for head coach Dan Czepiga to lead the team in a round of applause for Luke McAloon's first varsity start.
With senior Ryan Lonergan and junior Ryan Coughlin out with injuries, it was up to sophomore McAloon to call the signals at quarterback.
Suffice it to say that McAloon did not look like any fresh-faced rookie out there in Chatham's 37-27 consolation playoff setback.
In the first half alone, McAloon rushed for a touchdown and threw for two scores, finishing the game with 233 yards passing. He completed 15 of 26 passes and was picked off twice.
McAloon passed to Kristian Roos on the final play of the first half, producing a 50-yard touchdown play with the help of a Colin Schroeder block. McAloon and Roos talk about the play and McAloon's first start in the video below.
After Mendham took a 6-0 lead in the first quarter, Roos returned the ensuing kickoff 30 yards to the Minutemen 40. From there, McAloon went to work, throwing downfield to Shane Carlin for a 32-yard gain (see the video below).
Carlin's catch put the ball at eight, and, after a Peter Schelling rush, McAloon kept around right end for a six-yard touchdown run. Roos kicked the PAT for a 7-6 Chatham edge.
Mendham regained the lead at 13-7 in the final seconds of the first quarter. Mendham was on the march again in the second quarter before a sack by Ryan McArthur and Colin Petrullo's pass breakup in the end zone turned the ball over to Chatham.
On the first play from the Cougar 11, McAloon threw to Colin Schroeder for a 42-yard gain. Five plays later, McAloon threw to Carlin for an 11-yard gain. On the very next play, McAloon hit Carlin with a perfectly timed pass in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown play (see video below). Roos' PAT gave Chatham a 14-13 edge.
Mendham held a 16-14 edge with five seconds left in the first half when McAloon dropped back to pass and threw to Roos, who escaped a tackle and raced into the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown play. Roos caught his breath to kick the PAT, making it 21-16 for the Cougars at the break.
The second half didn't go quite as well for Chatham, as the Minutemen rallied to regain the lead.
"We've played in some close, exciting games and we just have to keep working and eventually we'll come out on the winning side of one of these," Czepiga said.
Chatham did put together a 73-yard drove in the second half that was culminated by Schelling's 16-yard TD burst (see the video below) on the first play of the fourth quarter, slicing the deficit to 30-27.
COUGAR NOTES: Chatham junior Charles Cuneo blocked Mendham's extra-point kick in the opening period ... Chatham (2-7) will play its final game of the season when it plays host to A.L. Johnson of Clark on Thursday at Cougar Field at a time to be determined ... because of Roos' last-second touchdown, Chatham led, 21-16, at the halftime break, marking the eighth time in nine games in which the Cougars held a lead in the second half.