MENDHAM, NJ - If next season's crop of seniors carries on what the 2019 Cougar football seniors started this season, Chatham football will be just fine.
Chatham closed out its second season under coach Dan Czepiga by winning two of its last three games and playing out the season to the very last second in its 23-16 loss to Mendham on Wednesday night in an NJSIAA Regional Crossover game.
"Last year we were out of the game by the fourth quarter," Czepiga said. "The defense came up big in this game. We just couldn't get that last score there. I'm proud of this group of seniors. They set a standard of what we need to do to not give up in games. Hopefully, we can keep that going.Chatham (3-7) had one final desperation chance to tie the game with 6.8 seconds left and the Cougars gave it al they had (see below).
Mendham (3-6) jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first period and made it 17-0 early in the second period, but the Chatham seniors refused to give up. Seniors Peter Schelling and Jorge Fuentes each came out of the game in the first half with injuries, but managed to get back into the action in the second half.
Senior defensive end Jeremy Pollard had to leave the field and could easily have sat for the rest of the game. He returned to play again. And that's not to mention the seniors who fought through the pain to finish the game.
"This group of seniors had a lot of good leaders," Czepiga said. "They came out and kept working; it was never over. I couldn't be more proud of them."
Early in the second half, the Minutemen took advantage of a turnover to score and grab a 23-6 lead, but the Cougars began to climb back when senior Ryan McArthur blocked the extra point.
Senior quarterback Ryan Coughlin engineered a scoring drive for Chatham in the third quarter with a pass that sophomore tight end Owen Walewander turned into a big 21-yard gain (see below) to the Mendham 22. Two plays later, Coughlin hit Sean McArthur for 17 yards to the one (see below).
Coughlin completed the drive with a cross-field throw to Walewander for a 3-yard touchdown pass (see below). Quinn Kelly's PAT cut the Chatham deficit to 23-13 with 4:56 showing in the third quarter.
Schelling's interception and Coughlin's 12-yard keeper (see below) highlighted a 49-yard advance by the Cougars that ended with Kelly's 29-yard field goal (see below), making it a one-touchdown game with 41 seconds left in the third quarter.
Chatham had two more chances with the ball in Mendham territory, but turned over the ball on downs both times.
Walewander, who also starts on defense at linebacker, had a big night catching the football. He turned in a short pass from Luke McAloon into a 64-yard gain to the Mendham one-yard-line in the second period. That set up McAloon's QB sneak for Chatham's first touchdown.