CHATHAM, NJ - The Chatham defense stiffened up, but the offense needs to loosen up according to Cougar head football coach Dan Czepiga.
Chatham's defense was formidable from the opening kickoff of a 28-0 home-opening loss to Mount Olive on Saturday. There's still work to do, however, on the offensive side.
"I'm really happy with the defense," Czepiga said. "Coach Pic (defensive coordinator Evan Picariello) had a really good game plan."
One problem for the offense was that the Marauders were keying on Cougar running back Peter Schelling and that made for some jittery moments with the football.
"They knew about Peter for sure," Czepiga said. "When that happens we need other guys to step up. Some of the guys are playing a little tense and they're waiting for Peter to make a play when they can make a play themselves. We'll work on that.
"I think there is some confusion up front that we'll try to iron out with the blocking. I think what's happening is we know the plays, we execute them fine in practice and when it comes to running them on the field we're getting a little tense. I'm trying to get the guys to play a little loose and not dwell on every single play."
Mount Olive held a 7-0 lead in the second quarter when Chatham (0-2) put together its best drive. Quarterback Luke McAloon's 58-yard pass to Jack Powers moved the ball to the Marauders' 22 (see the video below).
After a loss of three yards, Schelling ripped off a 16-yard gain to the 9-yard line. But on the next play, the snap was fumbled and Mount Olive recovered. Chatham asked for a video review of the fumble and got one. But the play stood as called after the first-ever video review at a Chatham home game.
It was still a 7-0 game at the start or the third quarter when Schelling received the second-half kickoff and sprinted down the sideline and into the end zone (see the video below). But the TD was nullified by a holding call.
"That was a game-changer right there," Czepiga said.
All the energy from what could have been the tying touchdown seemed to drain from the offense at that point. The Cougars didn't come close to the end zone over the final two quarters.
"We just have to settle down," Czepiga said. "They're trying to do too much and not doing their job. We're right there. We're probably a block away from hitting this and hitting that. This is my second year and Rome wasn't built in a day. The kids are competing and we've got talent to win some games here. We just have to put it all together."
The Cougars were able to force the issue with their defense and nearly got some points on the first play from scrimmage by Mount Olive (see below). Chatham defensive end Peter Hughes was inches away from recording the tackle for a safety.
That was a sign of good things to come from the Chatham defense. Senior defensive back Liam High had a big game, recovering a fumble (see below) in the first quarter and intercepting a pass in the second quarter (see below).
Senior defensive back Charles Cuneo also jumped on a loose ball to recover a fumble for Chatham in the first quarter.
COUGAR NOTES: Chatham plays host to Millburn (2-0) 1 p.m. Saturday. Last year vs. Millburn, Schelling ran for 200 yards and two touchdowns and Cuneo recovered a fumble in the end zone in a 23-7 win that gave coach Czepiga his first career win as the Cougar coach ... The Millers topped Barringer for their second win on Friday, with senior quarterback Shane Sullivan passing for 257 yards and two TDs ... Czepiga is still seeking his first home win as the Chatham coach.