CHATHAM, NJ - For the second straight Saturday on their home field the Cougars had to face the fact that the visiting football team owned the fourth quarter.
Madison's senior running back Matt Mulcahy scored his third touchdown of the game and then set up the final TD with a 77-yard run to erase the Chatham lead as the Dodgers scored 14 points in the fourth quarter of their 26-21 win at Cougar Field.
"We're playing quarters right now," Chatham's first-year coach Dan Czepiga said. "I feel like we won two quarters, but we lost two quarters. Unfortunately, those two quarters that we lost they scored more points than we did."
One of the quarters Chatham (1-3) won was the third when Peter Schelling ran off tackle, cut to the outside and sprinted into the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown play. The PAT by Kristian Roos staked the Cougars to a 14-12 edge with 6:01 left in the third quarter.
The Cougar defense then held Madison (2-2) on the ensuing possession with the help of senior Josh Smith's sack of Dodger quarterback Jack O'Hearen (see the video below).
Chatham took over on downs and culminated a 72-yard march when senior quarterback Ryan Lonergan tucked in the football on a third-down play and raced 45 yards for the touchdown (see the video below). Roos' PAT made it 21-12 for the Cougars with 1:36 showing in the third quarter.
But a number of the big plays in the game belonged to Mulcahy, who finished with 277 all-purpose yards. In the first half, Mulcahy had come out of the backfield to catch passes thrown by O'Hearen, turning them into TD bursts of 68 and 52 yards and fueling the Dodgers' 12-7 lead heading into the break.
Chatham's touchdown in the first half was a short swing pass from Lonergan that senior receiver Shane Carlin turned into a 62-yard touchdown (see the video below).
In the fourth quarter, the 5-8, 170-pounder scored on an eight-yard run to cut the Chatham lead to 21-19 with 9:41 left and then broke a 77-yard run that preceded a 2-yard TD rush by Austin Schmitz for the winning points with 7:11 left.
"He's a really good player," Czepiga said. "He came in and made plays. We knew we would have to stop him and he definitely lived up to his billing."
Chatham had two more possessions in the game, the second ended when Schelling fumbled on a second effort to gain more yardage with 2:45 left. It was the only turnover of the game.
"High school football is turnovers and big plays," Czepiga said. "We had some, but I think they had more and they had more turnovers."
"I just think it's constantly executing plays (that makes a difference). It's something I have to look at in practice and do a better job of making sure that the players are focused. So that's on me. Execution comes down to the coaches. If they're not executing in a quarter, the coaches have to make sure they're doing it."
COUGAR NOTES: Before the game, it was announced that there was the possibility of video replays on turnovers and scoring plays, according to the new NJSIAA experimental rules for 2018. Both Madison and Chatham had agreed to try it out, but Chatham's camera was not in service, so the experiment had to be scrapped ... Cougar running back Peter Schelling finished with 102 yards rushing on 15 carries ... Josh Smith, Sean Goodman and Ben Baker each had a sack for the Cougars ... Chatham senior LB Luke Agnew led with 9 tackles and 2 assists while Josh Smith had 5 tackles, 5 assists ... Chatham plays at Dover Friday night.
Quinn Kelly and Jake Wingate make a tackle behind the line of scrimmage for Chatham