UNION, NJ — After experiencing a heartbreaker last year in the state finals, the Millburn Millers would not be denied a second time.
The Millers defeated the Wall Crimson Knights in the Group 3 State Championship by a 1-0 score (3-2 PKs). Jason Mazer put home the go-ahead penalty kick, and then goalie Zach Barr made the final save as the hundreds of Millburn fans in attendance erupted in cheers.
ROAD TO THE TITLE; HOW THEY GOT HERE:
- An opening round win over Mendham started the journey.
- Millburn stuns Colonia to advance to the next round.
- The team squeaked past West Morris Central to set up a rematch with Cliffside Park.
- In a game that hinged on every kick, Millburn won the Sectional Championship over Cliffside Park.
- Another close win, this time over Montville made the long ride home sweeter, as Millburn was back in the State Championship.
In a game impacted by wind, neither team could gain much traction towards scoring in regulation. Millburn mostly controlled the pace of play, with a few break-outs by Wall, but the game remained scoreless all the way through until penalties.
The win is even sweeter for Millburn, as this time last year, the team was walking off the field after losing to Ocean Township. It was a feeling nobody on the team enjoyed, according to Barr. It was from that motivation that he said the squad moved forward.
"Last year we had this total opposite feeling," Barr said. "We always wanted to win, that's been a childhood dream for each and every single one of us. Just going into the season, we were like, 'let's get a ring, let's win a ring'...It's just such an amazing great feeling to be able to win and pull through for my team."
Barr also said that after the freshman season when Millburn was eliminated, he got a text from Alex Migoya, that he ended up using as fuel during this year's winning run.
Barr said, "He texted me saying 'Hey, we've gotta focus for the next two years. My senior season we are winning a state championship'. And I found that text before the Cliffside Park game, and I showed him that, and I said, 'This should be the motivation for you to win the state final. Let's go and get it' and we got it."
In the post-game media scrum, Mazer was quick to credit his teammates all season for the work they all did.
"We're always strongest as a team together," Mazer said. And we just knew if we trusted each other, we would come out with a win."
He also echoed Barr's comments, and said that while the team did not publicly focus on last year's final, it motivated them all season to come back and finish the fight.
"[We thought about it] every single day," Mazer added. "I think in the back of our minds, we always knew what that felt like after losing, and we never wanted to feel that again. So it was our goal to come and get revenge on what we wanted, and we came out with a win. It's crazy, there're no words to even explain it."
For Millburn Head Coach Jason Robinson, the win was sweet, and something he will enjoy for a long time. He also said that in his eyes, Millburn was humming all game and needed only minor adjustments, even with the wind whipping around the field.
"You had to be smart with the wind," Robinson said "So we really spent very little time talking. We were playing well, we had possession, we were able to play the feet. Wasn't that much to talk about except trying to actually finish one. I knew it was going to be tough to finish against the wind...They used every second of the 2019 season, and didn't shortchange themselves at all, so lots of fun."
With the win, Millburn secures the fifth state championship in program history.