MILLBURN, NJ - It certainly was not the way anyone on the home side of the field wanted the contest to end. But Belleville capped off a long drive in the final minute, punctuated by a two-point conversion to stun Millburn 15-14.
Griffin Titan had both Millburn scores in the loss. Titan snagged a pass from Millers Quarterback Shane Sullivan and took it to the end zone at 6:55 of the first quarter. He also added a true rushing touchdown with 4:57 left in the final frame to put Millburn in front 14-7.
Despite those scores, defense ruled the day. Neither team's offense could sustain multiple scoring drives. Additionally, both teams combined for a bevy of turnovers and interceptions, which kept the game close until Belleville punched it in for the winning score.
With the loss, the Millers drop to 6-3, and will likely host a consolation game next week, although the scheduling and opponent is still up in the air until Monday.
Speaking after the game, Millburn Head Coach Chris Drechsel spoke about the second to last offensive sequence, where the Millers passed on third down, rather than burn the clock down further with another running play. After the pass, Belleville would receive the punt and drive down the field for the winning score.
"We're always playing to win the game," Drechsel said. "I'd rather the game end with the ball in our hands. It's my decision and if giving [Belleville] the one timeout and the ball is the reason they won the game...that's not how I coach. I don't coach to give them the chance to lose the game. I coach to win the game."
Drechsel also switching from a pressure scheme to a contain scheme on the final defensive stand was not the right call in hindsight.
The final game of the year was also a chance for Millburn to honor all of its graduating seniors. For Coach Drechsel , the game was an opportunity to both reflect on what he and the class of 2020 had built, while also looking at ways they could still improve.
"It's obviously our fourth year," Drechsel said. "And that's a special group, that senior group. I mean, in Millburn, when you have 18 seniors that you're graduating, it says something about them. And our goal was to make the playoffs, just straight out.
"When you don't achieve that goal, there's obviously positives that go on, but in the end, when you don't reach the ultimate goal, it hurts. And it feels as if everything that you worked for to get to this point-like 6-3 is nice, but that's not what we wanted to get to."