MONTVILLE, N.J. -- Like it often does in the sudden death overtime of a championship game, the Montville boys soccer team knew that the game-winning goal was likely not going to be pretty.
After Montville and Ramapo had gone through a scoreless defensive battle through 80 minutes of regulation in Friday's North 1, Group 3 sectional final, Brett Freeman was prepared for that moment.
After Mats Kolmodin's corner kick found its way into the box, the rebound kicked right out to Freeman. Freeman ended up knocking it into the top left corner of the goal, sending the Montville faithful into a frenzy as the top seed Mustangs won the program's first sectional title since 2010 with a 1-0 win over sixth seed Ramapo at Montville Township High School.
“I just knew the whole overtime that it was going to come down to some ugly play in the box," Freeman said. "That’s what I was gearing up towards. I just saw that ball sitting there, and I knew I could get there and that it had to be mine. I just ripped it, and I don’t really remember much after that.”
The championship-clinching goal came with 1:22 remaining in the first overtime period. It advanced Montville to next Wednesday's Group 3 semifinals, where it will take on Millburn- the winner of the North 2, Group 3 title- on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Indian Hills High School.
“We were talking all game about how they were giving up rebounds at the top of the box," Montville coach Kevin Brown said. "We were getting pushed up on a little bit, and we were finally able to get it into their end. They let a rebound come out, and Freeman was right there. He’s coachable, he’s listened for however long that I’ve coached him, and he knew where he had to be. He’s hit shots from outside all year long, so we knew someone would step up and it was fitting that it was him.”
The game was a very even affair for both sides, as each squad had their share of chances throughout the game, but Ramapo's Michael Ferro and Montville's Max Metz were equal to the task, with the defenses in front of the keeper limiting the amount of chances for both sides.
Ferro stopped eight shots, while Metz finished with four saves.
“We knew (Ramapo) would be stingy after watching their game against Pascack Valley," Brown said. "They had to defend for 45 minutes after they scored late in the first. We knew they were going to be good, we had some chances, but I knew we couldn’t get defeated. I always tell my guys that chances are good things, don’t put your head down because they’re not going in. We knew they were going to be good going up the middle, number 23 and 14 are dangerous, the guys up top don’t stop running. We knew what we had to watch for. They were all over us in the second half, but we worked our butts off and we did what we had to do.”
It has been a dream season for Montville, which now holds an impressive 20-2-1 mark. While it ultimately fell short of the Morris County title with a loss to Delbarton in the final, it now has some hardware in the trophy case with this sectional championship.
"It’s tough having a really good season and having to top it all off with something good," Brown said. "Like I’ve said before, if we go undefeated and lose in the first round of counties or states, the season doesn’t mean anything. To have hardware to prove how hard we’ve worked and that we deserve it, has been great.”
Now, the team will get to celebrate its sectional title for a bit, but the season is not over. It now will go for the program's first-ever Group 3 state championship, beginning with Wednesday's tilt with Millburn.
“It’s amazing, obviously. We’ve never played in games that big before," Freeman said. "It’s going to be cool for us just to get there and take in the surroundings. But I think we’re going to be pumped, and I think we’re hitting our stride at the right time. I think the two games before this were our two best games of the season, so I think we’re feeling really good right now.”
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