CHATHAM, NJ - If there was any doubt about the enthusiasm the 2018 Chatham football team is generating in town, it was put to rest in the home opener on Saturday.
The parking lot at Cougar Field had to be closed down because it had reached capacity and there was plenty of excitement generated on the field from the very first play of Chatham's 24-15 loss to Morristown.
"Fans, in general, want to support teams that are competitive and teams that do well," Chatham's first-year coach Dan Czepiga said. "We're certainly competitive."
Cougar followers got their money's worth from an entertainment value by watching the exploits of senior Kristian Roos, who provided the fans with a roller-coast ride of emotions with his kicking, running and passing.
Roos finished the game with 124 yards in kickoff returns, setting up both Chatham touchdowns with his sprints. He also ran for a two-point conversion and passed for a first down on a fake-punt play. And he provided the thrill of a near-miss with his field goal attempt that clanged off the upright in the first quarter.
Anyone who missed the first few minutes of the game missed a lot. Roos sent the opening kick to Morristown's Jason Jones, who faked a reverse handoff and bolted around left end for a touchdown just 17 seconds into the action.
"We just have to make sure we're executing at a high level," Czepiga said. "We took a play off at the beginning of the game and they really caught us with the fake reverse. A lot of our guys got carried off with the fake and no one was covering the backside."
But Roos put a roar into the home crowd when he received the ensuing kick and raced 71 yards (see video below) to the Colonials' 14-yard-line.
Chatham's offense stalled at that point and Roos attempted a 29-yard field goal that banged off the right crossbar (see video below).
But a roughing the kicker penalty kept the Cougar drive alive and, three plays later, Peter Schelling carried in from the one for a Chatham touchdown (see below). Roos added the point-after kick for a 7-7 tie with just 2:19 into the game.
Morristown (1-2) took a 10-7 lead into the halftime intermission and Chatham (1-2) received the second-half kickoff. Roos again invigorated the crowd with his 53-yard return to the Morristown 37.
From there, senior quarterback Ryan Lonergan used his running to take his team into the end zone, at one point putting his head down to meet a Colonial tackler head on. Lonergan had keeps of 9 and 9 yards in the drive that he ended with a third 9-yard burst around right end for the TD (see below).
On the point-after, Chatham lined up away from the ball and it was hiked to Roos, who ran in for the conversion (see below) and a 15-10 Cougar lead with 9:39 showing in the third.
Roos then tried an onside kick that Morristown covered at its own 49. From there, the Colonials drove for the winning score and a 17-15 lead.
The Colonials scored an insurance touchdown with 2:11 left in the fourth quarter, but two interceptions before that had short-circuited the Chatham offense, which was limited to 119 yards in the game. Overall, Morristown picked off three passes.
"The offense had a very tough day," Czepiga said. "We have to execute. You turn the ball over you're not going to win games. At the end of the day, we threw three interceptions.
"The routes are there. Part of it is we have to make sure we're executing in terms of blocks, we also have to make sure we're hitting those routes when we're open and we're doing none of those. That's on me. I'm the offensive coordinator and I have to clean that up. Sometimes you think it's the quarterback and it's not. Sometimes you think it's the line and it's not. We'll look at the film and see what happens."
COUGAR NOTES: Chatham plays host to Madison on Saturday at 1 p.m. ... Morristown had 228 yards of offense, with 216 coming on the ground, compared to Chatham, which rushed for 71 yards and passed for 48 ... Morristown also held an 11-5 advantage in first downs ...