Cougars Crowned Sectional Champs
Men's soccer team dominant as the Cougars advance to Group III semifinals.
The Chatham men's soccer team won its first sectional championship in more than 10 years Thursday, beating Scotch Plains 3-0 in the North Jersey Section 2, Group III final.
The Cougars advance to face Montville Tuesday in the Group III semifinals at Ridge High School at 5 p.m. The game will be a rematch of the Morris County Tournament championship, won by Chatham last month.
For the second game in a row, Trip Burke opened the scoring Thursday for the Cougars and Conor Goepel added two of his own.
Burke's goal came in the 38th minute, after a masterful give-and-go with teammate Conner McMahon. The two play club soccer together in the offseason, and their chemistry has been paying off all season long.
The goal proved to be the turning point in the game for Chatham, as it began to really turn it on to start the second half. Scoring chances were coming often for the Cougars, and by the 58th minute, Goepel was able to weave his way through the defense and put the ball past the goalkeeper. He was able to score again in the 77th minute after the Scotch Plains keeper had come up to take a free kick. Goepel lobbed the ball in to the net from about 45 yards out and sealed a sectional state title for the Cougars.
Game after game, the Cougar defense proves that it is one of the best in the state. Anchored by sweeper Jack Eisenreich, Chatham has found a way to shut out nearly every single opponent they have faced this season.
Goalie Brian Ballard gives a lot of credit to his defense when asked about his success this season. He saves about every shot he faces, and the defense makes the job easier for him. But as a team, it means a lot to them to have brought home their school's first sectional title since 1999.
"Winning the game in such a dominating fashion was a really special thing," Ballard said. "For me, it's the first title I've ever won throughout my career in any sport, and doing it with this group of boys is awesome."