Fired up Chatham advances; Delbarton, ML are also victors

By Mark Kitchin


CHATHAM– “Are your feet on fire? ’’ asked one of the Chatham players to another running off the field.

His teammate nodded in agreement but their feet probably were not as hot as some of the Cougars’ sticks. When its attack is on, Chatham has a way of searing the nets.

Chatham scored nine consecutive goals and dominated possession throughout in a 9-2 win over Northern Highlands in Group II sectional semifinal action on Saturday.

Nick Guida, Kyle Howard-Johnson, Matt Proto and sophomore Sam Carson each scored two goals apiece to help the Cougars advance to next week’s Group II final. They will playtop-ranked Summit, a 15-2 victor over Somerville on Saturday.

Sean Whiteman and Cory Heideran added goals and face off freshman David Gill won his share of draws on the searing heat of the Cougar Field.

D. J. Bonafacci scored twice in the second half for the Highlanders.


Chatham’s Nick Guida escapes a Northern Highlands’ defenseman in the first half of Saturday’s game.

Winning possessions and piling up goals are sure signs of success. Chatham got off to a great start with two goals in the first five minutes and another score by Proto with 24.7 seconds left in the period. With a three-goal edge to start the game, the Cougars never looked back.

“If we kept moving, our openings came,’’Chatham midfielder Proto said. “Everyone kept throwing great passes today so that helped a lot.’’

The Cougars looked very comfortable moving the ball around and taking their time with lengthy possessions which usually tired the Highlanders defense and created a quality shot on goal. 

“There isn’t a team that we can’t play with or we don’t know how good they are going to be because we play a tough schedule,’’ Guida, a Chatham attackman said. “We we’re getting those tough games during the season that make us better and better, where a team that doesn’t have a tough schedule — they don’t know what to expect.’’

Proto agreed with that assessment.

“Playing against team like Delbarton and Mountain Lakes, we know what the highest level is in the states,’’ Proto said. “We kept our composure, didn’t do anything crazy and just played our game.’’

Chatham’s Sam Carson (34) and Kyle Howard-Johnson (23) celebrate a goal in Saturday’s Group II semifinal.

It helped that they limited their mistakes and won their share of draws with the help of freshman David Gill.

“He’s been stepping up phenomenally,’’ Proto said. “I’m so impressed with him. His confidence has been increasing each game.’’

Guida, who will be attending Fairfield in the fall, got the Cougars rolling with an unassisted score in the opening minute. Howard-Johnson made it 2-0 by converting a Proto feed at 7:35. Howard-Johnson returned the favor by feeding Proto for a goal with 27 seconds left in the quarter to make it 3-0.

The second period was the Sam Carson show. He connected for both goals to give Chatham a 5-0 halftime advantage.

“Moving from midfield to attack is a big thing especially for a sophomore,’’ Proto said. “He’s just an athlete. He knows what he has to do and he has a great shot. He’s shifty and he can get the shot off whenever he wants.’’

On offense Northern Highlands pressed at times and played right into the hands of the Chatham defenders. Tom Stephan, John Radigan, Greg DeLade and the remaining Cougars defense were rested and ready since the attack carried the ball much of the time. Goalie Corey Fritts stepped up when he had to which wasn’t often. He finished the game with four saves.

Chatham’s Matt Proto makes a move on Northern Highlands’ Chris Esposito in the first half of Saturday’s game.

Chatham continued to score in the second half and built a 9-0 fourth quarter advantage before letting a few goals in late. More importantly the Cougars played with poise and continued to possess the ball. 

“The more possessions we get, the more were going to have the ball and the more we are going to score,’’ Guida said. “If we can keep the ball out of their hands, that’s just perfect for us.’’

Chatham is naturally happy to be playing Summit in the final after the drubbing they received at the hands of the neighboring Hilltoppers earlier in the season. With a title on the line, the Cougars have a little something to prove.

“We saw their best game, so we know what to expect from them,’’ Guida said. “They didn’t see ours so we want to bring it to them.’’

Other early state games :

Non Public A

Delbarton 8, St. Joseph’s (Metuchen) 7 – The Green Wave trailed 7-3 after three quarters and rallied with a 5-goal fourth-quarter effort to earn the victory. Peter McMullen fired a hat trick, Clay Haarmann had a goal and two assists and Pat Foley had a goal and an assist for the Green Wave. Delbarton plays the winner of Don Bosco Prep and St.Augustine Prep in sectional final next week.

Group I

Mountain Lakes 8,West Essex2 – Trailing 1-0 after the first quarter, the Lakers rallied with five consecutive goals to take a commanding 5-1 halftime advantage. Attackmen Jon Broome and Andrew Portnoy scored two goals each. Rob Orazetti had a goal and two assists and Bill Burgoyne had a pair of assists for the Lakers. Mike Drumm and Anthony Perrotta had goals for the Knights. Mountain Lakes plays the winner of Glen Ridge-Mahwah next.

Group III

Morristownplays at Ridge at 7 p.m. We’ll be back late with a full report.


About mcvbb

Mark Kitchin is a boys varsity basketball writer for the Morris County New Jersey area

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