Montville does not miss its chance to upset Old Tappan

Brett Freeman's determined run in the second overtime led to the game-winner for No. 5 Montville, which upset No. 4 Old Tappan, 2-1, in the North 1, Group 3 state sectional quarterfinals on Thursday.

OLD TAPPAN – Montville's Brett Freeman did the hard work. He split two defenders to gain possession, beat another to reach the endline and sent the ball on a short roll toward the foot of Giovanni LoGrasso, who had only one thought..."Just don't miss," said LoGrasso after having a couple of minutes to reflect.  “That was all I was thinking; just don’t miss.”

LoGrasso did not miss and his tap-in from the doorstep with 5:43 left in the second overtime session gave fifth-seeded Montville a 2-1 upset of No. 4 Old Tappan, the defending sectional champion, in the North 1, Group 3 state sectional quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon. The Mustangs are heading to the semifinals where they will take on top-seed Paramus, a 4-3 winner over Dwight Morrow.

To get there it was a gradual build-up for Montville, which weathered the first half storm and then started removing pieces from Old Tappan’s set up as the game wore on.

The Mustangs were under duress in the first half as they gave up four corner kicks without earning a single one for themselves. Old Tappan senior striker Quinn Scherer was a constant threat in the air as he attacked the restarts. Scherer got his head on an Aiden LaMorte free kick in the 14th minute and on Anthony Contreras’ corner four minutes later but the first was flicked wide left and the second flew the bar.

All the while, Old Tappan’s Danny Yun was buzzing around the pitch and pressuring the Montville defense, which left an extra guy back from its usual 3-5-2 formation in deference to the Golden Knights’ preference for employing three forwards. Max Metz, Montville’s junior keeper, made his best save of the game in the 35th minute when he held his ground against a quality Old Tappan combination. Joe Moon threaded the needle between two defenders with a pass and sophomore Jon Mangano split the gap in stride. Mangano put a shot on target, but Metz made it look easier than the situation called for with a steady save at chest level.

Montville absorbed the pressure and got into halftime in a still scoreless draw.

Danny Yun's goal six minutes into the second half gave Old Tappan a 1-0 lead.

“I told them that we got lucky and it was a gift to get into halftime at 0-0,” said Montville head coach Kevin Brown, a 2008 graduate of and a standout player for Wayne Valley in his high school days. “I think that my guys took that and ran with it. They realized that they did not play well in the first half, they were given a gift and they turned it on in the second half.”

Montville did pick up its pace after the intermission, but fell behind anyway. A turnover in the back provided Yun the path to barge in from the right side and he finished from in close to give Old Tappan the 1-0 lead 6:05 in to the second half. That, however, was the high-water mark for the Knights, who started to cede ground and opportunities. Anthony Carullo just missed getting on the end of diagonal serve played in by Colin Mahan in the 52nd minute and Old Tappan keeper Matt Burstein was called into action at his right post to keep out a Spencer Carus rip on the back side of a long free kick that found its way over the scrum in front of the net in the 57th minute.

Two minutes after that, Montville was rewarded for its increased pressure when a dust up at the edge of the area led to a penalty kick that Hendrick Mayer rolled into the lower left to tie the game. Mayer, a physical senior who made his mark by challenging for every ball in the midfield, was a key to wearing down the Knights.

Regulation ended with the game still tied at 1 and Yun, Old Tappan’s most dangerous weapon, did not take the field for either of the extra sessions due to cramping and Montville nearly ended the festivities just one minute into the first OT. LoGrasso, in full sprint, played a perfect cross all the way across the pitch to Andros Lazo, who got his header on target with pace only to see Burstein make a brilliant dive back across to push the ball out to the side.

Hendrick Mayer's penalty kick drew Montville even at 1.

The game did not end in the first overtime, but it did change for good with a curious call in the 89th minute. Moon was in a battle for the ball near the top of the box on the right, got close to a defender and went down. The referee allowed play to continue for advantage for a couple of seconds before blowing his whistle and showing Moon a yellow card, his second of the game. Two yellows equal a red and the Knights went down to 10 men on a diving call in the dying moments of an overtime period in a playoff game.

No Yun, no Moon, no full complement of 11 players and the Knights finally succumbed to an outstanding individual effort by Freeman, who carved up the defense on his way to the end-line and the game winning assist four minutes into the second overtime.

“I got the ball about the corner of the 18. I saw one guy coming; I tried to beat him to the line. I saw another guy come and it was too late to go anywhere else, so I took him, too. I saw [LoGrasso] in the middle and I knew I had to make up for a missed shot in the first overtime when I hit the [football] goalpost,” said Freeman. “I had to get [LoGrasso] the ball in a spot that he could do something with it and he did.”

It was a disappointing end to the Old Tappan season, which started with great promise. The Knights were the top seed in the Bergen County Tournament before losing to eventual champion Glen Rock in the quarterfinals and then met their end on their own home field.

“It wasn’t meant to be. That is both competitions that we haven’t done as well as maybe we hoped to have, but moving forward we will learn the lessons from this. It is always tough when you go out and the season is done. The boys put in so much work and so many hours and when it is over there is always that hollow feeling,” said Old Tappan head coach Mark Torrie. “Us going down to 10 men didn’t help, but the boy [Freeman] got to the byline, sent a good ball into a dangerous area and [LoGrasso] got there. So, fair play and hats off to Montville.”

The Mustangs have been building steadily under Brown and now stand at 12-6-2 on the season heading into the semifinal match, which will be played on Monday in Paramus.

“This is my fourth year here now and I told my guys that I have never been more comfortable going into a quarterfinal game. This is my third one in four years and I am very confident with this group,” said Brown. “They have fed off the confidence I have in them and it is nice to be on the opposite side [of the bracket] from Ramapo for once and we are looking forward to the next round starting now.”