by Andrew Garda

LIVINGSTON — It took until the second overtime in the Essex County Tournament semifinal round game against West Orange on Thursday, Oct. 25, but the Montclair High School boys soccer team punched its ticket to the ECT finals with a 1-0 win over the Mountaineers.
They now face Seton Hall Prep in a weather-delayed ECT final this Saturday, Nov. 3, 3 p.m., at Millburn High School.

“I’m not even really sure what happened,” head coach Toure Weaver said after the game.
In Weaver’s defense, the goal was scored in the chaos resulting from a Montclair corner-kick. The kick came in long, and senior Will Moore re-directed it back towards the goal.

“I knew we did well in the air,” Moore said. “I saw it come out to me and I peeled off towards the back post to try and get some seconds. It came right on my foot and I tried to keep my head down, keep the kick low. It bounced on the ground and towards the back post.”

The ball glanced off a goal-post, ricocheting to land at junior Evan O’Brien’s foot.

“I saw the ball going back-post to Will,” junior Evan O’Brien said. “I knew he was either going to score or somehow bounce it to me. He shot it, it hit the post and it came straight to me.”

O’Brien reacted instantly and slipped the rebound past Mountaineers goalie AJ Petrucci.
“I just toed it right in,” O’Brien said. “Probably the easiest goal I’ve ever scored.”

After nearly 100 minutes of tense, back-and-forth play, the Mounties had managed to stay undefeated, and more importantly, stay alive.
Weaver has talked about stepping up in big moments all season long, and learning from the team’s tight loss to Kearny in the NJSIAA final last season. O’Brien said that was part of the reason they started the overtime by pressing West Orange hard.

“We came out aggressive. I thought we stayed really composed, because we have a lot of guys who were there [at Kearny] last year. We knew what we had to do and I think we dominated them in the overtime,” he said.

The team was exhausted.

“I was just trying to stay in the game as long as I could,” Moore said afterwards. “I could feel my legs cramping and I knew I didn’t have that much left.”

“You pull on those other experiences to get through games like this,” Weaver said.

Weaver said West Orange did a good job of disrupting the Mounties early, and it took awhile for the team to find its way.

“This game is kind of like a puzzle, and teams will do things to frustrate you, that’s their job, you know?” Weaver said. “And I think [West Orange] did do a good job of where and how they pressured and we finally solved that problem.”  
Normally, Weaver and the Mounties would be moving on to figuring out how to solve a new problem in the form of an old foe — Seton Hall Prep.


This was not a normal circumstance though, as there are a pair of NJSIAA Tournament matches to deal with.

Those tasks are what is on Weaver’s mind right now, not Seton Hall Prep.

“You’re not going to like this answer,” Weaver said, laughing, after winning the first of those games, a 2-0 win over 16th-seeded Morristown on Monday afternoon.

“But I’m just worried about who we’re playing Thursday.”

The delay actually works a little in Montclair’s favor, as it allowed them a little extra time to get some players healthy who have been hurt earlier on. The Mounties have a deep bench, but the constant flow of injuries has forced them to shuffle players around, resulting in a lineup which, while good, isn’t exactly what they’d like to play.

“I don’t know if it can, knock on wood, go much more physically wrong. I think we’ll actually be getting a lot of guys back. Like Henry Ogden, Gardner Temkin might be through concussion protocol, so we actually might be getting some guys back, which would be great,” he said.

The three-games-in-six-days schedule the Mounties face this week isn’t something Weaver is worried about, because he and the team are approaching it the same way they have everything this season.

“Just like all season long, we just take it one game at a time. You can’t think too much, you’ve just got to be ready for gameday and play.”