by Andrew Garda

On Friday, the Montclair High School boys soccer team achieved something they hadn’t been able to do in five years.

It took until overtime, and a header by Henry Ogden during the 99th minute of the game for the Mounties to beat powerhouse Seton Hall Prep, 2-1, Sept. 7 in West Orange.

“It was super competitive,” head coach Toure Weaver said prior to Monday’s practice. “We came out and we played the game we had talked about going in. We knew what we had to do defensively, attacking-wise and the guys executed.”

Of course, it wasn’t easy.

The two teams battled hard during the first half, with several chances on both sides that the teams just couldn’t put home.

When the Mounties came out in the second half, things started to turn in SHP’s favor. The Pirates changed their play style a little, which MHS adjusted to, but the problem the Mounties ran into came in the form of hydration.

“We went into the halftime 0-0, but in the second half guys started cramping up,” Weaver said. “We had some reserve guys step on and they played really well.  We didn’t miss a beat with those guys, everybody knew what they needed to do. I was super proud of the guys for stepping on, and playing with no fear.”

That was critical, as Seton Hall Prep is considered the top team in Essex County and is a powerhouse every single season.

“We acknowledge how good they are, but we also didn’t step on the field scared,” Weaver said. “That was big for us. That confidence and knowing that we’re good also, I think really helped us throughout the game.”

Beyond the confidence and the bench depth, the team needed goaltender Ben Middlemiss to step up in the net.

“Middlemiss came up with some huge saves in overtime,” Weaver said.

The Mounties celebrate with Phillip Cubeddu (10) after his goal ties the game in the second half against Seton Hall Prep Friday.
The Mounties celebrate with Phillip Cubeddu (10) after his goal ties the game in the second half against Seton Hall Prep Friday.

Weaver also spoke about how critical it was that even down 1-0 after an Aidan Dunphy goal put SHP ahead, the Mounties didn’t quit.

“Coming back at their place, shows a lot about our character,” said Weaver. “One thing I was really impressed with our guys was that we kept playing our style of soccer. When they had a little bit of momentum, we kept the ball on the floor and kept finding people’s feet and we kept playing.”

Back in August, Weaver spoke about how the squad had been through some tough games during the 2017 season, including a penalty-kick fueled loss to Kearny in the North 1, Group 4 championship game. They’d learned what it was like to be in the big moments, and now that experience was expected to help them walk away with wins.

Seton Hall Prep was the first test of that — one Weaver felt they passed.

“It wasn’t like we felt the moment got so big, and we kind of tensed up. I feel like everybody relaxed — not relaxed in the moment, we still had urgency, but we also had the calmness and presence of mind to keep playing.”

Phillip Cubeddu kept playing, scoring the tying goal in the 68th minute with shot from more than 25 yards out. Re-energized the Mounties continued to frustrate the Pirates, sending the game into overtime with good defense and goaltending.

Cubeddu set up Ogden for the game-winner as well, off a corner.

Middlemiss kept playing as well, making big save after big save during both overtimes, aggressively coming off his line to disrupt a Pirates player looking to score.

For Weaver, the poise and determination was good to see, but he knows it’s a long season.

“We still have a ton to prove. I tell the guys whether the season starts and we’re not in the top 25 or if we’re ranked super-high, none of that matters. The ranking that matters is on Nov 15 [when seedings come out]. This feels good, we can learn a lot from it, and it’s a good win but I’m not thinking down the line, just East Side on Wednesday.”

The Mounties took on Newark East Side Wednesday after press time, and will visit West Essex on Saturday.