Millburn Soccer Eliminated from Sectionals in Overtime Thriller
MILLBURN, NJ – Millburn High School students witnessed a thrilling sectional tournament semifinal game after being dismissed from classes early to cheer on their Miller men on the soccer field.
Despite being the second seed, the Millers faced tough competition in the early rounds of the tournament. 15 seeded Columbia gave Millburn a physical, competitive game, which ended in the first sudden death overtime period on Senior Benji Prashker’s score. Junior Ben Kessler cashed in twice during the first half of the second round against Dickinson; those two goals were enough to advance Millburn. However, Prashker, the leading scorer, went down with a hamstring injury, and would not play in the semifinal round.
In the semifinal, the Millers hosted the third seeded Scotch Plains-Fanwood Raiders. The Raiders relied on their defensive dominance to advance deep into the tournament; Raider Senior Sean Murray had not given up a goal heading into this game.
Millburn was looking for revenge after having their season ended last year, in the first round of the sectionals, at the hands of Scotch Plains-Fanwood.
The intensity in the air was thick, the atmosphere electric, as the students and cheerleaders supported their classmates. The students section was also rooting against Scotch Plains-Fanwood players, forming chants that addressed individual players, such as their leading scorer John Murphy
Millburn played a defensive game, in spite of their “play to win” mindset as one player put it. Prashker’s absence in the contest altered Millburn’s strategy. Coach Robinson was forced to start two Junior Varsity Sophomores due to injury to some of his usual starters.
Despite the conservative nature of the Millers’ play, the game was very physical. Three yellow cards were given throughout the game, and injuries were a common occurrence. Both of the teams were fighting fire with fire through both halves of the game, which resulted in a scoreless stalemate.
Millburn Senior keeper Perry Schwartz made a highlight reel save at full extension, with under seven minutes of regulation left, to preserve the game, after the ball was knocked around the box a great deal.
The game extended to a ten minute golden goal, sudden death, overtime period. The Raiders successfully took the ball from Millburn on their side of the field. On a fast break, Patrick Ellman received a spot on pass from Parker Dvorin, and was able to fire game winning shot past Schwartz.
The Raiders proceeded to sprint towards the rowdy Millburn student section to flaunt their victory. The players had to be escorted away from the students. Moments later, both teams organized themselves in single file lines to shake hands, but the referees and security did not permit the two squads to interact.
After the post-game drama, Millburn’s Coach Robinson praised his team for their effort and the outcome of the season, considering the circumstances.
“I always love my team. We came from the basement. Now they’re holding their heads up high, and now we have to try and move on” said Robinson. “This season was emotional. We had some big injuries early in the season, then it got emotional later because the players’ friend was going through a tough time, and then we had even more injuries. So, I’m very proud of my team.”
Photography by Julia Newman.