Web exclusive: Two quick goals propel Mendham into state final

Web exclusive: Two quick goals propel Mendham into state final

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Web exclusive: Two quick goals propel Mendham into state final

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Mendham's Christian Perercini (10) heads the ball away from Old Tappan's Kevin Loudon (6) in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham’s Christian Perercini (10) heads the ball away from Old Tappan’s Kevin Loudon (6) in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Old Tappan's Conor Kelly (10) and Mendham's Matt Hanks (6) vie for the ball in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Old Tappan’s Conor Kelly (10) and Mendham’s Matt Hanks (6) vie for the ball in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham's Troy Browse (24) beats Old Tappan goalie Jake Fiore (1) with this shot to make it 2-0 Mendham in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham’s Troy Browse (24) beats Old Tappan goalie Jake Fiore (1) with this shot to make it 2-0 Mendham in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham's Matt Hanks (6) and Old Tappan's Chris Lea (7) vie for the ball in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham’s Matt Hanks (6) and Old Tappan’s Chris Lea (7) vie for the ball in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham's Julian Montilus in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham’s Julian Montilus in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham's Julian Montilus (21) beats Old Tappan goalie Jake Fiore (1) for the first score in the game in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham’s Julian Montilus (21) beats Old Tappan goalie Jake Fiore (1) for the first score in the game in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham's Julian Montilus (21) beats Old Tappan goalie Jake Fiore (1) for the first score in the game in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham’s Julian Montilus (21) beats Old Tappan goalie Jake Fiore (1) for the first score in the game in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Old Tappan's Kevin Loudon (6) tries to pace Mendham's Julian Montilius (21)in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Old Tappan’s Kevin Loudon (6) tries to pace Mendham’s Julian Montilius (21)in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham's Matt hanks (6) watches as Old Tappan Goalie Jake Fiore (1) foils a shot in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham’s Matt hanks (6) watches as Old Tappan Goalie Jake Fiore (1) foils a shot in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham's Christian Pedercini (10) heads the ball away from Old Tappan's Luois Long (4) in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

Mendham’s Christian Pedercini (10) heads the ball away from Old Tappan’s Luois Long (4) in the NJSIAA Group III Semifinal at Ridge High School in Basking Ridge, November 17, 2015. Photo by Warren Wetura for the Daily Record.

BASKING RIDGE — It’s exactly three months since the Mendham boys soccer team began preseason practices. On that first day, head coach Russ Raffay told the Minutemen to mark their calendars for Nov. 22, the date of the Group III final, because they’d still be playing.

With 20 seniors, Raffay took an educated guess that proved prescient. Mendham defeated Old Tappan, 2-1, in an NJSIAA Group III semifinal on Tuesday night.

The Minutemen, the top seed in North 2 Group III, will face Toms River South for the Group III title on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at Kean University. It is their first trip to the championship match since 1988.

“I’ve never played soccer this much in my entire life,” said Mendham senior Julian Montilus, who scooped up his 9-year-old twin sisters, Fiona and Gabby, after the match.

“I’ve never felt something like that before, especially in the state semifinal. … It gave us a lot of momentum. Coach (Raffay) always tells us to put one in, and then keep going.”

Montilus toe-poked the ball past an Old Tappan defender, then chipped junior goalkeeper Jake Fiore just 4:53 into the semifinal. Senior midfielder Troy Browse added what proved to be the game winner, knocking in a pass from Christian Pedercini on the end line.

Old Tappan’s goal came on a 28-yard free kick with two seconds left in the first half. The Minutemen protested that the clock had run out, but to no avail. That goal was “a wake-up call” for Mendham, according to Browse.

“We came into this game knowing we had a very good chance at winning, and that was the difference (from the 2012 Group III semifinal),” Raffay said. “The kids are playing with confidence. They expect to win, and that’s a good thing.”

Staff Writer Jane Havsy: 973-428-6682; jhavsy@gannettnj.com; http://www.dailyrecord.com/writerjane/

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