Andrew Furman (17) threw in the ball that led to the disputed game-winner and then celebrated the capper, the final goal in Ramapo's 4-2 win over Glen Rock in the semifinals of the Bergen County Tournament.
FRANKLIN LAKES -- First there was celebration. Then there was consternation. Then there was celebration again with a side order of controversy. Anything can happen in a high school soccer game, but rarely is it as whacky as what happened in Saturday's Bergen County Tournament semifinal between three-time defending champion Ramapo and this year’s upstart Glen Rock.
At issue was the position of the feet of senior Andrew Furman, Ramapo’s restart specialist whose long throws from the touchlines are always dangerous. Furman had been flirting with stepping over the sideline all game and was called for an illegal throw once in the first half. The rule states that if any part of the foot maintains contact with the touchline, then the throw is legal even if the toes or more are inside the field of play.
Before we get to what happened with less than three minutes to go in the second half of a tie game, it should be mentioned that the official that started the game in the center of the park was injured with 18 minutes left in the second half just as he was awarding the penalty kick to Glen Rock that tied the game at 2. That caused a reshuffling of the officiating crew, with one of the linesman moving to the middle and a referee already in the house in preparation for the second game taking over on the sideline closest to the team benches.
It was that official that raised his flag as soon as Furman uncorked the contentious long throw, which landed inside the pile and was way-laid in by sophomore Liam Nelson, who proceeded to run off toward the center circle in celebration with his teammates while the action near the scorer’s table was just starting up.
Ben Zakowski scored Glen Rock's first goal, a cracker in the 39th minute.
Initially, the goal was waved off because of the position of Furman’s feet. Then there was discussion, then there was heated discussion and then the goal was allowed, the winning goal that with 2:46 showing on the second half clock. Furman added a breakaway tally with 1:01 to go in Ramapo’s 4-2 victory, but back to ‘The Call.”
There were alternate theories as to why the goal was waved off and then waved back on, but trying to get to the bottom of it after the game was a lesson in futility.
“The ref called a foul throw because No. 17’s foot was over the line and they called it a couple of times throughout the game, so it was nothing new,” said Glen Rock head coach Casey Schick. “And then the referees got to talking. They called it off, they called the goal off and then they talked a little bit more and decided that it was an interpretation of the play; whatever that means. I am not really sure, but I am not an official so I am not really sure what the final reasoning was.”
In talking to the Ramapo contingent, the specifics became no clearer.
“They [the referees] said that they could not call [the foot infraction] after a play had occurred,” said Ramapo head coach Evan Baumgarten.
Liam Nelson scored twice for Ramapo, which will play Old Tappan in the county final on Saturday night.
“I wish I could tell you. I have no idea what happened,” said Furman, Ramapo’s No. 17. “I was shocked. My initial reaction when I saw the ball go in, everyone went nuts. We all ran to midfield and then to see them calling it back at first, it was terrible. It could have been my fault because it was my foot on the line there.”
What was the take of Nelson, the goal-scorer?
“I am not really sure what happened on that last play,” said Nelson, a sophomore. “But as it turned out, it was just a good team goal.”
With all of that being said, and all of it said in the moment before any type of reflection could take place, video of the throw-in viewed later showed that Furman’s throw was legal. That is insignificant as there is no video replay in high school soccer, but it does confirm that the referees did get the call right even if the optics of reversing course after a discussion with Ramapo’s coaching staff were not the best.
The most disappointing aspect of the controversy is that it took away from what a cracking match it was for the first 77 minutes. Ramapo (13-2) is the three-time defending Bergen County champion, the defending Group 3 state champion and brought a 12-game winning streak into the semifinals, so when the Green Raiders went up 2-0 on Nelson’s first half goal and Sebastian Varela’s rip just less than six minutes into the second half, it looked like Glen Rock’s glorious run through the tournament bracket was all but cooked.
It was a mistake to think so, however, as the Panthers, who had to win a play-in game just to reach the main draw and then proceeded to knock out Pascack Valley and Fort Lee, were just getting started.
Rather than sit in a cocoon in and around the defensive 18-yard box, Glen Rock instead flew around the midfield, especially after going down two goals and with nothing left to lose. Ben Zakowski, Nick Rogers, Adam Kochman and Justin Kochman all took their turns at being dangerous and, three minutes after falling behind by a pair, the Panthers halved their deficit.
Justin Kochman and the Glen Rock attack were dangerous all game long.
In the 49th minute, Zakowski got free up the left and whacked an unsavable blast across the face of goal and into the opposite upper 90 to get Glen Rock back to within 2-1. Thirteen minutes later, Glen Rock was awarded a penalty kick at the end of the same sequence that saw the head ref pull up lame.
The Panthers converted from the spot to tie the game at 2 with 18:10 left in regulation and then nearly went ahead on two separate occasions in the next five minutes. Ramapo keeper Jeremy Andreoli robbed Conor Daly, who was set up for a rip by Zakowski, with a full dive to his right to pick the screaming line drive out of the air right at the 17 minute mark. With 13:30 left Rick Dager fought his way into position to get on the end of a Rogers free kick from the right corner, but Dager’s header hit the outside of the side panel.
It was back-and-forth until Furman’s disputed throw and Nelson’s waved off and then waved on again finish.
“It is good that the kids can stick with it. They didn’t lose their heads. When adversity hits you, you have to realize it and deal with it and move on to the next play,” said Baumgarten, whose team moves on to the final where it will play Old Tappan on Saturday night at Indian Hills High School in a 7 p.m. start. “I said to [the team], hey, let’s recognize how we stuck with it but also realize how you can use this experience to move forward in soccer and in life.”
It was a bitter end to Glen Rock’s impressive run in the county tournament, but it still has plenty to play for. The Panthers (13-3-1) are a game behind Garfield with two games to play in the race for a league title and they will likely be the No. 2 seed in the North 1, Group 2 state sectional playoffs with a real shot to win a section title.