by Andrew Garda
If beating Ridgewood High School on Nov. 18 to get to MetLife Stadium was an act of exorcising the demons of previous playoff efforts, beating Union City a second time might be salting the Earth.
The Soaring Eagles had flustered the Mounties in the previous two regular-season meetings before this year’s clash on Sept. 28, which MHS won, 22-7. To beat them a second time — especially when UC has had two full weeks to prepare for Montclair — would put a nice bow on a fantastic season.
The question is what the Soaring Eagles will do differently this time on both sides of the ball when the two teams meet at MetLife Stadium on Friday, December 1.
Defensively, they have all sorts of issues. Danny Webb will be a focal point, but if they focus on him, Tarrin Earle will kill them in the air. If they split the difference — for example, play “quarters” which is a secondary made up of two safeties and two cornerbacks — and creep one safety up to contain Webb with another remaining back to help contain DJ Williams and Tysean Williams, they run the risk of Collin Callahan or Charles Murphy beating them from the slot or in a loaded formation from the outside.
Their best hope is for their front line to have a tremendous day, which is going to be hard to do. The Mounties offensive line has been playing incredibly well, with left tackle Marcus Crowell and center Sebastian Fortune recently being named to the First Team for the Liberty Blue Division.
Offensively, the Soaring Eagles had better hope the defense contains the Mounties because this is not a team built to come back from a huge deficit. They don’t move the ball well through the air.
What they can do is run it, and while their backfield lacks the pure athleticism and talent of the Montclair unit, they do have a lot of different runners with different styles. Izayah Reyes and Jean Alvarez will see the most work and are the most dangerous. The offensive line is experienced as well, so they will definitely use every trick and maneuver they have to stymie a very good Mounties defense.
There’s a little added juice for the Soaring Eagles as well — the chance to win their first-ever championship. While the school hasn’t even been around a decade yet, they’ve been to the playoffs seven times. They’ll be hungry.
So will the Mounties. Which team is salivating more should be the difference come Friday night.
All in the family
If you couldn’t tell from the last names, DJ Williams and Tysean Williams are related. Cousins, in point of fact. For much of their football lives, the two have played on the same team, shared in the same successes and dealt with the same failures.
Now, as they get set to finish up their Mounties career, the two appreciate how lucky they’ve been and how special the opportunity to play together has been.
“We’ve been watching Montclair High School football since we were able to,” DJ said after practice last Saturday. “We always talked about it, our senior year, [this is] how we’re going to go out. We’re going to go to this game, we’re going to graduate high school with championship rings. To see that possibly come true, it’s a wonderful thing.”
As much as they enjoy being on the same team, the two are always competing. They’re also looking out for each other, though.
“I want to succeed as much as he does,” Tysean said. “So whenever one of us makes a play, we kinda feel like we made that play too. If I score, he’s gonna be the first one to come cheer with me, and if he scores I’m always running on the field to come see him.”
“He’s always pushing me and I’m always pushing him,” DJ said. “Because we both know what we’re capable of. It’s always a competition, but it’s also us helping each other to get better.”
Earle piles up records
The Mounties offense has scored more points than any other before it — 540 over the course of this season so far — so it makes sense that its quarterback, Tarrin Earle, would be breaking some records as well.
This season the Bucknell commit surpassed Elijah Robinson’s records for passing touchdowns and yards in a single season. Earle currently stands at 2,284 yards and 27 touchdowns this year with one game to go. According to the best stats we have, he’s also the career holder for most passing yards with 5,936 over his three years as a starter.
Robinson held the previous record with 21 passing touchdowns, 1,699 yards but ran almost as much as he threw, gaining 3,555 yards and 48 touchdowns on the ground.
As always, these stats are compiled from our own records, to the best of our abilities, and if you have something different, let us know.
Special effort on special teams
Not everyone keeps an eye when the special teams walk onto the field.
In which case, you’re missing on a tremendous season by senior John Auletta.
A wide receiver by trade before the season, Auletta is stuck behind a long list of exceptionally talented receivers.
“The kid’s in a tough spot. If he was anywhere else, he would probably be starting on maybe two sides of the ball,” said co-defensive coordinator and special teams coach Pete Ramiccio. “We’re fortunate we’re blessed with so many skill players. But he’s kept his head up the whole way through, Whatever we ask him to do, whatever he’s coached to do, he does it.”
That’s half the battle on special teams, Ramiccio said. Many kids throttle back when they get added to the special teams unit, but Auletta takes his game to a new level.
“Kickoff team is all about being ALN — All out, In your lane, Nasty to the football, Ramiccio explained. “He is the personification of that. I feel like every time we’re looking [on film] he’s always there. Always in his spot, always running his lane, directly to the football.
For Auletta, who leads special teams in tackles, it’s all simply another chance to contribute.
“I feel like, even though I don’t get much burn on the offense as I would like, doing my job on special teams makes me more a part of the team because I’m doing my part,” Auletta said. “Whether it’s making a tackle or making a block on kick return, it’s me playing well.”
“His contributions, especially with the coaching, staff don’t go unnoticed,” Ramiccio said. “And I think our kids notice that too. You can see the energy when he makes a tackle. He’s coming off the field, everyone is smacking him in the helmet, smacking him in the back. His contributions don’t go unnoticed. They might not get the public play that the Dannys and Tarrins of the world get, but from our vantage point and a team standpoint he’s getting all the love he should be getting.”