by Andrew Garda
WEST ORANGE —Sometimes you just come up short. That was the case for the Montclair High School football team Saturday afternoon as they rallied late to take the lead, only to fall short in a 29-28 loss to the Seton Hall Prep Pirates at the Kelly Athletic Complex.
It came down to the last drive of the game for the Mounties (3-3, 2-1), but in the end the offense was done in by the same thing which has hurt them time and time again during the 2018 season — dropped passes.
Seton Hall Prep (4-2, 0-1) had just regained the lead on a long drive which they capped with a 28-yard touchdown pass that saw the Mounties cornerback bite early, followed by a tough run for a two-point conversion to give them the one point lead.
“I should have taken a time out there when they set for the two-point,” MHS head coach John Fiore said after the game. “I thought we were in the right set-up. We weren’t. That’s on me.”
With just under a minute left, the Mounties took over on offense and, with the help of a pass-interference penalty, were just out of field goal range.
Fiore said that kicker Jacob Manthey could easily hit a 30-plus kick, even in the foggy and wet weather.
They just had to get him close enough.
That was not to be, as quarterback Charles Murphy Jr. threw two near-perfect passes — one down the middle and one along the sideline — both of which were dropped and either of which would have put the Mounties within Manthey’s range.
With eight seconds left, Murphy then scrambled, desperately trying to find a receiver in the end zone, and settling for a shovel pass to Josh Crawford, who was boxed away from the sideline.
Clock expired. Game over.
As is often the case, there were positives for the Mounties. Walter King again showed his tremendous athleticism on two touchdown catches, including a one handed grab over a defender to give the Mounties their first lead. Likewise his younger brother, Kyshawn, showed he can use his size to advantage as well with several catches.
On top of that, the Mounties get 32 power points even though they lost, which should give them a nice boost in the playoff rankings, where they still hold the top seed.
On the negative side, though, there were just too many mistakes, too many drops, too many misreads — a common theme on offense.
Meanwhile, though the defense did a solid job for much of the day, they created very little pressure on SHP quarterback Aiden Gillman on the Pirates’ final drive, and the secondary stumbled at the worst possible time.
Now MHS has a week to continue to work the kinks out and get ready for rival Bloomfield and the Investor’s Cup, in a match-up which has significant meaning, as Bloomfield is just one game back in the division.
As Fiore reminded them, if they take care of business the next three weeks — against Bloomfield and Livingston at home in particular — they will have solidified their spot in the playoffs and secured home field advantage throughout the postseason.
That could mean everything for this team in an uneven and roller-coaster 2018 season.
For a complete breakdown of Saturday’s game plus a look ahead to the Bloomfield game, check out the website and print editions of the Montclair Local on Thursday.