by Andrew Garda
A few things leap out at you when you watch the West Orange High School offense, in advance of Montclair’s Friday night league game.
First, they love to run, but are pretty willing to throw the ball as well. When they run, they often employ misdirection, much like Morristown did last week. As you might recall, the Colonials had some success doing that, so you can bet Coach Bittner and Coach Ramiccio will be drilling the Mounties defense hard to make sure they stick with their assignments.
The Mountaineers running backs like to try and get outside, often on sweeps. Again, this is something Morristown had some success with, and can be a problem area for the Mounties defense. The cornerbacks did a good job of adjusting later in the game, so assuming they remember what they did last Saturday, they should have less of an issue this weekend.
When the Mountaineers throw, they really love the screen pass. Often quarterback Vincent Desantis throws the ball backwards and while his targets tend to catch the ball, the Mounties have to remember the football is live if the pass is backwards and dropped.
Desantis throws a decent short ball, mostly on slants and shorter routes, does OK with intermediate throws and gets a bit wild when he has to heave a deep pass.
More than likely, the Mounties linebackers will find themselves in coverage.
Offensively, the Mounties shouldn’t have too much trouble moving the ball if the offensive line continues to give Tarrin Earle and the running backs time. Earle has all the confidence in the world in his line right now.
“They were a young group at the start and just week by week they’ve kept gaining more confidence and they’re just balling out right now,” he said after the Morristown victory. They’re really just the core of our team and if they keep doing what they’re doing, we’re going to be fine.”
We don’t know if Danny Webb will play, nor how much, but Willie Matthews and Josh Crawford seem more than up to the task.
They can expect to see plenty of stacked fronts, but as long as the line does its job, both runners will be able to move the ball.
Add in the weapons Earle has to throw too and once again, this is an opponent that’s going to have a hard time choosing their poison. The Mounties should have no problems moving the ball here.
Earle’s on a roll
We’ve talked for the last few weeks about how good Tarrin Earle has looked this year, but what’s that look like from a statistical point of view?
This season, Earle has had 92 passing attempts, completing 57 of them for a completion percentage of 61.9. He’s thrown for 935 yards and 11 touchdowns, averaging 16.4 yards per completion and averaging 187 passing yards per game. He’s thrown just one interception and has been sacked only two times. Earle has also added 161 yards on the ground over the course of 18 rushing attempts.
At this rate, he should top 1,600 yards (not including playoff games) and total 19 touchdowns.
While not as many yards as he had last season (1,990), he would have a career high in touchdowns and if his 37.4 yards per rushing attempt holds, his likely 300-plus yards would be his highest total of yards on the ground.
In other words, Earle is having a tremendous senior season.
Normally it’s baseball and hockey players who have wacky superstitions, but you can now count Mounties receiver/defensive back DJ Williams among their number.
In case you couldn’t see past the helmet, Williams has been growing a beard for some time and it seems a bit unruly.
“I’ve been growing since the start of the season,” he said. “Since the first week, when PCTI came. I haven’t really had a chance to cut it and we’ve been 5-0 now without cutting it. So I’m kind of superstitious about it. So I’m keeping it.”
While it doesn’t seem destined to match some of the massive beards we’re seeing in the Major League Baseball playoffs this year, Williams is definitely doing his part to make sure the Mountie mojo doesn’t falter because he found a beard trimmer.
Power Point Update
From the Montclair perspective, all the loose ends in terms of seeding in the upcoming NJSIAA North 1, Group V state tournament can be tied up Friday night at West Orange.
If the Mounties win, they’ll clinch the No. 1 seed in the bracket with two weeks before the cutoff and would host quarterfinal and semifinal games at Woodman Field. Sectional finals are held at neutral sites, typically MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford. That’s partly thanks to the bonanza of points MHS will receive, win or lose, for playing a Non-Public school, Seton Hall Prep, next week.
Our projections see Union City and Passaic Tech in a dog fight for the No. 2 seed (and home-field advantage in the semifinals), Clifton and Ridgewood battling for No. 4 and 5, and North Bergen comfortably in sixth place.
There’s also a four-team race developing for the No. 7 and 8 seeds, with Morristown, Kennedy, West Orange and Bloomfield all projected to finish 4-4 and within two points of each other. A result here or there – or an unexpected result, like a West Orange win Friday night – could swing the playoff fates of those four teams wildly.