by Andrew Garda
Montclair High will host its football state tournament opener next Saturday, Nov. 11, at Woodman Field. Looming in the other half of the Mounties’ North 1, Group V bracket are second-seeded Passaic Tech and third-seeded Union City.
That’s about the extent of what we know about Montclair’s playoff path as the 2017 regular season enters its final week.
Two spots in the eight-team bracket – including the Mounties’ first-round opponent – have yet to be determined, and could be nabbed by any of five teams (Bloomfield, Livingston, Hackensack, Paterson Kennedy, Paterson Eastside) depending on this weekend’s results.
Kennedy and Bloomfield are both in the playoffs if they win; if either team loses, Hackensack would be in with a win over favored Clifton. Eastside is a longshot, needing to beat heavily favored Ridgewood, plus getting help in the form of losses by all three of Kennedy, Bloomfield and Hackensack.
Livingston, who has already played eight games (NJSIAA power points count only a team’s first eight), can only sit and wait. The Lancers need losses from two of the other four teams this weekend in order to qualify; though of the four, only Bloomfield would be classified as a favorite in its game.
Meanwhile, the Clifton-Hackensack tilt will also determine the No. 4, No. 5 and No. 6 seeds. If Clifton wins, the 4-5 matchup (and potential MHS semifinal opponent) would be Clifton vs. Ridgewood; if Hackensack wins, it would be Ridgewood vs. North Bergen.
Our final projection sees MHS hosting No. 8 Livingston next Saturday, with Clifton and Ridgewood facing off in the 4-5 game. The bottom half of the bracket would see No. 2 Passaic Tech host No. 7 Bloomfield, and No. 3 Union City host No. 6 North Bergen.
Assuming you weren’t out of state for the last week, you’ll know Danny Webb ran all over Seton Hall, totaling 348 yards and four touchdowns during Saturday’s game. What all but the most meticulous observers wouldn’t know is that with Saturday’s totals, Webb hit one milestone and is on the verge of a second.
Webb scored his 50th rushing touchdown against Seton Hall, and now sits around 150 yards short of 4,000 rushing yards for his Mountie career. This year he has put together 749 yards and 12 touchdowns overall.
That’s impressive, but what makes it even more so is the fact that he has done it this season on only 61 carries, meaning he is averaging 12.3 yards per run. All four of his touchdown runs on Saturday were 50 yards or more, which skews his average a little, but even if you took those away, he’s gaining an incredible amount of real estate with each carry.
Webb’s been limited this season both by injury and, more importantly, the potency of the Mounties offense. When games are blowouts, there’s no reason to risk your starters, especially when you have the depth MHS has at many offensive skill positions, including the backfield.
It’s insane to think how big the numbers could have been had the games been closer.
It’s also scary to think, given what we saw on Saturday, how good the numbers could be going forward into the playoffs.
Stats, Stats, Stats
Speaking of impressive-looking things, if you were worried the Mounties might see a drop-off when Webb is out, don’t. Willie Matthews has carried the ball 38 times for 414 yards and six touchdowns, while Josh Crawford has run for 317 yards and a touchdown on 59 carries. While not as eye-popping as Webb’s totals, both are very good in his absence.
Of course, Matthews is more than a running back. In fact, there is a fair argument his bigger impact is as a linebacker, where he has totaled 78 tackles (37 solo, 41 assisted), 3.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles (with one recovery) on defense. Of his tackles, 13 took place behind the line of scrimmage.
The next biggest tackle total belongs to Finn Jensen, with 46.
In terms of turnovers, Tysean Williams has the most interceptions with three, while Amarae Witter has the most fumble recoveries with two.
As a unit, the Mountie offense is equally impressive.
Quarterback Tarrin Earle has completed 90-of-138 passes for 1,473 yards, with a sterling 18-to-3 TD-interception ratio. Earle also has 198 yards and 3 TD rushing.
The receivers have been led by Collin Callahan’s 36 catches for 503 yards. Charles Murphy has 416 yards on just 14 catches, and leads the scoring with eight trips to the end zone. Five Mounties have over 100 yards receiving for the year — Callahan, Murphy, Josh Crawford, Tysean Williams and DJ Williams — and those five plus tight end Elias Ottens have scored touchdowns.
The Mounties have run 362 plays for 3,287 yards this season, while their opponents have run 345 plays for only 1,567 yards. The Mounties have made 141 first downs, while the other teams have only made 91.
MHS has scored on 45 of its 78 offensive possesions this season, all of which were touchdowns. One drive ended in a blocked field goal, nine ended in punts.
While the offense is popping, the defense is keeping the opposition in check. Combined, opposing offenses have thrown for just 931 yards, run for 766 yards and caught just 72 of 143 passing attempts, which means the secondary is keeping receivers at a middling 50 percent completion percentage.
Opposing offenses have managed only 24 touchdowns total this year.
If there is one place the Mounties have struggled in, it’s penalties; Montclair’s 53 for 332 yards dwarfs the combined opponents’ totals of 25 for 268.