by Andrew Garda
While the NFL offseason has kicked off to a frantic start with the opening of free agency, football is also on the minds of people a little closer to home.
That includes Montclair High School football coach John Fiore, who has already locked down the 2018 schedule for the 2017 North 1, Group 5 state title winning Mounties.
There’s no offseason for Fiore, which could be why he was named the best football coach in New Jersey by FNF Coaches, who recently unveiled their top coaches for every state.
It hasn’t been easy for Fiore to put a challenging schedule together, with many top teams from similar-sized schools saying no. As it stands, the lineup has a lot of familiar faces with the first game against West Orange set for Aug. 30. After that, is the home opener against Nutley, then away at East Orange, home against Columbia, away at Seton Hall Prep and Livingston, then home against Irvington.
But with an in-state, out of division game hard to come by, Fiore had to get creative.
So pending Board of Education and School Superintendent approval, the Mounties will be heading to Ohio next fall for a game against Washington High School in Massilon Ohio. The game would take place on Sept. 14, which would otherwise be a bye week.
“Massilon is the all-time winningest football program in Ohio history,” Fiore said in his office as he re-watched the Mounties win against Union City at MetLife. “I think they’re top five or six all time in the country. We’re number one in New Jersey with 742 wins, and we’re somewhere about 40-42 all-time nationally.”
The Tigers are generously paying for hotel rooms for the team for two nights, a pre-game meal and admission to the Hall of Fame in Canton.
That will help hold down the costs for the team. All they need from the BOE, Fiore said, is money for the buses as they normally would get for an away game on any Friday night. Any other costs can be taken care of via fundraising and donations, the coach said. And he has plans to take advantage of the trip and expose his players to colleges as they drive.
“On the way out, we’re going to stop at the University of Pittsburgh, take an academic tour and practice at a Division-1 facility,” he said. “Then the day of the game that morning, we’ll have our walk through, lunch and have a historical tour at Kent State. Two great academic experiences, play the game Friday night, and then have the opportunity on Saturday to visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame before coming home Saturday night.”
It gets better for Montclair too, as Fiore said that there’s a good chance that the game will air on either ESPN or NFL Network, giving it national coverage.
“So, it could be a nationally televised game,” Fiore said, “which would bring great promotion to the Montclair School District, the Montclair football program and athletic program as a whole.”
Fiore said with seven offered Division 1 players between the two teams, plus alumni like Chris Spielman, Paul Brown, Lenny Coleman, David Tyree, Quintus McDonald, and Jeff Mills, there’s plenty of things to talk about.
Even without a horse in the race, it’s clear this has the makings of one of the best high school games to take place next season
If the Mounties get approval, they would likely give Columbia relief and that would give MHS their bye week.
Speaking of offers, Montclair has three players who already have offers in hand from multiple schools. Charles Murphy Jr — the leading candidate for starting quarterback next season — has offers from Rutgers, University of Buffalo, Kent State, Central Michigan and West Point. Willie Matthews has offers from Rutgers, Buffalo and West Point as well, and Josh Crawford has already picked one up from Central Michigan. All three will see more offers as next season gets under way.
And they’ll likely be joined by other Mounties like Walt King, Kyshawn King, Bo Bigelow, Gary Robinson and rising junior Sebastian Fortune. More than likely, one or two other players will pop next season as well, with as much talent as the team has.
All Star Squadron
As the team says goodbye to their seniors, several of them are getting one last chance to play as a high school senior. Collin Callahan will be playing in the North-South game at Keane University on June 25, while DJ Williams, Tysean Williams, Harry Wiley and Finn Jenson will get a chance to play in the annual Robeson East-West All-Star Classic in June as well. DJ and Tysean will line up as receivers, while Wiley will appear as a kicker and Jensen will line up at defensive end.
Jensen, by the way, will be joining Elias Ottens playing for Union College next season. Callahan, Tysean and DJ are still mulling over their options, but whoever gets them is going to get some talented players.