by Andrew Garda
The two top teams in the Super Football Conference Liberty Division collided last Saturday, with many onlookers wondering how good either team was. A dominating four quarters of football and a 51-0 win by the Montclair Mounties later, and there was no doubt at least how good one team was.
The Mounties were coming off a big win over weak Bloomfield team, and still trying to shake the perception that this was a weaker team than the State Championship one which dominated New Jersey football. The Livingston Lancers, meanwhile, arrived at Woodman Field licking their wounds after dropping a tough 18-7 game to a rising East Orange team, their first in loss in the division.
Now, having scored 102 points in two games, the Mounties have put the conference on notice that not being the 2017 Mounties makes them no less dangerous.
That was especially evident by the three long touchdown plays which were the backbone of Montclair’s 21 point lead moments into the second quarter.
Two passes by senior quarterback Charles Murphy Jr. — a 95-yard touchdown to Walter King and an 82-yard touchdown to senior Jeikson Boyle — along with a 93-yard touchdown run by Murphy showed the Mounties are capable of quick-strike plays on offense.
One of the reasons the Mounties were able to drop two long passing touchdowns on Livingston was the Lancers’ total commitment to bottling up Montclair’s run game. They had seen senior Josh Crawford’s 316 yard tally against Bloomfield and deemed him the biggest threat.
After the game, Murphy said that was what the Mounties expected and that meant he would have to have a big game.
“Coming into this game we knew that they would mostly key on Josh, so I knew I had to be a big part of stepping up and having to pull a couple of plays. We knew they played a lot of off coverage, but that didn’t stop us from throwing the ball a lot.”
Murphy easily had his best day through the air, completing 9-of-18 for 291 yards and three touchdowns and doing an excellent job of reading the defense, adjusting and having the confidence to strike when the opportunity arose.
The 95-yard score to King — one of two times the pair hooked up — was just one example.
Livingston had punted, setting the Mounties up on their own four yard line. Montclair ran two run plays to try and gain a little space, but only gained a yard with them.
Murphy, staring at a 3rd-and-9 with his back to his own end zone was unconcerned.
“I knew they were going to send a lot of pressure knowing it’s third down and they needed a big play to get some momentum going,” he explained. “So, I knew [King] was going to be open regardless.”
Selling out to blitz, Murphy left King in single coverage.
“We knew they were in a man coverage,” King said. “The pass route was called a ‘Sluggo,’ so I ran my sluggo and was wide open.”
Once King got a hold of the ball, there was no way the Lancers could catch him.
The Mounties ran a similar play from their own 18-yard line on their next drive, this time with Boyle on the receiving end.
After that, the Lancers started to recognize Murphy and his receivers were too dangerous to ignore.
Which led to the quarterback’s 83-yard touchdown run.
“We thought they were keying on Amare [Witter] so, we were going to run the opposite direction,” Murphy said. “But they were so worried about Walter that they stacked him. So we had a whole bunch of screen on the opposite side where Amare was going, the opposite way of the [called] play so I decided to pull the ball and follow Amare. After that it was nothing but green.”
Murphy would score a second rushing touchdown a short time later and finish the game with 110 yards and two touchdowns on just five carries.
Defensively, the Mounties were as dominant as they were on offense. Senior Willie Matthews continued to bring a tremendous energy to the defensive front in his second game back, and teams have no real answer for him this year any more than they did in 2017. When the Lancers did key on him, other Mounties stepped up and made them pay.
The defense got a read on Lancers quarterback Jack Ernst early and made his life miserable with a multitude of batted balls and a trio of interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown by King.
“Coaches on defense always talk about how we have to follow our man on offense and that’s what I did,” King said.
Ernst had a low release point, which led to the batted balls, but he also has a bad habit of staring at his chosen receiver. The Mounties knew that and took advantage.
“We saw that a lot [on film],” King confirmed. “We’d seen that in the previous weeks. But really, we just came out here and got the job done.”
With the win, the Mounties have won at least a share of the division title, depending in whether Rae Oliver’s East Orange Jaguars take care of Bloomfield next week.
Division titles aren’t what the Mounties are about though. State titles are. And to make sure they are in the best possible position for a run at that, they have to take care of Irvington on the road next Friday night at 7 p.m.