by Andrew Garda
The NJSIAA North 1, Group 5 playoffs have been set and despite the loss to Irvington, and the Bridgewater-Raritan win over Union, the Montclair Mounties will begin their defense of their 2017 N1G5 title at Woodman Field, as the top seed.
That means as long as the Mounties keep winning, all roads to a championship go through the Aubrey Lewis Sports Complex.
As an added bonus, the Mounties take on the team which set the season narrative that MHS was far weaker than it was last season — the West Orange Mountaineers.
A full breakdown of the Mountaineers will come in this week’s Football Notebook Thursday, so let’s turn our attention to the rest of the field.
First, an overview.
5-North Bergen (6-2)
6-Paterson Kennedy (5-3)
7-Passaic Tech (2-6)
8-West Orange (3-6)
While no team can be taken lightly, the Mounties could have done worse than to have this group. Ridgewood is likely the toughest opponent on the board, as Union, Union City, Piscataway and East Orange fell into the North 2, Group 5 bracket.
The Usual Suspects
The Mounties and their fans will be pretty familiar with Ridgewood, Passaic Tech, West Orange.
PCTI recently opted out of meeting Montclair in the regular season, with Passaic losing to Montclair to open last season, 49-7. They lost five straight to open the season, but games against Seton Hall Prep, West Orange and East Side — the latter two resulting in wins — got them enough power points to help them squeeze into the playoffs.
Ridgewood lost to the Mounties in the second round of last year’s playoffs, 49-14, which propelled Montclair to MetLife and a championship. This season, the Maroons had a solid run, ending up with just two losses overall and none in their division.
They had more power points than Montclair, but the Mounties’ Born Index was better by almost three points, so the Maroons ended up in the No. 2 seed.
PCTI hasn’t looked good this season, allowing an average of just over 26 points a game, while averaging just 18 a game. Defense has clearly been an issue, and they aren’t getting to the quarterback nearly as much as last season, with just 11 sacks on the season compared to 30 last year. They’ve also generated just four interceptions this season, though they have recovered eight fumbles.
Ridgewood, on the other hand, has scored an average of 33 points a game. They run exceedingly well, and Will Cardew, their lead back, has 821 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Maroons can throw the ball as well, though Cardew is their main guy.
The rest of the bunch are relative unknowns, though Clifton, Hackensack, and Paterson Kennedy are all in the same division, the Liberty Red. North Bergen is the sole complete outsider in this bracket.
The last time the Mounties saw Clifton was in 2009, when the Mustangs beat Montclair 6-3. They had a strong season, only losing once in their division, to Ridgewood on October 12 — their first loss of the season — and once outside of it, to Delbarton.
They throw the ball on occasion, but more often use their three headed beast in the backfield — Christian Boneparte, Armani Brinson and David Martinez — to move the ball. All three have more than 200 yards rushing, with Martinez at 353 yards total.
Hackensack only lost twice in their division — once to Clifton and the other time to Ridegwood —with their other two losses to Hudson Catholic and Paramus Catholic.
It’s worth noting that the four schools below Hackensack in the standings — Paterson Kennedy, Passaic Tech, Paterson Eastside and Bergen Tech — are all pretty bad, with Paterson Kennedy the only one with any real success outside the division, though wins over West Orange, Teaneck and Snyder won’t win any beauty contests.
The Liberty Red teams seem to feast on the bottom half of the division. That makes it hard to judge how good they may or may not be.
Paterson Kennedy seems to be a “Jack of all trades, master of none” team. They can run the ball a bit and pass the ball a bit, but don’t seem to be imposing on either front. Defensively they don’t generate turnovers or sacks, and don’t appear to pressure the quarterback much.
North Bergen is the wild card, and coming out of the Liberty White — where they only lost to Union City. They also dropped a game to Irvington, 41-20. Interestingly, like the Blue Knights, the Bruins rarely pass, with just 134 yards on the season.
But they lack a dominant run game as well, as they have two 200-plus yard runners, though between them they account for nine touchdowns. In fact, 90 of the Bruins 120 points come on the ground, from two players — Mike Santini (6 touchdowns) and Christian Angulo (3 TDs).
Ridgewood is the obvious worry for Montclair, but North Bergen might be a bigger concern.
It’s not a bad bracket for the Mounties, especially as all games will happen at Woodman. MHS exorcised the Ridgewood playoff curse last year, so though that could be a tough game, it isn’t unwinnable.
North Bergen is a mystery though, and until the Mounties can spend some time looking at their film — if they need to — getting a real read on the Bruins will be hard to do.