by Andrew Garda
At any level, there are truths which apply when it comes to football, and one is you will not win when you turn the ball over.
The Mounties were unable to heed that rule during Saturday’s game against Ridgewood High School, turning the ball over four times in their eight offensive drives. The result was a disappointing 27-7 loss to the Maroons, who will now play Piscataway in the first ever NJSIAA North 1 Super-Sectional.
Ridgewood had been spoiling for this game since Montclair routed them last season on the way to an undefeated season and a Sectional title, and they came out aggressively, baiting the Mounties secondary with a run, then hitting Tom Bourque on a seam route for a 67-yard touchdown pass.
Montclair’s first drive quickly stalled and then the Maroons struck again, this time with a 37-yard run by Avery Scott.
It was exactly the sort of start the Mounties wanted to avoid, but they had just overcome a similar set of issues against North Bergen. This time they responded, with quarterback Charles Murphy Jr. finding Elijah Coates for an 18-yard touchdown. Coates willed himself into the end zone, and the Mounties were in business.
On Ridgewood’s next drive, the Montclair defense got their first stop of the day.
Then the turnovers started.
Montclair was in the midst of a very effective drive when Josh Crawford coughed up the ball. Ridgewood took over on their own 37, and drove down the field for another touchdown.
The Mounties got the ball back, and began to move down the field, only for Murphy to throw the first of three interceptions on the day.
Once again, the Maroons were able to convert, and the Mounties found themselves down 27-7.
With just 1:43 left in the first half, and all three timeouts, the Mounties once again moved down the field. Coates made another tremendous grab, getting the offense a first down on the Ridegwood 14.
With the Mounties set to have the ball to start the second half, a score would put them in great shape.
It was not to be. A low snap – something which plagued the offense all day – seemed to spook Murphy. Despite having plenty of time and under no pressure, he tried to force the ball to Coates again, this time into triple coverage.
Ridgewood picked the ball off and Montclair went into the half down three scores.
The Mounties came out in the second half and while they moved the ball down the field, the drive stalled and Ridgewood took over on downs.
The two teams traded punts in the second half, but Ridgewood wisely sapped the clock, while the Mounties frequently had promising drives come up short due to penalties, miscues and another interception.
In the end, the problems which hurt the Mounties early in the season hurt them again in their final game. You cannot turn the ball over and make the mistakes the way the Mounties did.
A team like Ridgewood doesn’t need the help to beat you, but they’ll take it and it helped win them a state title on Saturday.
For a complete breakdown of the game, plus quotes from coach John Fiore, check out Wednesday’s edition of the Montclair Local in print and online.