by Andrew Garda
PISCATAWAY — Last season saw the Montclair Mounties football team collapse in the second half of their opener against West Orange High School. This year, in a game player at Rutgers University for the ‘Rumble on the Raritan’ High School Rivalry series, Montclair did it right out of the gate.
For the second year in a row, the Mounties find themselves at 0-1, this time due to a 29-6 loss to the Mountaineers that really highlighted the youthful nature of this Mounties team.
In truth, both teams were sloppy. For the Mountaineers, it resulted in chippy play, a multitude of penalty flags and an ejected player. For Montclair, it was about turnovers and poor field awareness.
In the end, Montclair had less success overcoming their issues than West Orange.
While the defense was not perfect — it allowed over 200 yards and 20 points 1 it too often found itself defending a short field and seemed to wear down in the third quarter — it kept Montclair in the game for the first half and held a running back with Division 1 offers to 50 yards on 20 carries.
The offense was the bigger culprit, never getting into a rhythm and turning over the ball three times. The first resulted in points, as junior quarterback Michael Robinson threw a pass behind running back Jordan Diggs.
That is considered a lateral, not a pass, so it was a live ball when a Mountaineers defender scooped it up and headed for the end zone.
On the next series, Diggs coughed the ball up as the Mounties drove into the West Orange end. The defense held, though, and Montclair got the ball back.
Unfortunately, the offense stalled again, and backed up in their own end, chose to punt. The offensive line missed a block, however, and the punt was blocked, sailing out the back of the end zone for a safety.
Those were big mistakes, but the little mistakes and mental hiccups were just as much at fault for Saturday night’s loss. Players out of position, running the wrong route, running a route that was too shallow and ended in front of a first down marker, or ducking out of bounds short of a first down to avoid a tackle.
Individually, those things seem small, but when taken as a whole, they are the things which will cause a team to lose a game.
They are also things which are often the result of youth and inexperience. This is a Mounties team — particularly on offense — with very few returning starters. There are plenty of players with experience on the field, but it’s a different weight when you are starting a game.
With Nutley coming off a strong 15-8 win over Bloomfield to open their own season, Montclair knows they will face a determined foe in Week 2.
They have a week to work out the offensive bugs, and they had better get started.
For a full breakdown of the game, as well as a look ahead at Nutley, check out this site and the print edition of the Montclair Local later this week.