by Andrew Garda
Sometimes history repeats itself in the worst ways.
That was the case at Woodman Field on Saturday, Oct. 12, as the Mounties lost for the second straight year to Seton Hall Prep on a late 2-point conversion, this time resulting in a 43-42 loss.
The Mounties record now stands at 2-4, though the 38 power points they gained by playing the prep school keeps them in contention for a playoff spot.
After the loss, an emotional John Fiore addressed his team, pointing out that despite the loss, this was a game they should not hang their head about. The Mounties head coached pointed out that the 5-1 Pirates were one of the better prep teams in the state right now, and standing toe to toe with them proved if the Mounties believe, they can still achieve tremendous things this season.
While the Mounties came up short, Fiore is right to point out the positives, and the top of that list is junior running back Jordan Diggs.
Diggs had the best day of his young Mounties career against a big, tough Pirates defensive front, accumulating a staggering 277 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries. More than once, Diggs wiggled his way through the line of scrimmage, dodged a tackler and bust into the open field.
His play has improved by leaps and bounds over the course of this season, and has topped 100 yards in four out of six games this season for a total of 60 yards and eight touchdowns on 124 carries, averaging 6.9 yards per carry.
On Saturday, he averaged 9.2 yards per carry.
Fellow junior Michael Robinson as also shown great progress this season under center. The quarterback completed 10 of 18 passes for 106 yards, while running for 55 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 19 carries.
In general, the offense was on point for much of the day, and the first half was easily the best football it has played this season.
Even the defense, which struggled to find an answer for the Pirates offense, specifically running back Matt Colantuono, who accounted for 146 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries as well as a 40-yard touchdown reception on their final drive, had moments.
They had two key stops in the second half when the offense was struggling to move the ball and Shawn Collins’ interception return for a touchdown snuffed out a Seton Hall drive near the end of the first half and gave Montclair a 28-21 lead.
Add in freshman kicker Gage Hammond’s perfect run of extra points, and even special teams had moments worthy of praise.
Unfortunately, Montclair came up short on both sides of the ball when the team needed a big play at the end of the game.
First, with a 42-35 lead, the defense allowed the Pirates to get that Colantuono touchdown and then, when SHP lined up for a 2-point conversion, the cornerback went after the quarterback and left Zander Zebrowski wide open in the end zone for an easy conversion.
After that, the Mounties were able to drive down the field but once they made it into Seton Hall territory, they stalled. A penalty, several misread plays and an incorrectly run route on fourth and long, and the Mounties turned over the ball on downs.
With the way Hammond has been kicking the last two games, a field goal attempt was not out of the question, but the Mounties just couldn’t get close enough to get Hammond in range.
Now Montclair will turn its attention to Bloomfield, and their game with them on Friday night. If Montclair can beat Bloomfield and Livingston — who they play Friday, Oct. 25 —they will likely secure a playoff spot.
If they can find a way to beat Irvington at Woodman Field on November 2, they might even get a home game to open the playoffs.
And as anyone knows, anything can happen from there.
For more breakdown of Saturday’s game, as well as quotes from head coach John Fiore, check out the Montclair Local’s Thursday print edition as well as the website later this week.