by Andrew Garda
After a big win over Bloomfield to open the season, the Montclair Mounties football team came apart against East Orange at Woodman Field On Saturday, Oct. 10, losing a sloppy game, 13-0.
Nothing went right for Montclair, beginning with their first offensive series, which took 5:11, involved four MHS penalties and resulted in a six-play, zero-yards effort.
Montclair netted 64 yards in total offense, running just 35 plays, with no passing yards and 78 yards on 11 penalties. Starting quarterback Michael Robinson went 1-of-8 passing and ran the ball 15 times for 12 yards, while Jordan Williams had a more effective game, running 9 times for 46 yards.
Head coach John Fiore minced no words after the game.
“We were bad. I mean, it was bad,” he said.
Jordan Diggs, who is out for the foreseeable future with an ankle injury, was sorely missed, but his absence wasn’t the source of the offense’s woes. Too many penalties, too many sacks (4) and too many injuries helped usher in Montclair’s first home shutout since 2009, when they lost 21-0 to Newark West Side.
It was the first time they’ve been blanked at all since they lost to Union City on the road 7-0 in 2016, and it was their first shutout loss to East Orange since 1971.
By the end of the day, almost a dozen Mounties were sidelined with injuries, including two members of the starting offensive line. Chris Amos, one of EO’s best defenders, had a field day blasting the left side of MHS’ line and totaled seven tackles, two sacks and two tackles for a loss. That doesn’t even account for the numerous pressures he and other Jaguars pass rushers were able to apply, creating situations where Robinson consistently had to hurry throws.
“[We had Rafael] Dagnino at center, [Ethan] Dadabbo and Eli [Dawson],” Fiore said. “Three starters. The other two kids, really their first varsity shot, and then they see two or three different fronts sent their way.”
Defensively, the Mounties stood their ground and held the Jaguars offense in check. There was one missed tackle on a screen pass that EO took a long way, and another on special teams on a punt that set the Jaguars up for a field goal, but otherwise the Mounties did what they needed to do on defense.
Williams led the defense with 10 tackles and 1 sack, with Dhani Clifford (8 tackles), Jaheim Lowe (7 tackles) and Yabsira Temane (6 tackles) contributing to the defensive effort.
Former Mountie backup quarterback Raeden Oliver, now with the Jaguars, had a decent game, but Montclair limited him to a lot of short passes and kept pressure on him.
Between his backfield duties and his efforts on defense, Williams was almost never off the field, but even as the game went on and he clearly wore down a little, he continued to try and make plays.
Ultimately, Montclair never could get the offense going, leaving the defense no margin for error.
The constant stalled drives left EO with great field position to start drives, despite some very nice punting by Gage Hammond, who averaged 38.6 yards per punt, though returns brought that down to an average of 24.2. He punted for a total of 193 yards before returns.
Despite that, EO began six of their 10 drives in MHS’ end, including a fumble recovery and a recovered onside kick at the start of the second half.
Even when the Mounties had a great play on offense, they shot themselves in the foot with a bad one. Early in the game, Robinson uncorked a nice pass to Aqeel Plant for a touchdown.
It was called back by a holding penalty.
At the time the score was 0-0, and the touchdown would likely have changed the face of the game.
As it was, that was the only time the Mounties came close to scoring.
“I’m disgusted with myself. I’m disgusted with how we performed,” Fiore said. “You know, I’m not going to make excuses. We got our [butts] kicked.”
Montclair now has to find a way to get healthy and fix their issues before West Orange (1-1) comes calling at Woodman Field this Saturday at 1 p.m.
West Orange got pounded by a fantastic St. Peter’s Prep team 62-21 in Week 1, but hammered Bloomfield 62-0 last Friday. The Mountaineers are a tremendous offensive team, one that can score at any time, from anywhere on the field.
Meanwhile, Montclair has done very well defensively.
It’s the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.
The key for Saturday’s game will be which side pulls off the big play at the right time — West Orange’s defense or Montclair’s offense.
If MHS can’t get themselves right and healthy by this weekend, the answer may not be hard to figure out.