BY ANDREW GARDA
With a dominant 38-0 win over Bloomfield on Saturday, Sept. 25, the Montclair High School football team made it two wins in a row, pulling their record to 2-2 (2-1 SFC-Freedom Red) just before it takes on St. Joseph Regional High School (2-2, 1-1 SFC-White) in Montvale this Saturday afternoon.
“It definitely looks like we’re finally starting to come together,” head coach Pete Ramiccio said after the win. “It’s the first time all season we really played four quarters of football. And we talked about that earlier, [that] we had a good half against [East Orange], and then we got a good half against Ridgewood. We just couldn’t get it all together, and now to see it come together really for the first time all season, it feels pretty good.”
It certainly feels as if the Mounties are clicking, as they have outscored their last two opponents 73-6.
Montclair started things off when Maverick Selementi deflected a Charles Abplanalp pass into the hands of Jordan Williams, giving Montclair the ball on Bloomfield’s 34 yard line.
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Four plays later, Williams bulled his way for a 15-yard touchdown. Gage Hammond added the extra point, and the Mounties had a 7-0 lead just 2:38 minutes into the first quarter.
It was as close as Bloomfield (0-4, 0-2 SFC-Freedom Red) would ever be in the game.
After Hammond buried the kickoff out of the end zone for a touchback, the Bengals’ drive went just four plays for 3 yards and a punt, and the Mountie offense got back to work.
After a couple of Montclair penalties put the offense at third-and-16, the Bengals’ defense tried to put the pressure on quarterback Solomon Brennan, but the senior slipped around the pass rushers, slipped a few tackles and took the ball for a 48-yard touchdown run.
The Bengals took over on their own 20 yard line again, but only ran a pair of plays before Williams struck once more, stripping the ball from running back Jaden Adkins. Jabriel Muhammad recovered it, and the Mounties took over on the Bloomfield 22.
This time it was Justin Bernal who bludgeoned the Bloomfield defense, running through and over would-be tacklers on his way to a 3-yard touchdown, the first of two he would have during the game, making the score 21-0 with 4:15 left in the first quarter.
The Mounties were not mistake-free, however, and coughed the ball up on a run after another Bloomfield three-and-out.
This time out Bloomfield moved the ball into Montclair territory, but another errant Abplanalp pass resulted in Williams’ second interception of the day, giving MHS the ball on its own 20.
For Williams, the big defensive day was the culmination of a lot of work both in the off-season and in the first three weeks of the regular season.
“You know, I think really just over the years, I’ve been working on my pass coverage more,” he said after the game. “Because [before] it was more of [a focus on] the running. So the coaches really helped me more this year with the pass coverage, and I’ve been focusing more on that and really focused on film. I think it’s just experience getting better.”
Ramiccio felt it was one of Williams’ best all-around days.
“J.J. had a great day today on both sides of the ball,” the coach said. “He was moving defensively and offensively. He was really running so hard today, harder than we’ve seen him run.”
Montclair went ground-and-pound on the following drive, with eight runs, finishing with a 7-yard touchdown run by Bernal for his second score of the day.
Bloomfield again drove down the field, but Abplanalp threw his third interception of the day and Montclair took a knee to end the half with a 28-0 lead.
For the second straight game, Montclair trotted out many of its second-string players, this time in the third quarter. Drew Pfeifer stepped under center and, like Brennan, scrambled for a touchdown, in his case a 30-yard sprint.
With the 35-point lead, the Mounties got a running clock and were content to drain it by running the ball, scoring only one more time on a 32-yard Hammond field goal to make it 38-0.
Bloomfield got the ball back one more time but fumbled, and when Shamarr Brooks recovered for Montclair, the Mounties once again took a knee to let the clock run out.
After two weeks of lesser opponents, Montclair now faces what should be another tough challenge. Even though St. Joe’s’ record isn’t spectacular, private school teams that can recruit and bring in players from all over North Jersey are always hard for public schools to handle.
Williams said it doesn’t matter whom the Mounties play, though. The key is to prepare the same way each week.
“Honestly, I think we just do what we’ve been doing,” he said. “Just focusing on our mission. And the mission is just keep winning, keep moving up, take a step every day as coach Meech likes to say. We take a step each day, each practice another step forward, no steps back. As long as we keep doing that, I think we can give St. Joe’s a run for the money.”
Montclair kicks off against St. Joseph’s at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 2.