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by Andrew Garda

The past two seasons, the Montclair High School football team has fallen at least one game short of returning to MetLife Stadium and playing for an state championship.

Saturday afternoon saw the Mounties take the field one win shy of MetLife, with the the Maroons once again standing between them and East Rutherford.

Guess who’s back?

While it wasn’t always easy, the Mounties erased any and all lingering bad juju from the last two seasons with a resounding 49-14 in over Ridgewood. They did so on the strength of a tremendous effort on defense in the second half as the Mounties shut out Ridgewood for 24 minutes while the offense continued to pile on points.

While the usual suspects like Willie Matthews (9 tackles, 1 sack), Tysean Williams (5 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble returned for a touchdown), Danny Webb (239 yards, 3 touchdowns) did their thing, some new faces had their moments of glory.

Matt Niemann, for example, had what might be his best game as a Mountie on what was definitely his last game at Woodman. The senior linebacker was all over the field on Saturday, racking up 10 tackles and claiming a big-time sack to stall a Ridgewood drive.

Niemann also scored on a two-point conversion as Charles Murphy scrambled and then hit him in the end zone.

While the Mounties ran away and hid in the fourth quarter, scoring 21 points, they found themselves in an unusual position with 10:53 left in the second quarter—trailing.

The Mounties had run out to a 13-0 lead with 5:08 left in the first quarter when Ridgewood drove down the field, scoring on a run by quarterback Jack Barclay to make the score 13-7.

MHS then had to punt on their next possession and Barclay made them pay for it with a nice 53-yard touchdown throw to Aiden Toomey.

An extra point made it 14-13, and the Mounties trailed for only the second time all season.

The wind seemed to come out of Montclair’s sails then. Would this be another game like 2016?

Not if the defense had anything to say about it. On both of the next Ridgewood drives, the Mounties defense shut them down, forcing a punt once and stalling them a second time not long after the Maroons crossed midfield.

Meanwhile, Webb broke off an 8-yard touchdown run on a Mountie possession, Murphy hit Niemann for the conversion and MHS was back on top.

When the Mounties came out for the second half, the defense was fired up. Ridgewood could not move them, and the Mounties punched their ticket back to MetLife Stadium and a rematch against Union City for the championship.

For more details, quotes and breakdown, check out this week’s print edition of the Montclair Local or the website on Wednesday.