Montclair football started off their season with a statement-making win Saturday after a controversial ’22 ending.
With the Mounties and their scrappy attitude after the season taken away from them last fall, Montclair showed they will, at the very least, be a hard out this coming fall after the forfeits in 2022 due to an ineligible player.
Behind junior transfer quarterback Malachi “Bubba” Lewis, the Mounties got on board with a pair of touchdowns and also a safety to take a 16-0 lead on Saturday in a Super Football Conference crossover contest against Clifton.
Despite a late comeback by the Mustangs, Montclair (1-0) would take home a victory with a 30-15 verdict over Clifton in the Jim Grasso Kickoff Classic on August 26.
In his debut with the blue and white, Lewis collected 167 total yards and threw for three touchdowns. The junior signal caller completed 6-of-12 for 87 yards. Lewis threw a touchdown to three different receivers, senior David Thom-Rogers, junior Richard Williams and junior Jace Auletta.
While Lewis was not on the Mounties last season, he knows almost all the players from this year’s team after playing for both Montclair junior football teams, the Cobras and the Bulldogs.
“It feels good,” said Lewis after the win. “I have known these kids all my life. They’re my brothers.”
The starting Montclair quarterback added he is willing to take all the responsibility this season to make up for the loss of the 2022 season.
“I wasn’t on the team last year, but it feels like a family,” said Lewis. “I’ve got you on my shoulders.”
“He (Lewis) is a tremendous, great player, but we have some work to do,” said Rogers, who had three catches for 62 yards and a five-yard touchdown pass that gave Montclair a 14-0 lead.
On the ground Lewis had 80 yards while junior Jayden Lee and senior running back Yasin Latham added 74 yards and 59 yards respectively.
It was also the debut for senior Ben Price, who transferred from Immaculate Conception after IC opted to not play football this season. It was a mixed day for Price who has big shoes to fill after the graduation of one of the top kickers in the state in Gage Hammond who is playing football at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn.
While Price missed a 32-yard field goal attempt, he was able to take a bad snap and ran 22 yards for a touchdown that gave the Mounties a 30-7 lead with nine minutes remaining in the contest.
On defense Montclair limited the Clifton quarterback Romelo Tables to only three completed passes and 30 passing yards while Rogers made an interception with a couple minutes left in the game to seal it for the Mounties.
“Defensively we were going to stop the waggle and minimize their quarterback who is a great player,” said Rogers. “I thought we did a good job of doing that.”
Montclair had a tougher time with Clifton’s top running back Devon Stroble who had 134 yards and two touchdowns. One of the two touchdowns came late in the game and most of the yardage came in between the 20-yard-lines.
A victory in their pocket, the Mounties will next take on rival West Orange on Saturday, Sept. 2 at Hinchliffe Stadium in Paterson, 7 p.m. Montclair will be looking to avenge last season’s 13-7 loss to the Mountaineers.
Mounties head coach Jermain Johnson was not worried about his squad looking past Clifton to rival West Orange, where many on the Montclair football team know a player or two.
“We don’t have a team like that,” said Johnson after the win over Clifton and about his young, inexperienced team. “We are thinking of the team in front of us.”