The Montclair football team is not going to settle for just one win in the state playoffs.
As many know, the state tournament bid was taken away from the Mounties team last season because of the reporting of an ineligible player.
The 2023 Montclair team has had a chip on its shoulder for about a year and on Friday night they have a chance to get some more retribution.
But it won’t be easy as the third-seeded Mounties (7-3) travel northwest to second-seeded Watchung Hills (8-2) in the North 1 Group 5 state semifinals at 7 p.m. with a bid on the line for the state sectional championship.
If Montclair wins, it will be the first state title game since 2018 when the Mounties lost to Ridgewood in the North 1 Group 5 state championship. In 2017, Montclair went undefeated 12-0 and won the state sectional title.
Coming into the semifinal, the Mounties have straightened things out with back-to-back wins over Columbia, 42-7, in regular season, and 19-7, last weekend in the state playoff opener. Before the double victories over Columbia, Montclair had lost back-to-back games, to Irvington (27-0) and Ridgewood (30-24).
Watchung Hills have won two straight games, at Elizabeth (20-13) and last weekend in the state playoff opener to Bridgewater-Raritan (33-26).
WHEN MONTCLAIR IS ON OFFENSE
Montclair has several weapons on offense and are tough to stop when everything is clicking. At times this season the Mounties have been without their top running back, junior Ja-Khi Chance and one of the top wide receivers, senior David Thom-Rogers, but both have played the last two games. Montclair junior Malachi ‘Bubba’ Lewis has had an impressive first season for the Mounties after transferring from Morris Catholic. Lewis has completed 105-of-174 passes for 1,704 yards and 21 touchdowns. He also ran for 174 yards and four touchdowns. Despite missing time on the field, Chance has run for 549 yards and seven touchdowns. Rogers has caught 27 passes for 534 yards and seven touchdown passes. But Lewis has spread it around including junior Jace Auletta (16 catches for 432 yards and six touchdowns) and junior Jayden Lee (23 receptions for 311 yards and two touchdowns). The Montclair offense will have to be on the lookout for Watchung Hills’ top weapons on defense in Scott Drews, Jake Arakelian, Brendan Fahs and Bryce Arch.
WHEN MONTCLAIR IS ON DEFENSE
The key will be to put pressure on Watchung Hills quarterback Aleks Sitkowski who has more than 2,000 yards passing and running this season. The Mounties will be countering against Sitkowski and the Watchung Hills offense with defenders, senior Manny Robinson, senior Wesley Mathis, junior Moustapha Green, senior Akie Green, junior Richard Williams senior Kal Wilson. The Mounties might watch out for Watchung Hills’ second-best runner in running back Lucas Garcia who has 400 rushing yards this season. But Watchung Hills has gone with Sitkowski running in the red zone with his dozen rushing touchdowns. Chance and Thom-Rogers lead the Montclair defensive backfield that will try to put the clamps on Sitkowski’s top throwing targets in Jack Clintock and Brayden Kelly. Along with Chance and Thom-Rogers there is Auletta and senior Asani Brown who have three and two interceptions respectively this season.