The hard work and talent of Montclair Kimberley’s top football performers has been acknowledged by the coaches of the Metropolitan Independent Football League.

Five MKA players were named to the All-Metropolitan Independent Football League (MIFL) team from a Cougars squad that finished 5-4 and was one win away from the MIFL finals.

Two seniors, running back Nic Lembo and wide receiver Jordan Fishback, led the way. They played for the team for all four of their high school years. 

Lembo’s talent as a running back was vital to MKA’s offense. In his best game, against Dalton, he ran for 200 yards and scored three touchdowns. His efforts that Saturday propelled the Cougars to a 26-14 win. 

Montclair Kimberley head coach Anthony Rea feels their presence will be missed.

“Lembo and Fishback are going to be very tough to replace,” the coach said. “We may not have as many guys as experienced as Lembo was going into this season, but I am very excited about the different looks and personnel groupings we will be able to show next season.”   

Specifically, MKA might feature a more robust passing game next year. 

Montclair Kimberley senior running back Nic Lembo, shown trying to get yardage against Riverdale Day at home on Sept. 23, was named to the All-Metropolitan Independent Football League team after running for 1,002 yards and a dozen touchdowns. The Cougars went 5-4 for the 2022 season. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
Montclair Kimberley senior running back Nic Lembo, shown trying to get yardage against Riverdale Day at home on Sept. 23, was named to the All-Metropolitan Independent Football League team after running for 1,002 yards and a dozen touchdowns. The Cougars went 5-4 for the 2022 season. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
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“Quarterbacks Miles Black and Carl Flocco gained experience from starting a combined seven games,” Rea said. “You should see more of a passing game on offense, but sometimes those plans can change based on injury and availability.” 

Three underclassmen were also recognized by the league. Sophomore Oscar Douglas was honored for his play on the offensive line. On defense, junior linebacker Jaylen Ankrah-Jones and sophomore lineman Nate Conforti were named to the all-conference team. 

Rea expects these three players to add to their laurels next season.

He feels more Cougars should have earned spots on the all-conference team. 

“Kalvin Thomas deserved recognition,” Rea said. “He had a strong campaign on defense at linebacker. He was a wide receiver, running back, and even a wildcat quarterback on offense. He will be one of our best players next year.”

Even though this season did not end as the Cougars wanted, Rea believes that the lessons the Cougars learned will bring MKA success next year. He feels the Cougars’ roster will be more prepared going into the 2023 season. 

Montclair Kimberley junior Jaylen Ankrah-Jones, 3, shown celebrating a touchdown against RIverdale Day with sophomore Kalvin Thomas (13) and junior William Simms (18). Ankrah-Jones was named to the All-Metropolitan Independent Football League team as a linebacker. Ankrah-Jones had 40 total tackles on the season. The Cougars went 5-4 for the 2022 season. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
Montclair Kimberley junior Jaylen Ankrah-Jones, 3, shown celebrating a touchdown against RIverdale Day with sophomore Kalvin Thomas (13) and junior William Simms (18). Ankrah-Jones was named to the All-Metropolitan Independent Football League team as a linebacker. Ankrah-Jones had 40 total tackles on the season. The Cougars went 5-4 for the 2022 season. (EDWARD KENSIK/STAFF)
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“Next year, we already have 24 returning [players], and 14 of them will be juniors and seniors,” the coach said. “We had 28 players total on the roster this season.”

MKA’s game against Fieldston stands out as an experience that the team will be able to draw on going forward. The Cougars pulled off a late comeback on the road versus Fieldston. 

“Trailing 13-6 with four minutes to go in the game, Miles Black threw a 67-yard touchdown on third and 23 to Jordan Fishback to cut the deficit to 13-12,” Rea recounted. “After a punt by Fieldston, Fishback took the ensuing snap and ran 59 yards for the game-winning touchdown with 1:44 left. Nic Lembo added the two-point conversion. Our defense got one final stop, and we were able to run out the clock on a 20-13 victory.”

Rea believes succeeding in adverse situations builds the toughness teams need to win.

Two other seniors, kicker Sohan Agarwal and lineman Colin Larish, will be graduating this spring as well. 

Rea wants the four seniors to remain connected to Montclair Kimberley Academy. Their commitment to MKA football powered the program through the difficulties of the pandemic, he said. 

“We always want our alumni to be in touch with the program, and we always get a lot of players back to watch games,” the coach said. “We want all our players to feel like they are still part of the program, even when they've graduated.”

Rea said he’s interested in the lives of his former players and roots for their success in all aspects of life.  

For the underclassmen, his message is to stay motivated for next year. 

“We did a lot of hard work in the weight room and on the field this June, July and August,” he said. “To win the league next year, we just need to continue to get better and bigger, faster and stronger.”