by Andrew Garda

The Montclair Kimberley Academy football team took on Glen Ridge Saturday afternoon, but was overpowered by a relentless Ridgers team, losing 55-19. The Cougars’ record falls to 1-2 on the season, while Glen Ridge continues to be undefeated with a record of 3-0.

Despite the final score, the Cougars were very competitive for much of the game — it just seemed they couldn’t keep up with a physical Glen Ridge team.

“We were doing a great job early on,” head coach Anthony Rea said after the game. “I think we had them at 14-6 in the middle of the second quarter so we’re right there. We just have to finish plays.”

For Rea, that means making sure the team is prepared properly before taking the field.

“We have to make sure we’re doing the right thing before the game. That we’re prepared, that we’re ready to play the game,” he said. “I think we are. I think we were just a little overmatched at times. We continued to battle and we played fairly well in the second half so that’s exciting.”

They played well in parts of the second quarter as well. While the Ridgers took a 14-0 lead just a few moments into the second quarter, the Cougars struck back three plays later on a John Sweetwood 50-yard run. The Cougars missed the extra point, but seemed to have some momentum.

“Sweetwood had a great run for a touchdown,” Rea said. “Harrison Walker was solid in the return game and running the football. There were a couple of good catches, O’Connell had a good catch.”

However, Glen Ridge wore the Cougars down, scoring 19 straight points and entering halftime up 33-7.

Glen Ridge scored early in the second half, and managed a two-point conversion to go up 41-6. MKA wouldn’t go away though, and scored again on a Walker 3-yard touchdown.

Unfortunately for MKA, that would be the only time the Cougars scored in the third. The Ridgers immediately responded with a long touchdown run and would eventually go up 55-13.

MKA running back Harrison Walker looks for some daylight against the Glen Ridge defense during the Cougars' 55-19 loss on Saturday afternoon.
MKA running back Harrison Walker looks for some daylight against the Glen Ridge defense during the Cougars' 55-19 loss on Saturday afternoon.

Overall the Cougars played tough, but struggled to bring down the Glen Ridge ballcarriers. More than once, MKA had a Glen Ridge player trapped in the backfield, only to have that player slip free from the grip of a defender to add more positive yards.

Defensively, the Cougars also had a few near misses that could have been momentum-shifting turnovers. On back-to-back plays, the Cougars secondary nearly picked off Glen Ridge, and either of those could have really given MKA something to build on, while also sapping some of the energy the Ridgers had.

“I think our pass defense actually played really well,” Rea said. “[Glen Ridge] really just threw short and ran the football and when you can do all the things they can do, it’s a struggle [to stop them].”

This is a very good Glen Ridge team, Rea said, one he feels has the talent to win a title. For a team like the Cougars, who are trying to develop a lot of young players with very few seniors, a team like Glen Ridge might just be a little too much.

“Once you get a little bit deeper [into the roster], we still have a lot of kids who are still learning football at the high school level,” Rea explained. “That’s always a tough thing. For us, if we can keep our guys who have been here before on the field then we’re in good shape, but when we start to get into that second or third group we have a lot of guys who are still in that developmental stage.”

Some of the inexperience can turn into woes even for the veterans. Offensively, Sweetwood was somewhat erratic, and while that is always on the quarterback to some extent, he was consistently under pressure. The offensive line had some protection problems, which made it hard to get anything going either through the air or on the ground.

One bright spot is the improving health of Trey Wilson, who has been injured since the first game against Bergen Tech. Rea is unsure when Wilson will return, and the team is being careful with the junior, but he’s hoping Wilson is back soon. The upside for the Cougars is that without Wilson, the rest of the team has been carrying a bigger load. So when Wilson returns, they’ll be that much better, which should make him even more effective in the secondary and as a receiver.

The Cougars next take on Riverdale Day at home on Thursday at 3:30 in the afternoon.