Football: Montclair Mounties are back at work
PHOTO BY ANDREW GARDA/STAFF
by Andrew Garda
It may only be June, but the Montclair football team is already putting in work.
Despite the 95 degree heat, the Mounties were out at Woodman Field on the first day teams and coaches are allowed to have structured practice, helmets on and ready to go as the team launched preparations for their 2017 season.
Monday was a day to focus on defense; on Tuesday the focus shifted to offense. Both days saw a little rust, but also a lot of enthusiasm from players and coaches alike.
The aim for this season, as it is for every season head coach John Fiore has steered the program, is MetLife Stadium and a state title. The work starts in June, with the sweat paying off in late November.
The Mounties were 7-4 last season, dropping a heartbreaker to top-seeded Ridgewood in the North 1, Group V semifinals for the second straight year.
Many players were on the field early Monday, working in small position groups, warming up and getting ready to work. Once it started, the first day of practice moved quickly, as position coaches and coordinators kept the pace quick and moved things along efficiently.
It helped to have rising seniors like quarterback Tarrin Earle and running back Danny Webb in leadership positions.
“We’ve got a lot of experience back and that showed today,” Fiore said as he sat in his office on the second floor of the field house after practice. “We got a lot in, a lot done. Experience helps. Having an experienced quarterback, and Danny. Defensively, DJ [Williams] made some nice plays today, which you expect.”
There will be new faces along the offensive and defensive lines. The offensive line, in particular, will be getting a reboot after graduating four starters. While Fiore already has some spots taken care of, he’s looking to some of the younger players — sophomores and freshmen from this past year — to step up and perform.
“There aren’t a ton of kids ... who like football and who want to put in hard work for spots [like that],” Fiore said, but he thinks the group he has is up to the task.
They have big shoes to fill; the outgoing seniors on the line include future college players Owen Drexel (Pittsburgh) and Brandon Doggett (Rhode Island), while Jabril Salaam will be at the Peddie School for a postgraduate year, with an eye on gaining a Division I scholarship next fall.
With changes come opportunity, if the younger players are up to the task.
“It should be interesting,” Fiore said. “We’ve got plenty of time. It’s June 12. We’ll be there. We’ll get there.”
While the current Mounties got things going Monday, several MHS seniors still have one more game to play before they take their next step.
Doggett is the lone Mountie appearing in the prestigious Phil Simms North-South All-Star Classic, set for 7 p.m. on Monday, June 26, at Kean University.
Meanwhile, Montclair is sending four players to the Paul Robeson Classic, which will be played at Robeson Stadium in East Orange tonight, Thursday, June 15.
John Lewis (Wesleyan), Liam Devine-Carter (Guilford), Cameron Lipton-Martinez (Columbia University) and Ivan McDaniel (Wagner) will all be playing for the East squad, which is made up of players from Essex and Hudson counties. They will be facing a West made up of players from Morris, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties.
Old faces, new places
Fiore liked seeing what some old faces in new spots did, including sophomore Charles Murphy at cornerback.
Of course, Fiore made sure it was clear Murphy would be back under center on Wednesday for plenty of reps. Finding ways to get talent like Murphy on the field is an emphasis though, and so we may see him in different positions in the coming season.
Montclair’s summer program is an ambitious one, featuring an early mix of competitive 7-on-7 tournaments.
Closer to the start of the regular season – opening day is Saturday, Sept. 9, against Passaic Tech in the “Blue-Out” game at Woodman Field – MHS will test itself with four tough scrimmages.
Montclair hosts its annual quad scrimmage with powerhouse programs Pope John, St. Peter’s Prep and Elizabeth. The Mounties will also take to the road for scrimmages at strong Wayne Hills and Paramus Catholic programs, before winding up with an Aug. 31 game scrimmage against Sayreville at Woodman.
The MHS Gridiron Club’s annual Golf Outing is scheduled for Monday, June 26, 9 a.m., at the Forest Hill Field Club in Bloomfield. Tickets are on sale now and registration is $200, with funds going to support the Mountie football program’s 2017 season.
Sponsorship opportunities are also available for those who aren’t golfers. To register or to become a sponsor, see the registration form at montclairmountiesfootball.com, or contact Gridiron Club president Rob Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org.