by Andrew Garda

With just over two weeks left before the start of training camp, the Montclair High School Mounties football team continues to work on getting the little things right.

Blocking technique, timing routes, coverages — even though the pads aren’t on and the summer is still in full swing, the players are running their drills as if they were preparing to meet Passaic County Tech for the start of the regular season sometime this week.

In reality, there’s still a lot of time left and lots of work to do. That’s why the team is sweating hard in July, during its voluntary summer training. Getting the rough edges smoothed out ahead of camp means more time for working on the finesse in August.

With the payoff being a state championship this fall.

OLine Muddle

As offensive line coach Eugene Kline said on Monday, there’s no way to really know what you have in the trenches until you get pads on the players.

Despite that, there are players who stand out in shorts and T-shirts.

Rising junior Bo Bigelow will absolutely be holding his spot at guard, and likely be on the left alongside senior transfer Marcus Crowell, who arrives from Burlington. At 6-5, 280 pounds, Crowell should be a great anchor for that side of the line and with the 6-3, 260-pound Bigelow, defenses will have a hard time moving the left side.

Beyond that, things remain a bit sticky. Right now rising sophomore Pat Barr has the lead to take the center position, but the right side of the line is a complete mystery. There were quite a few players rotating through the drills during Monday’s offensive session, though, and it’s clear Kline is content to let them battle it out while he waits to see who is truly hungry when the pads come on.

Side jobs

Add another role to rising junior Charles Murphy’s resume. The quarterback/receiver/defensive back has been pitching in to help out his basketball coach, Gary Wallace, at the basketball camp being held in the MHS gym the last few weeks. Coach Wallace jokingly calls “Coach Murph” a work in progress but said he’s seeing good things as the young man continues to develop his leadership skills.

So if you wander into the gym to drop a kid off at basketball, don’t worry. Murphy isn’t lost.

A Big Lift

While it’s critical for teams to get everything right on the field, it’s equally important to get stronger in the weight room.

The Mounties have been at it since before the end of school, and head coach John Fiore and his staff have weight training running like a well-oiled machine. The intent is to get bigger and stronger now so they can muscle past teams on Saturdays, and that means a consistent, hard routine.

Watching MHS in the weight room shows more than that, though, as the players learn how to support and encourage their teammates to push themselves hard and fight through exhaustion to get that last rep.

In the late fourth quarter of a playoff game, that ability to overcome weak and tired muscles will be the difference between advancing and going home.

Webb Adjacent

While everyone expects more great things from Danny Webb, don’t sleep on Josh Crawford. The rising junior showed a lot last season in relief of Webb and will do so again in 2017. While he’ll also get plenty of reps at receiver, Crawford is going to require more carries when in the backfield and should provide a little thunder to Webb’s lightning.

How many carries Crawford will see remains a question, though, and there’s no real way to know for sure this early in the process. Add in the fact that Webb looks even sharper this year and you have to wonder if the Mounties will start lining up with both Webb and Crawford in the backfield.

Speaking of Webb, it’s exciting to think of what he could accomplish in his senior season. Last year, he showed a toughness on his runs and a willingness to finish them by delivering a big hit. Adding that to an already evident great field vision, a deadly jump cut and dynamic speed made him even tougher to slow down, forget stop.

If he can add even more tools to his running-back toolbox, opposing defenses are going to have to get very creative.