by Andrew Garda

The Tarrin Earle who takes the field at Woodman for the Montclair Mountie football team on Saturday against Passaic Tech isn’t the same Tarrin Earle who stepped onto it as a sophomore. Now a senior, committed to Bucknell University, Earle has changed his approach both physically and mentally over the last two seasons and with it, his play and the play of those around him.

Just ask second-year Mountie offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Pat Leonardis.

“The growth he’s taken, just from when I came last year...the maturity, the leadership, the attention to detail that Tarrin has is probably, in my twenty years of coaching high school football, one of the best I’ve ever seen.”

For Earle, he couldn’t have done it without Coach Leo.

“Ever since [he] came on staff, we’ve been as tight as can be,” Earle said. “I love the guy. He’s elevated my game to a whole different level...I owe everything to that man.”

Early on, Leonardis realized that Earle’s issues were mostly on the mental side of the ball.

“Last year after every practice I had him write down in his journal, five things you did well, and five things you need to work on,” Leonardis said. “And at the beginning, we were all over the place. But by the time camp came, the same things I thought he did well, he had written in his journal, and the things he thought he needed to work on, I had written down.”

Leonardis said Earle is a “coach’s dream,” someone who is talented athletically but also very coachable.

“Bucknell stole a gem.”

Earle’s not done at MHS though, and like the rest of the team he feels there is unfinished business in the form of a state title. There are two factors he feels will work in the Mounties’ favor this season. The fact that this is a veteran team, and the fact that he can lead that team.

The former is the sort of thing which only comes from time, but Earle has seen firsthand what happens when a team has been together a long time.

“Losing to Ridgewood the last two years, they were the group who had been together for years and had a tight bond,” Earle said. “That’s why they came out on top, because they were the veteran group. Now that we’re the veteran group, we can come through any game. We’ve seen everything, been through ups and downs—we’ve been through the whole cycle. We know what’s expected, we know what’s to come, and for us it makes us all the more confident. We’re not guessing. We know what we have to do out there.”

And Earle is just the steady hand to get them there, though that like any other part of his game, took work.

“I knew after sophomore year I wasn’t really a leader,” Earle said. “I knew the team needed a leader, especially at my position...I knew the team needed somebody doing things all the time, at the field, off the field, telling them what’s right.”

Part of leading is getting the team to do something it has struggled with at times the last few years—finish games.

“We need to put together full games. When we win, we usually win big, but in tight games we can never find it. So this year all of us have talked about it. When we get in those tight games, that’s when we need to show our leadership, huddle the team up and say ‘look, we’ve got this, let’s finish strong.’ This year that’s what we put a big emphasis on.”