by Andrew Garda

MASSILLON, OHIO—The Mounties went a long way to meet the Washington High School Tigers, but Montclair High School’s football team got behind early and fell to their hosts, 49-7.

The same struggles that had been the Achilles’s heel dating all the way back to Week 1 — turnovers, penalties and a stalled offense — loomed large in the loss after seeming a bit less impactful in the previous week’s 35-0 win over Nutley.

According to head coach John Fiore, even that win wasn‘t what it should have been.

“We’ve been giving stuff away,” Fiore said after the loss to the Tigers. “Even the 35-0 win should be 70-0. We just give it away, give it away, give it away.”

Fiore was referring to three fumbles, all of which came on punt or kick returns and all of which resulted in touchdowns for Massillon.

“They got 21 points on three turnovers,” Fiore said. “You can’t do it. Great team like this? It’s their year. I wouldn’t be shocked if they won the whole thing. I’m just embarrassed we didn’t come up and compete.”

Very early on, it looked like the Mounties would at least do that.

After the offense stalled on the opening drive, Montclair’s defense took the field with Massillon on their own 44 yard line. The Tigers drove down to the Mounties’ 26 yard line before a holding penalty set them back to the 37 yard line.

Then senior linebacker/running back Josh Crawford got into the backfield and made a leaping tip of an Aiden Longwell pass, deflecting the ball up and into the waiting arms of fellow senior Walt King.

The Mounties defensive back returned the ball 66 yards for a touchdown, and just like during the game against Nutley, the Mounties had seven points and momentum.

It’s hard to hush a crowd of 8,000 fans, but that play did it, and for a moment the Mounties were in business.

Then it all went wrong.

The Tigers are a team that any Montclair booster is going to recognize once they watch them.

Last season, the Mounties were a team which shrugged off adversity, overcoming the odd mistake no matter how big, and getting back on track. They didn’t rattle easily, and they never folded.

Massillon has that kind of team this year, something multiple coaches and Mounties fans in attendance mentioned after the game.

With a team like that, you can’t give them chances to get back into the game, yet that’s exactly what Montclair did not long after.

Massillon senior running back Jamir Thomas meets MHS senior linebacker Willie Matthews at the line of scrimmage.
Massillon senior running back Jamir Thomas meets MHS senior linebacker Willie Matthews at the line of scrimmage.

Massillon took over on their own 32, but senior linebacker Willie Matthews sacked Longwell and set them back further. Offensive linemen Shawn Collins and Javon Myles did a great job prying open the “A” gap, and leaving a wide open lane for Matthews to blow through on his way to the sack.

Helping to set up the play, senior defensive end Gary Robinson Jr. was lined up to the left side of the defensive formation, which attracted Tigers running back Jamir Thomas, who had remained in the backfield to block

He went to help the right tackle with Robinson, leaving Longwell exposed to Matthews.

So far, so good.

But two plays later, Aydrik Ford got separation on the coverage and Longwell found him for a 72-yard touchdown.

The throw went 42 yards in the air and was perfectly thrown, allowing Ford to catch it while not breaking stride.

“I’ll tell you what, [their] quarterback can sling it,” Fiore said. “And their receivers made every play that hit their hands.”

Despite the touchdown, the Mounties still didn’t seem to be in awful shape.

Then Montclair fumbled the kickoff, giving Massillon the ball on MHS 32-yard line. Five plays later, Longwell connected with Trevon Morgan for a 20-yard touchdown.

As the dominoes started to tumble, MHS fumbled the next kickoff and the Tigers scored again, making it 21-7 and the air seemed to go out of the Mounties.



At its heart, football is a deceptively simple game. The team who turns the ball over less tends to win.

Including a muffed punt at the end of the first half, the Mounties coughed the ball up three times in one half, giving the Tigers a short field three times, which led to three touchdowns.

The Tigers only turned the ball over once early in the game and that was it.

“We just played awful today. Awful,” Fiore said.

It wasn’t all bad though, as the offensive line and defensive front seven played well. For much of the game, the defensive line and linebackers even kept Jamir Thomas bottled up, and outside of the 65-yard touchdown run in the third, limited him to 3.8 yards per carry.

And Matthews is definitely back in fine form, flying around the field and making plays or drawing enough attention to free up others to make them. When he was in on a tackle against Thomas, the difference was evident.

“Everybody else was bouncing off. When [Matthews] tackled the pile went that way, when everybody else tackled, the pile went that way,” Fiore said.

Robinson also had a solid day, as he drew double teams with great frequency, freeing up his fellow linemen to have a chance to make plays.

But the short fields, problems in the secondary and lack of offense wore that front seven down, and with a back like Thomas, it was only a matter of time before he broke a big run.

“[Thomas] is a helluva player, someone is going to get a good one there,” Fiore said. “The running back is a helluva player, the quarterback, they’re loaded.”

Senior linebacker Willie Matthews takes down Washington HS quarterback Aiden Longwell during MHS’ 49-7 loss on Friday, Sept. 14.
Senior linebacker Willie Matthews takes down Washington HS quarterback Aiden Longwell during MHS’ 49-7 loss on Friday, Sept. 14.

Exacerbating every issue, the Mounties offense was completely missing in action, totaling just 43 yards. Senior quarterback Charles Murphy Jr. was 1-of-11 for three yards and was the victim of numerous drops again this past weekend. He was also responsible for 45 yards on the ground, though there seemed to be more left on the table for him.

And outside of Murphy, plus a couple of decent runs by Matthews, the run game was basically shut down by the Tigers.

As has been the case all season, the plays are often there for the taking but the Mounties just don’t take advantage.

“We did a poor job. A poor job executing tonight,” Fiore said. “I thought the game plan was ok, we had stuff all night, we just didn’t finish.”

The Mounties coaching staff now has a week to try and figure out what’s going wrong before a hungry and undefeated East Orange team shows up at Woodman. The Jaguars, who have outscored their opponents 80-7 in the first two games, were scouting the Mounties in person at the Nutley game, and will definitely be breaking down this loss to Massillon as well.

The coaching staff has to find a way to fix the issues plaguing Montclair before 1 p.m. on Saturday, though ultimately, it’s the players on the field who have to find a way to execute.