Football: Mounties stifle, overwhelm Union City in 22-7 victory
COURTESY WIL YOUNG
by Andrew Garda
BLOOMFIELD—While this year’s “under the lights” home game was actually played in Bloomfield at Foley Field, the Montclair High School football team made itself right at home in the Bengals’ house as they beat the Union City Soaring Eagles 22-7.
This game was one of many of the Mounties considered a true test of their mettle. The last two seasons have seen UC steal wins from the Mounties and derail good seasons. Would this be a repeat?
As senior quarterback Tarrin Earle hit junior receiver/running back Josh Crawford for a touchdown on the first drive of the game, the answer was obviously a resounding “no.”
The Mounties knew they had to do two things to beat UC. First, they had to shut down the run game and force Union City to throw, something UC does not do well. MHS was able to do that during both of the Eagles’ first two drives, nearly picking off passes during on the second UC drive.
The second thing was that MHS had to score early and often.
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That first touchdown was a sign that they were determined to do just that.
After the Eagles generated a fumble on the next Mounties drive but failed to do anything with it, they pinned the Mounties on MHS’ own 1-yard line with a tremendous punt.
The Mounties offense responded with two Danny Webb runs, including an 81-yard touchdown dash that saw Webb make a few moves, kick in the afterburners and leave the Union city defense in his dust.
On the Mounties’ next possession Earle guided the offense down the field, capping the drive with a long touchdown pass to junior receiver Charles Murphy.
“The pressure kind of got to me up the middle,” Earle said after the game. “So I knew I had to roll out to my left. Marcus Crowell made a great block on the left side to get me out there.”
While Earle did his best Aaron Rodgers impersonation, Murphy was trying to break free, which he did when the coverage reacted to Earle stepping out of the pocket and towards the line of scrimmage.
“I couldn’t see anyone downfield,” Earle continued. “Then I saw Murphy all the way across the field, wide open. So I just slung it and he caught it.”
In a season when Earle hasn’t had to produce much magic, it was a moment which gave the Mounties faithful a taste of what their quarterback is capable of. Cool under pressure, Earle used his mobility to buy time, but rather than pull the ball down and run for whatever he could get, he kept his eyes downfield and found pay dirt.
Earle saw Murphy all by himself in the end zone and delivered his second touchdown pass of the game. The Mounties went into halftime with a commanding 22-0 lead.
The second half was a bit shakier and showed that while the Mounties are on the right path, they still have work to do.
The team struggled to move the ball and there were many bad penalties, including a personal foul with under a minute left which put UC on the MHS 10-yard line.
Two plays later, Alain Diaz spoiled the shutout with a 3-yard touchdown run.
“We had control the whole game,” said head coach John Fiore. “Listen, Union City is a good football team, but the reason it was 22-7 was us. Selfish play by the defensive players, penalties. We can’t have that stuff. And when you make it about you, then you hurt your team. And the only reason they scored is because certain kids made it about them.”
Wide receiver/running back Josh Crawford agreed things can be tightened up.
“We need to correct the mistakes,” he said after the game, in which he had totaled 110 rushing and receiving yards and a touchdown. “The little things are the only things bringing us down. If we do what the coaches ask, we won’t even have seven points on the board.”
“We had a lot of drives get down close but we couldn’t finish,” Earle said. “So we’re going to clean those things up, try to finish in the second half [of games].”
That seven points by Union City clearly rankled the team — especially the defense — which seemed more reserved than what you might expect from a team that had outscored its first three opponents 112 to 14.
Much of that unease comes from the knowledge that of that 112 points, only 14 of them have come in the second half of games and none of that was scored in the last two weeks.
“If you wanna be a state championship team you have to convert in the second half,” Fiore said. “You don’t want to give anybody hope and when you play the second half the way we did, you probably give teams hope. We’ll have to see going forward what we can do to change that.”
The Mounties need to continue to improve on defense as well. While the unit hasn’t allowed much in the way of scoring, Union City managed to grind them down several times with three drives of over eight minutes and two of six or more.
While none of those efforts produced points, a more dynamic team could have taken advantage of a tired defense that couldn’t get off the field.
As it stands, the Eagles’ Wing-T wasn’t going to carry them to a comeback once the Mounties got a significant lead.
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“The key to cracking a Wing-T offense, is to stay disciplined,” said offensive and defensive tackle Marcus Crowell. “Because if you come up the field they’ll trap you, run behind you. It’s just really a lot of discipline and that’s what our coaches preached all week.”
Crowell said that while the unit can improve, overall the talent is there to be truly great.
“I think our defense is outstanding. We have really, really good defensive backs, really great linebacks, a great front four and we all play together, we all play for each other. I think we’re a really great unit.”
For Fiore, the pieces are there. Now he just needs them to all come together — they just aren’t quite there yet.
“It’s a great group of kids and I think they’re as disappointed about the second half as we are. We have a core group of about 32 kids that are unbelievable and do everything we ask. Now we just have to get the other 28 to buy in.”
We’ll see how many more buy in on the road against East Orange on Saturday, Oct. 7, at 1 p.m.