by Andrew Garda

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for junior defensive end/tight end Shawn Collins. The 6-foot, 4-inch, 205 pound Mountie has amassed five sacks combined against East Orange and Columbia, and has been one of the players on defense who has stepped up with Willie Matthews out.

“He’s really kicked it up on defense,” head coach John Fiore said after Montclair’s 42-6 win over Columbia.

Collins said his success comes from a focus on film-work, paying attention to where his coaches need him to be, and using his physical attributes to the best of his ability.

“My quickness off the ball, off the line of scrimmage,” Collins said when asked what has clicked for him against Columbia. “We watched film all day, all week. I had to get my hands on the tackle if he wasn’t down-blocking me, coming at me on the pass rush and get in the backfield. And I was there to make the plays.”

He’s been there to make plays a lot this season, but Collins said he doesn’t do it alone.

Standing next to him while he talked was sophomore defensive lineman Abdullah Hamilton. The two have an easy chemistry, which Collins said is one the whole defensive line shares.

“We always get on each other in practice,” he said of the defensive line. “The teamwork is getting better and better, building team chemistry. The beginning of the season we were starting off kind of slow, but now, I’m here with my D-linemen and stuff, and we’re talking every day, hanging out with each other every day, team bonding and all that, just building the line stronger. It makes me a better person and helps the whole D-line.”

Collins said that he knows not only his fellow defensive linemen will back him up on the field when he needs it, but the linebackers as well.

“If I can’t make the play I can always count on my linebackers — Terrell [Santana], Nareece [Wright] Willie [Matthews], Josh [Crawford], Amare [Witter] — they’re playmakers. They’re all playmakers. They all do their job.”

One thing Collins knows for sure is the whole defense is going to have to be playmakers and do their jobs against what will be a tough Seton Hall Prep offensive line.

“They’ve got big size on the line, so we have to work on getting hands on the tackles and get good hand placement,” Collins said of the Pirates. “Seton Hall is always a challenge every year. It’s all about being physical this week.”

Batten down the hatches!

Big offensive and lines are just one of the challenges the Mounties will face this weekend when they head to the Edward D. and Helen M. Kelly Athletic Complex this Saturday for a 2 p.m. game.

Both teams enter the game with a 3-2 record, and while the outcome doesn’t impact their divisional standings, a win or loss will both change the perception of the team from the outside, as well as alter what each team gets in terms of power points, thereby affecting their playoff chances.

Fiore knows that the Pirates will be gunning for the Mounties, which means his team has to be on point.

“We’re big on their schedule, and a win is a notch on their belt,” he said after the Mounties defeated Columbia. “If we don’t get better quarterback play, if we don’t get better running back play, if we don’t get better o-line play, we don’t get better tackling on defense, and know where we’re supposed to be in our pass defense, it’s going to be a long day. Because they’re going to be disciplined and not make mistakes. And we can’t make mistakes.”

Mistakes have been what kill the Mounties, both in losses and wins, and they have been trying to clean up “the little things” for five games now, to varying degrees of success.

On offense, SHP will run the ball more often than they pass. So far this season, they have called 155 runs for 683 yards and nine touchdowns, while attempting just 94 passes, completing 53 of them for 581 yards and five touchdowns.

Quarterback Aiden Gilman has a lot of those runs though, stacking up a team leading 218 yards and five scores on 40 carries, and averaging 5.45 yards a carry. When he doesn’t keep the ball, he most often hands it to Luca D’Emilio, who has carried the ball a team high 53 times for 196 yards and three touchdowns, but averaging just 3.69 yards a carry.

In the Mounties favor is the tendency of Gilman to occasionally be slow in keeping or handing off the ball. If the defense keeps their eye on him, they should be able to read who has the ball.

Running the ball a lot doesn’t mean the Pirates can’t throw though, and watching games like their 37-29 win over Paramus Catholic shows Gilman is capable of moving the chains by passing. The Pirates did a lot of quick outs and screen passes, throwing the ball underneath while drawing the coverage out of the way with other receivers.

When on offense themselves, the Mounties have to stay out of their own way more than anything else. They have to keep the ball secure when running it, and quarterback Charles Murphy Jr has to make good choices when reading the defense. There has been a fair amount of times when he could run for the first and goes for the pass instead, and that’s something that the coaching staff would like to change a little bit. Murphy has tremendous athleticism, and the team is better when he leans on it.

Odds and Ends

After a lot of hard work behind the scenes, coach Fiore was happy to announce this week that Mounties football finally has a new website.

Located at, the team and booster club intends for it to be a great resource for athletes, fans and alumni with pictures, videos, general information, schedules and historical information all in one place.

Also, there’s still time to buy your Mounties T-shirt to support the team. You can see any member of the Gridiron Club at a home game or head over to All-Lacrosse, located at 147 Valley Road, Montclair. Wear your shirt to a game and you’ll get a voucher good for a pretzel and water.