Montclair Football Notebook: Halfway mark stats, Columbia preview
COURTESY WIL YOUNG
by Andrew Garda
We’re essentially halfway through the 2018 season football season for the Montclair High School Mounties, so we’ve got a solid basis to take a look at how the team is doing statistically. With a 2-2 record, we already know it’s been an up-and-down season, which the numbers bear out so far, and perhaps nowhere is it as clear as the overall point differential.
So far this season, the Mounties have scored 89 points, an average of 22.25 points a game. Conversely, the team has allowed 102 points, or 25.5 a game.
It’s worth noting that the loss to Massillon skewed the macro numbers a bit. Take away the 49 points and the mere 7 the Mounties got, and you’re looking at 27.33 points averaged a game by the offense compared to 19 allowed. It’s still closer than anyone would like, but it helps give a better perspective of where the team is.
The reality is, this team is still finding its way, and yet is still out-scoring its opponents (Massillon aside). Even with Massillon, they are out-gaining them in terms of overall yards 1,268 to 1,203, and touchdowns, 10 scored compared to eight allowed.
The biggest change in the past few weeks has been in the passing game. After throwing 52 times against West Orange, the Mounties have asked Charles Murphy Jr. to throw just 65 more times. Again, the loss to the Tigers skews the total, as the Mounties didn’t pass much, but between Nutley and East Orange, Murphy only threw 53 passes.
Drops and missed routes have been an issue, and overall the receivers and quarterback just don’t appear to be on the same page.
On the plus side, Murphy has begun to really shine on the ground, running for 96 yards and a touchdown this past week against East Orange, bringing his season total to 293 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Against Nutley and East Orange, Murphy ran for 221 yards.
Not surprisingly, those were two games where Josh Crawford was more effective. Crawford, who has 157 yards and five touchdowns on the season, had his two best games against the same teams Murphy succeeded against, running for 53 yards against Nutley and 101 yards against East Orange, finding the end zone twice in each game.
Those two games seem to be indicating a trend the Mounties have to like.
On defense the Mounties front seven has played pretty well, especially considering Willie Matthews was out for part of both the East Orange and West Orange games.
Leading the charge — and with the most tackles — are Terrel Santana (31 total), Gary Robinson (21) and Amarae Witter (20). Shawn Collins’ two sacks on Saturday against the Jaguars puts him at the top of the sack total, tied with Witter with two on the season.
They could produce some more pressure, and the tackling could use some work in terms of wrapping up and overall technique, but for the most part the job is getting done up front.
The secondary has struggled a bit more, despite generating five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Tariq Jiles continues to be the most consistent and effective defensive back this season, coming up big more than once and currently leading the secondary with five defended passes.
What stands out right now is the last two games, where the defense allowed a total of 452 passing yards and eight touchdowns.
That’s not a trend that the coaching staff will be happy about, and we can be sure it’s a point of emphasis going forward.
After the confusion at the beginning of the season regarding the Gridiron Club’s sale of T-Shirts which allowed free admission, it seemed like it was time to see how having to change the fringe benefits of buying those Mounties shirts was impacted by the policy adjustment.
According to Gridiron President Sue Moore, sales are significantly down.
“As of right now, we are losing $2,000 on them,” she wrote in an email on Monday.
So if you want to help support the Mounties football team, you can do so either by seeing Moore or any of the Gridiron club members working at the next home game, or by going to All-Lacrosse on Valley Road, and purchasing a shirt. A reminder that when you come to the game wearing your shirt, you will get a voucher for a free pretzel and a bottle of water.
RELATED: MOUNTIES EDGE EAST ORANGE, 28-27
IT’S A TRAP
Much like a famous fish/admirable warned in “Return of the Jedi,” it’s always important to be careful when things are going well.
At 1-3, the Columbia Cougars look like a team the Mounties should skate on past without breaking a sweat. But as Admiral Ackbar, and any football fan can tell you, those are the games you need to look out for.
That’s not to say Columbia should worry the Mounties overmuch — just that they shouldn’t be cavelier about the Cougars.
Especially given the loss to West Orange, which should be a warning sign for the entire season. Come to think of it, the Mounties should be concerned about letting East Orange back in Saturday’s game as well.
There’s a pretty good chance that Willie Matthews will get the day off, which means Josh Crawford will be critical on both sides of the ball. So while the team will still lean on him for duties in the backfield, the coaching staff will have to be careful not to over-exert him. Expect to see Nate Bryan and Jordan Diggs get carries, and they will have to be careful not to put the ball on the ground.
One would imagine we see more of Murphy on keepers and bootleg runs as well, as the team tries to get him into space where his athleticism makes him almost impossible to tackle.
Defensively, there’s not much the Cougars do well enough to be a massive threat, but again, those are the teams you have to be careful of. This is a good time for the secondary to step up. There’s a good chance the Mounties get off to an early lead and if they do, the defense as a whole — and the secondary specifically — has to do a better job of protecting that lead than occurred against East Orange and, more damagingly, against West Orange.
The defense — and really the whole team — needs to develop that killer instinct the 2017 team had and finish teams when they have them on the ropes.
Columbia is a good place to start to re-establish that with this team.