Montclair football players got first hints of trouble on social media
The Montclair High School football team was called down for a meeting Friday morning and, four players said, they already knew something was up.
The first signs that something was wrong had come Thursday night when students from Ridgewood High School posted to social media that its playoff game with Montclair was not going to be played because the Mounties had been banned, junior football players Kal Wilson, Tyler Porter, Leland Rogers and freshman Rayan Bounkit said.
It was only when the team was called together on Friday morning that they found out that the social media posts were correct and that one of their teammates had been academically ineligible to play during the season, they said.
That meant that Montclair would have to forfeit all its games from the regular season and was no longer eligible to play Ridgewood on Friday night in the state playoffs.
This was a major disappointment for the Mounties, who had upset Ridgewood just two weeks earlier in a regular-season game.
Meanwhile, with no official statement shared with the rest of the high school student body, students began to wonder what was going on, sharing the bits of information they could find out, Justin Comini and Jacob Kugelmass, the Montclair Board of Education student representatives, said Friday.
At 10:45 a.m., Ponds sent an email to parents and caregivers explaining the situation. The message was not sent to Montclair High School students. As of Friday afternoon, no message had been sent to the student body, Comini said.
Even with limited information, students were disappointed about the development.
Montclair having to forfeit its season is unfair, Wilson said.
“It frustrates everyone, especially the seniors,” Wilson said. “We have next year, but the seniors have no chance. It got stripped away.”
Porter agreed, saying he was “still mad about it even though we have next year.”
The seniors were “pretty bummed out” after the team meeting, the players said.
“I feel terrible for our football team, especially the seniors as this is their final season,” Comini said.
Two senior girls who are close with the football players said Friday the seniors were emotional, and they were trying to give them space.
The girls heard about what was going on Thursday night — they saw the posts from Ridgewood students and checked in with the Montclair football players, they said.
Early reports said that former Montclair head football coach John Fiore, who is now Elizabeth's coach, had blown the whistle on the Mounties.
“I feel like it’s wrong, and it’s kind of petty for a former coach to do this now, the day before the playoff game,” one girl said. “It doesn’t really make sense why they’d report it now and not at the beginning of the season.”
“It was done in spite,” the other said.
Fiore said through his lawyer on Friday that he had received a call from an anonymous person who asked him what he knew about Montclair's ineligible player. Fiore told the caller he was no longer the Montclair coach then called Montclair officials to let them know about the "weird call."