Montclair football stuns Ridgewood on the road, earns state tournament playoff bid
Montclair got that big victory that had eluded the team for the last few weeks on Friday night.
Still feeling the sting from a last-minute loss the previous week at Irvington (22-21, Oct. 7), the Mounties sought an upset of the one-loss Ridgewood team — and got it, 17-10, assuring themselves a state playoff bid.
Following the pattern of this season, Montclair's offense was pretty much stymied in the first half, with only a 38-yard Gage Hammond field goal on the scoreboard. The Mounties were down 10-3 at halftime.
But as it has in previous games, the offense woke up in the second half.
Senior running back Semaj Adams scored a pair of touchdowns in that half to lead the team to the crucial victory on the road. The win raised the Mounties’ record to 3-4.
"We got our upset," Adams said after the game. "I think we’re a second-half team, and we did what we had to do tonight."
Adams ran 16 times for 121 yards and also excelled on defense, with an interception in the second quarter. "I'm just trying to do anything I can for the team," he said.
In the North Group 5 power rankings before the contest, Montclair was seeded 13th, with the top 16 qualifying for the state playoffs. Before the game Ridgewood was the second seed in North Group 5, so the Mounties picked up several power points with their victory.
It is the first year for Mounties head coach Jermain Johnson. "It is what the school needed, the kids needed, and the town needed," Johnson said about qualifying for the playoffs.
Montclair hosts Columbia in the last regular season game on Saturday, Oct. 22, at 1 p.m. With a victory over Columbia the Mounties could receive a first-round state playoff game at home.
But Johnson is not looking to the state tournament just yet. "We need to win next week," the coach said.
The Mounties would like to have momentum going into the states and would especially like to win back-to-back games for the first time this year.
Against Ridgewood, the Montclair defense was able to contain the Maroon Wing-T offense since it already had some experience with the run-heavy attack. The Mounties’ defense had learned the hard way in a 31-6 defeat to Union City and its Wing-T on Sept. 17 at Woodman Field.
"The Union City game really helped us get ready for Ridgewood," Johnson said. "We needed to stick to our assignments."
Along with Adams’, Montclair's defense had another interception, by junior David Thom-Rodgers, whose pick stopped a Ridgewood drive with four minutes remaining in the game.
Adams was not the only Mountie to excel on the ground. Sophomore Ja-Khi Chance ran 11 times for 71 yards.
"That's my little dude," Adams said about Chance. "When I have a long run, I know he can come in and run for 10 or 15 yards."
Montclair’s offense started moving at the start of the third quarter.
In the first series of the second half, it was a combination of Adams, Chance and junior quarterback Drew Pfeifer running and a couple of Pfeifer passes that culminated in a 12-yard Adams rushing touchdown. The play came on a fourth down and one.