Montclair High School football’s first-half woes continue in falling to East Orange
The Montclair High School football coaching staff would just once like to have a lead at halftime.
In the six games so far this season, the Mounties have had the upper hand after 24 minutes only in the second week, against Nutley.
Having to come from behind was again the case on Saturday in the rain, when Montclair faced a 14-0 deficit at the half to another tough foe, East Orange.
While the Mounties played better in the second half, it was not enough, as they dropped a 20-7 decision to the Jaguars at Woodman Field and fell to 2-3 on the season.
The team has had a propensity to get off to a slow start but has come back after halftime. Against the Jaguars, Montclair found the end zone in the second half, but could really never get its offense going on the wet day.
A big part of the reason for falling short against the better teams has been crucial penalties on both sides of the ball.
After the game Mounties first-year head coach Jermain Johnson basically said the defeats, including to East Orange, have been self-inflicted. "It's on us, and we need to stop beating ourselves," Johnson said, referring to miscues and penalties.
An example came in the first quarter. Montclair was on the move and got a good 14-yard run from sophomore Ja-Khi Chance to get to the East Orange 19 yard line. The Mounties had a manageable third down and one, but after the play they were called for a personal foul.
Instead of being on the East Orange 19, Montclair was on the Jaguars’ 34 yard line. From there they would go backward, and the drive would stall, and the Mounties would have to punt.
As it turned out, Montclair would not get that close to the end zone again until the fourth quarter, when senior running back Samaj Adams scored on a six-yard run.
Defensively, Montclair struggled against East Orange's top offensive weapons, running back Irijah Wright and wide receiver Joshua Richards.
As in the loss to Union City a couple weeks ago, the Mounties’ defense struggled to stop the running game, as the Jaguars piled up 174 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.
"We just have to get tougher in the middle," Johnson said.
Following the trend this season for better play in the final 24 minutes, Montclair junior quarterback Drew Pfeifer showed more in the second half, as he completed 7 of 18 pass attempts for 138 yards but also threw an interception.
The Mounties’ running game was led by Adams with 71 yards on 14 carries.
Adams also was the lone Montclair player to score, on that six-yard run with 11 minutes remaining in the contest to slice the East Orange lead to 20-7.
But the Mounties could not get any closer, as their two final drives came up empty.
In addition to the senior runners, Adams and Justin Bernal, Montclair might have an up-and-coming runner in sophomore Chance, who ran five times for 52 yards. "Our young kids are the future," Johnson said about several younger players getting playing time this season.
Montclair has another tough contest coming up, at Irvington on Saturday, Oct. 8, at 1 p.m. The Blue Knights are 4-2 on the season, having lost to Union City, 19-15, last weekend.
Montclair Football Schedule
(Dates and times subject to change)
Oct. 8 at Irvington, 1 p.m.
Oct. 14 at Ridgewood, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 21 Columbia, 1 p.m.