Montclair Kimberley football: Cougars fall just short of defeating Riverdale Country
By HANK GREENBERG
For Montclair Local
The very first play for the Montclair Kimberley football team on Saturday against Riverdale Country School would set the tone that it would be a hard-fought battle at home.
The Cougars forced a fumble and recovered the ball.
On the following drive MKA’s dynamic running attack, led by senior running back Nic Lembo and senior wide receiver Jordan Fishback, moved the ball into the red zone.
However, the Cougars were pushed back out of it because of consecutive false-start penalties. The Falcons got the ball back on downs.
That could have been a portent for things to come.
Montclair Kimberley could not finish the deal as it fell 34-27 to Riverdale. With the defeat the Cougars dropped to 2-2 on the season.
"I thought we played really hard," MKA head coach Anthony Rea said. "Sometimes, it’s just not your day. Honestly, they made one or two plays more than us, and that was the difference.”
After going down 34-27, Montclair Kimberley had two opportunities to either tie the game or win it in the final minutes.
But both attempts fell short in the last 90 seconds.
In the first of those attempts, the high-stakes drive ended quickly, after two incomplete passes, a tackle for loss and a sack on fourth down.
Yet the game still was not over.
With less than a minute left, the MKA defense pulled off a miraculous goal-line stand by stopping the Riverdale offense and giving the Cougars one more shot, with 35 seconds left on the clock.
The drive started off with a brave double-pass that resulted in Fishback catching the ball for 29 yards. Another short pass and catch made it feel like momentum was about to shift back toward the Cougars.
However, the next and final play quashed those hopes, as Riverdale's Lucas Black made a game-sealing interception.
Despite not getting the game-winning touchdown, Rea was proud of his defense for the goal-line stand and for giving the offense one more shot. "Just being able to get the ball back was big,” he said.
After being down 21-14 at halftime, Montclair Kimberley's offense came out on fire in the third quarter.
Lembo ran for 27 yards on the opening play of the quarter, and Fishback finished the drive with a 35-yard touchdown run. The extra point was blocked, and the Cougars were down, 21-20. For the game Lembo ran 21 times for 87 yards.
On its next offensive possession, MKA returned to the ground game. Lembo punched in from 11 yards out to complete the comeback. Once down by 14, the Cougars now led by a score of 27-21. But those were the last points MKA scored.
While the Cougars collected the first turnover of the game, Riverdale took advantage of an errant throw from MKA in the first quarter. Falcons linebacker Owen Landis caught the ball and ran it back for a touchdown. The Cougars were down, 7-0.
It wasn't until seven minutes remaining in the first half that Montclair Kimberley got on the board, and it was in a big way.
MKA quarterback Miles Black hit junior wide receiver Jaylen Ankrah-Jones down the sidelines. As he ran, Ankrah-Jones beautifully stiff-armed the defensive back assigned to him and scored in a play totaling 90 yards, tying the game at seven. For the game Ankrah-Jones had three catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns.
But the Cougars defense could not hold the Riverdale offense. The Falcons scored twice to take a 21-7 lead late in the first half.
Black and the MKA offense came quickly down the field to get into the red zone as the seconds ticked away. The Riverdale defense gave the Cougars a hand.
It was Lembo and Ankrah-Jones who were the stars at the end of this drive, getting the team near the goal line with less than 20 seconds left on the clock.
Because of penalties called against both teams, MKA had the opportunity to make four plays within the final four seconds of the half.
In what was expected to be the last play of the half, Lembo rolled left and tried to find an open receiver, but his throw was deflected.
But instead of the half being over, Riverdale was called for roughing Lembo, and MKA had one more chance.
On an untimed down with no seconds on the clock, Ankrah-Jones caught a two-yard pass from Black and scored his second touchdown of the day as the Cougars sliced the Riverdale lead to 21-14. For the game Black completed 7 of 14 pass attempts for 137 yards and two touchdowns.
Montclair Kimberley will try to get over .500 again when it plays the Dalton School at home Saturday, Oct. 1, at 3 p.m. After that, the Cougars will play at Horace Mann and at Pingry. The final game of the season is at home against Newark Academy.
Montclair Kimberley Football Schedule
(Dates and times subject to change)
Oct. 1 Dalton School, 3 p.m.
Oct. 8 at Horace Mann, 2:30 p.m.
Oct. 14 at Pingry, 7 p.m.
Oct. 22 Newark Academy, 1 p.m.