Montclair Kimberley football takes ‘learning experience’ from season opening loss
Montclair Kimberley head coach Anthony Rea used everything he could in his offensive bag of tricks to bring home a win in the kickoff to the 2022 season.
But while some worked, most didn't, as Morristown Beard's size on the line combined with the play of Crimson running back Marcello Laracca would lead to three touchdowns, including a 24-yard score in the first quarter that put MKA down 8-0.
In the end the Cougars’ youth was not able to counteract the Crimson, as MKA fell 26-7 on Friday, Sept. 1, at home in the season opener for both schools.
Despite the loss, Rea was content that his team was only down one or two scores for most of the game.
"I think we wanted to compete, and I think we were right there for most of the game," he said.
The lone Montclair Kimberley touchdown came out of the bag of tricks in Rea's offensive playbook.
On a second down and nine at the Crimson 17, sophomore quarterback Miles Black pitched back to senior Jordan Fishback, who fired a pass to senior running back Nic Lembo, who was wide open before the end zone and walked in for a touchdown. MKA senior kicker Sohan Agarwal hit the point after, and the Cougars trimmed the Morristown Beard lead to 8-7 a minute into the second quarter.
With only four seniors on the roster and the bulk of the team first- and second-year players, Rea said that it will take some time for them to grow up.
"With most of the team as freshmen and sophomores, it will be a learning experience," the coach said. "But I think we're right there."
The game might have been closer if the Cougars had capitalized on an early Morristown Beard turnover.
MKA sophomore defensive lineman Nick Conforti recovered a Crimson fumble deep in Morristown Beard territory, at the 25.
But the Cougars would return the favor and cough up the ball on the second play of the drive, ruining a perfect chance to go up first.
Another key was untimely penalties that hurt Montclair Kimberley, wiping out big gains. One of those came in the third quarter, when Black's 27-yard completion to sophomore wide receiver Jack Scuorzo that would have put the ball on the Crimson 17 was called back, as MKA was caught holding.
The Cougars could have gone on to slice the Morristown Beard lead to 20-14 or 20-15. Instead, Laracca made them pay on the Crimson's next possession, as he scored the third of his three touchdowns, an 11-yard run, and pushed MKA into a 26-7 deficit.
It was the first varsity game under center for Black, who struggled at times, especially with a young offensive line going up against the bigger defensive line of Morristown Beard. He completed 5 of 14 pass attempts for 34 yards and one interception and was sacked four times. “He got to play in only one junior varsity game last season, so this was his first varsity snaps," Rea said.
For Montclair Kimberley the most effective weapon seemed to be the Wildcat formation, where Rea used a couple of different players, including Fishback and sophomore Kalvin Thomas, who was very effective on some drives.
"He showed a lot of good bursts," the coach said about Thomas, who had nine carries for 53 yards to lead the MKA rushing attack.
Rea is hoping that the experience against Morristown Beard will translate into a victory at Newark Academy on Friday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m. It will be the first of two contests between the two schools in a home-and-home matchup. The other game is at MKA on Oct. 22 at 1 p.m.
Montclair Kimberley Football Schedule
(Dates and times subject to change)
Sept. 9 at Newark Academy, 7 p.m.
Sept. 17 at Fieldston, 1 p.m.
Sept. 24 Riverdale Country School, 1 p.m.
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.