by Andrew Garda

Sometimes good news comes in waves. The first piece of good news for the Montclair High School boys soccer team came when Will Moore blasted a ball past the West Orange keeper on a penalty kick with 31:29 left in the second half.

That goal would be the difference, though the Mounties (10-0, 6-0) added two more for a 3-0 victory over the Mountaineers (7-3-1, 3-3-1), Monday afternoon at Fortunato Field.

“Will Moore was awesome,” head coach Toure Weaver said after the game. “We got the PK and I was just going through the first seconds of deciding who I wanted to take it, and he ran, took the ball and put it down. I was like ‘All right.’ Taking PKs is about confidence, so once he did that, I was like, ‘We’re good. Go ahead.’”
The second piece of good news came moments after the game was over. Someone pulled Weaver aside after the two teams shook hands, letting him know that Seton Hall Prep had just lost to Millburn, giving them two losses on the year and the undefeated Mounties the conference title.

“All year long we’ve been talking about getting hardware and there’s three things to win,” Weaver said. “There’s the conference, there’s the counties and there’s the states. We haven’t gotten any hardware in some years now, so just getting this first one is a big confidence booster and it feels good.”

It feels especially good when the team considers how tough the conference is.

“You read the articles in the paper, and most people consider the Super Essex Conference as the best conference in New Jersey,” said Weaver. “So, to be able to win the conference is a huge deal. The guys should be super proud.”

The Mounties did it with several players banged up and playing hurt. Weaver said that this team doesn’t shy away from adversity, they embrace it.

“Last week we had Belleville and Columbia away on really bad grass, and in years past we either tied those games or lost,” Weaver said. “And it was difficult, we couldn’t play our style of knocking around on the ground. We had to change it up and go longball, which we don’t like to do, but in both those games we found ways to win.”

Finding ways to win on the soccer field means making the most of the chances you get. It means burying a penalty kick, as Moore did, or taking advantage of West Orange’s defense losing the ball at their goal line, as Marcos Ribeiro did for the Mounties’ second goal. Or it means gathering a rebound off a penalty kick outside the box, and sending it past the keeper, as Gardner Temkin did for MHS’ final goal with just over 13 minutes left in regulation.

It means playing through bumps, bruises, and in the case of goalie Ben Middlemiss, a slight migraine and a super-wet ball.

“He was good off his line, and these are tough conditions for a goalkeeper,” Weaver said of his netminder. “It’s wet, the ball skims, so for him to be able play so well in this type of weather, it was really good.”

In the end, Middlemiss only had to record a handful of saves, and the credit to that goes to an excellent defensive effort by the Mounties.

West Orange features some very fast players at midfield and forward, and focus a lot of their offensive efforts feeding the ball to their leading goal-scorer, Kalleo Mendes.

The Mounties defense, led by Mason Davisson at right back, Evan O’Brien and Mehdi El Filali as center backs and Evan Best at left back, did an excellent job of completely negating Mendes, while also neutralizing the Mountaineers’ speed on the outside.

Weaver said that the defense has been a focus since August.

“That’s preseason. All preseason. We spent the first whole week working on individual defending, secondary defending and then group defending and team defending. That’s just how we roll.”

Weaver would like his team to keep on rolling, because while the conference is clinched up, there is still soccer to be played.

The Mounties beat Montclair Kimberley Academy Wednesday 2-1 during a spirited game between the crosstown rivals.

They then have a makeup game against Caldwell on the road Friday before playing a home game against Saint Benedict’s Prep on Saturday. Then they play Bloomfield High School at Montclair State Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

Tuesday night they found out they were awarded the first seed in the upcoming Essex County Boys Tournament.

Which should remind them that there’s more of that hardware to be won as well, with the Mounties looking to keep making noise in the upcoming County and State tournaments.