Rough Riders slow the Tornadoes’ home opener

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ORANGE, NJ — It was an early test for both the Orange Tornadoes and the Newark West Side Rough Riders as they rekindled their rivalry this past Friday evening, Oct. 9, at Bell Stadium in Orange. The last time these two schools met on the gridiron was 2015. Coming into Friday’s game, Orange had won three of the last four contests between the two schools from 2011 through 2015, with the Tornadoes winning by a combined score of 97-28.

From the opening whistle both schools had something to prove; West Side was coming off a stunning 31-18 loss to Nutley while Orange was still feeling high off its big 55-13 win over Barringer. West Side was looking to right the ship while Orange felt the pressure to keep the Rough Riders at bay. Both schools struggled through the first quarter, looking to make this a battle of the heavyweights. West Side — led by linebacker Corey Walker, quarterback Devion Sheppard and running back Jahmir Dooley — deferred the opening kickoff after winning the coin toss. Orange, led by running back and linebacker Montez Boswell, quarterback Edwin Thomas III, and tight end Louce Julien found success running the ball against the vaunted Rough Riders defense, but were not able to score against them in the first quarter. 

West Side took over from their own 7-yard line midway through the first quarter and marched almost the length of the field in 10 plays, showing why they are among the top teams in the state. Sheppard found his targets in wide receiver Shaquan Loyal and Dashawn Lawton while Walker and Dooley toted the rock, setting up the 3-yard dive up the middle by Loyal to break a scoreless tie to begin the second quarter. Not to be outdone, Orange went 73 yards in three minutes capped by Boswell’s 27-yard thunderous run to lock the score up at 6-6 before the half.

The difference maker for both teams was the third quarter, during which West Side took advantage of the kickoff when Orange attempted to gain some momentum with a squib kick. But the Rough Riders just flexed their muscles with a three-minute 55-yard drive in six plays with Sheppard finding Loyal outdistancing the Tornadoes’ defensive backfield with a 24-yard drop in the bucket to pull ahead 12-6 over the Tornadoes. 

Orange had an opportunity to tie the game, but costly penalties and a muffed punt proved a help to West Side as they immediately fed the ball to Dooley, who sprinted 45 yards for the 20-6 lead with 2:08 left in the third quarter. Orange did find an answer for much of the second half. 

“We knew we had to change our game plan after the muffed punt,” Orange head coach Randy Daniel said. “We knew that our ground game would be effective if we maintained it between the tackles, but the interception and fumble hurt us.” 

West Side found the endzone twice more when Sheppard unloaded a 38-yard bomb to wide receiver Yasin Clarke that set up Loyal’s 3-yard scoot into the house. On Orange’s next possession, West Side sniffed out the running game when they snagged a pick-6 from Orange’s freshman quarterback Maurice Williams, who stepped in for Thomas, who had been injured. Loyal’s pick-6 gave West Side a 34-6 lead with just 6:11 left in the game. Orange would not be denied as they went back to the drawing board, marching 82 yards capped by Boswell’s 8-yard touchdown with 3:04 left in the game. 

“We needed to see this,” Boswell said. “We cruised through our game scrimmage and the first game against Barringer. We were not ready for the caliber of players that West Side has. With this game out of the way, we can refocus on the next game.” 

Boswell finished the night with 105 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns.

West Side capped the scoring with a 40-yard kickoff return by Walker to ice the game at 40-14. 

“We didn’t play the full game against Nutley last week. We knew we had to play the whole game,” West Side head coach Marion Bell said. “We trained for 48 minutes every day so that we cannot repeat the mistakes we made against Nutley.”

Both teams will be on the road for the next two weeks. Orange will go to Nutley followed by Columbia, while West Side will take on Millburn and Belleville.

Photos Courtesy of Kerry Porter