East Orange Campus roars in season opener

EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange Campus Jaguars opened their shortened season against the Lancers of Livingston on Saturday, Oct. 3, at Paul Robeson Stadium in East Orange. East Orange is coming off a 9-2 campaign last season and hopes to keep the momentum going in the current season. With the season condensed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, both squads were looking to get their seasons going in the right direction — but it was ultimately the Jaguars who flexed their muscles early and often.

Led by seniors Locksley Burke, Terrell Neals, Al-Shadee Salaam and Matthew Ziao, the Jaguars found the endzone early in the first quarter. They first set the tone on defense when Neals shot into the Lancers’ backfield to record the first sack of the season for the Jags, all the while keeping the Lancers to three and out, a situation that forced Livingston to punt. East Orange went to work with new junior quarterback Raeden Oliver taking the helm after Quadir Scott and Nasir Montgomery both graduated this past year; Scott enrolled at East Stroudsburg University and Montgomery at Rutgers University. Oliver and the Jags started from their own 38-yard line where Ziao peeled off an immediate 16-yard run to set the spark in the offense. Salaam then contributed a 7-yard run before toasting the Lancers’ secondary and hauling in some air mail from Oliver for a 33-yard touchdown strike, giving East Orange an early 6-0 lead after a blocked PAT kick.

Burke, who earned eight tackles and one sack, and company pinned their ears back, keeping the Lancers behind their own 40-yard line for much of the game. Burke had a near pick 6 when a pass from Livingston hit him on the hands, forcing the Lancers to punt for the second time in the game. Setting up shop on their 38-yard line after a blocking in the back penalty, the Jaguars marched 62 yards in nine plays when senior running back Sharif Bryan bulled his way to paydirt from 14 yards out, capping the drive with 3:10 left in the first quarter. Livingston recorded their third three and out, giving East Orange the ball back with just less than two minutes left in the first quarter. Starting from their own 41-yard line, the Jaguars proceeded to kill the clock in the first quarter with three short runs that set up the backfield tandem of Ziao and Bryan, as they combined for 59 yards rushing in seven plays, during which Bryan tiptoed a tightrope, capping the drive from 23 yards out, taking an 18-0 lead over the Lancers. East Orange was forced to punt midway through the second quarter, providing their defense another opportunity to play hot potato with Livingston’s quarterback. The Jaguar defense came up with three sacks and a fumble to end the first half, all the while Oliver found Salaam for a sliding 18-yard catch that set up Ziao for a 3-yard touchdown, capping a 26-yard sprint to the house with just 59 ticks left in the first half.

The third quarter was a little different. With the Jaguars looking to pitch a shutout on a commanding 26-0 lead, the Lancers were slowly waking up, forcing East Orange to make slight adjustments on the fly after sacking Oliver and getting the ball back off a forced punt. But they could not capitalize as the Jags took over on down and showed why they were playoff-bound last season and are favored to repeat again this season. The Jags made quick work with the help of Ziao, Bryan and Salaam who went eight plays in 55 yards, scoring their last score for the game and the 33-0 lead. But Livingston was able to muster points off a 12-play drive, eating up the minutes of the final quarter to avoid being shutout.

Neither team’s coach was available for comment by press time. Both teams will work toward the second game of the season, where Livingston will remain on the road for their battle against the Randolph Rams while East Orange will hop the fence to Montclair to take on the Mounties.