Photos by Steve Ellmore: East Orange Campus (red uniforms) vs. West Orange, Nov. 4, at Paul Robeson Stadium. East Orange Campus won, 29-19.
EAST ORANGE, NJ – The East Orange Campus High School varsity football team defeated West Orange HS, 29-19, Saturday afternoon, Nov. 4, at Paul Robeson Stadium for its second straight win to improve to a 5-3 record.
The Jaguars will now get ready for the NJSIAA state playoffs. East Orange Campus, seeded fourth, will host fifth-seeded Elizabeth in the first round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 5 state playoffs on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Robeson Stadium at 1 p.m. Last season, Elizabeth defeated the Jaguars in the first round of the playoffs.
West Orange was looking to send the Jaguars to playoffs with one more loss in their record book. But that wouldn’t be the case. “East Orange is a very good team when they are clicking on all cylinders,” said West Orange head coach James Matsakis before the game. He went on to say that he was looking forward to seeing what the outcome will be going forward with future matchups.
The game was at a stalemate in the first couple of series. The teams traded three-and-out possessions in which they both were struggling to gain the upper hand. But that changed when East Orange forced a fumble with 6:21 in the first quarter, thanks to DT Nasim Marin swiping a handoff from West Orange QB Dylan Cowley to RB CJ Wilson. Marin threw his head back and rumbled 50 yards the opposite direction with the intent to score, but was tracked down by Wilson with 4:41 in the first quarter. Marin helped set up a crucial drive that would set the tone for the rest of the game.
East Orange was forced to punt one more time before hitting its stride late in the first quarter. The drive was led by QB Nasir Montgomery, who found his targets in WRs Quadir Scott, Jabriel Johnson, and Rady Rojas. Going 82 yards in 14 plays and spanning the last 1:45 in the first quarter and the first 3:14 in the second, Montgomery found Scott in the end zone on a quick hitch route for the 3-yard touchdown for the 7-0 lead.
The Mountaineers weren’t having it as they counter-punched the Jags. Montgomery was again marching his squad downfield but the Mountaineers intercepted one of the passes intended for WR Fayeson Carney. Cowley immediately marched his West Orange teammates 32 yards in under two minutes to once again lock the game in a 7-7 tie with a five-yard scoot into the end zone just before the half.
The third quarter saw the two schools trade more shots at each other on East Orange’s Homecoming Day. The Mountaineers felt they would ease their next counter shot past the Jaguars’ defense with a big 38-yard bomb from Cowley to WR Jahmil St. Pierre, who climbed the ladder to battle for the catch with 6:43 left. The Jaguars’ response was swift and immediate. The ensuing kickoff and West Orange timeout did slow them down. The tandem of Montgomery and Scott hooked up again for a 32-yard touchdown. West Orange was completely baffled as the East Orange defense forced them to lose an average of 10 yards or more per play, thanks to senior LB/DE Devonne Swan (8.5 tackles with 6 sacks). Swan, who wants to attend Alabama or Clemson as a Computer Information and Technology major, said after the game, “I saw something and just wanted to win. We already knew that we were going to the playoffs but it was the fact that winning this game will help us get further to our goal.” Swan would soon sniff out the end zone as he burst through the gut of the West Orange defensive front, bounced off a defending linebacker and dragged two defensive backs before dancing his way to a big 21-yard touchdown sprint to paydirt with 2:04 left in the third quarter. Swan, who finished with four carries for 65 yards and the TD, would resume his defensive duties as Rojas’ kick pinned West Orange behind the 5-yard line. Swan led the charge as they were able to capitalize by dropping Wilson in the end zone for a safety to put the Jags’ lead to 22-13 going into the final frame.
East Orange freshman RB/DB Alshadee Salaam (2 interceptions, 3 rushes for 85 yards, 1 TD) came away big in the fourth quarter. He climbed the ladder to snag a Cowley pass from intended WR Tayo Akinboade to give the Jaguars an added edge. But West Orange was still trying to upend the Jaguars as the “Battle of the Oranges” waged on. West Orange pounced on a fumble that would ultimately force them to turn it over on downs. Salaam would then find a crease on the outside, slip past two oncoming defenders and raced 65 yards later with just 7:40 remaining for a 29-13 lead. West Orange was not quite impressed as it drew up its own quick strike answer to start a rally. But East Orange’s defense once again pushed West Orange backwards again and again before the Mountaineers were able to make a positive gain and ring the scoreboard with 1:34 left in the game. But the 29-19 score was just too much as the Jaguars ran the clock out for their fifth win on the season.
“We were eliminated from the playoffs officially when we tied Livingston,” said West Orange head coach Matsakis. West Orange needed to win against Livingston to stay in the hunt of the North Jersey Section 1 Group 5 playoffs. With the tie, Livingston and Bloomfield will lock up the playoff field for the upcoming first round. West Orange will play Thursday evening at 7 p.m. in a NJSIAA consolation game against Paterson Kennedy in Paterson.
East Orange will also complete the regular season against Barringer High School on Thanksgiving.