EAST ORANGE, NJ (updated Monday Nov. 27, 10:26 a.m.) – For the ninth straight time on Thanksgiving Day, the East Orange Campus High School varsity football team defeated Barringer, 21-0, at Paul Robeson Stadium behind sophomore running back Bryant Manuel’s two touchdown runs.
The Jaguars finished the season with a 6-4 record in Rae Oliver’s first year as head coach.
On Thanksgiving Day around the state, several high school football rivalries played out their annual traditions – games like Madison versus Millburn (85th game and the last of the rivalry) as well as Phillipsburg High School versus Easton High School in Easton, Pa., and Millville versus Vineland in South Jersey.
But locally, three of the biggest rivalries were right here in the Greater Newark and suburban Essex County area. Two of those games involved three Newark high schools in which two of those schools played each other twice in a two-week span. Five of the six teams all had playoff berths where three of the five will be vying for their respective state crowns. Meanwhile, the other two teams were knocked out in the first round.
East Orange Campus, Barringer, Malcolm X. Shabazz, Weequahic, Montclair, and Bloomfield are all steeped with traditions, legacies, and, of course, rivalries. Among these close rivals are competitors that in turn become great friends and family. “These rivalries go back generations” said Oliver at a recent Old Guard Banquet. “It is important that our current players meet and know their past. We have former high school and college All-Americans who played for us that constantly support us going back to the classes of 1946-1948.” He is referring to the longest-standing rivalry game with the former East Orange High School Panthers, now East Orange Campus Jaguars, that goes back to 1897 where there was a 14-year stoppage from 1994-2008.
The Blue Bears and Jaguars played to a scoreless first quarter where both defenses did not allow the opposing offenses much yardage, trading punts and interceptions, although Barringer owned the time of possession and yardage per play. East Orange saw an opportunity to pounce in the second quarter, going 49 yards in seven plays, sending Manual to the end zone from 4 yards out with 8:38 left in the first half. Barringer made a quarterback switch from junior Zamar Wise to backup freshman Corey Walker, who made an impact with Wise at WR. But the East Orange defense, led by LB Devonne Swan (four tackles and two sacks) and Andre Higgs (10 tackles and one sack) kept the Blue Bears from finding their stride, combining for three sacks and forcing both quarterbacks from connecting with their deep threat receiver in Wakil Stafford and Shaulb Graves, who combined for three receptions for 15 yards.
The third quarter saw East Orange QB Nasir Montgomery suffer his third interception of the day to start the second half. But EOCHS quickly got the ball back after the defense shut the Blue Bears down again with their fourth punt of the game. Montgomery and company took over with 7:12 left in the third quarter on the Barringer 27-yardline. Montgomery ushered the Jags with a quick 4-yard run and a 10-yard pass to Quadir Scott before sending Manuel to a 20-yard sprinting score to go up 14-0.
The Jaguars traded more punts with the Blue Bears, who couldn’t get more opportunities in the East Orange red zone in the fourth quarter. East Orange marched the ball down to the field in three plays with a big 22-yard connection from Montgomery to WR Fayeson Carney that set up FB Devonne Swan’s 1-yard plunge for the final 21-0 score.
“I am extremely happy for what we accomplished this year,” stated Oliver after the game. “It was the process that we started once I came on in April.” He is expecting to take his second season and build upon what he has in the return of a fairly youthful team of mostly sophomores and juniors. “I am excited to see what comes out of the next several years.”