EAST ORANGE, NJ – The 2018 NJSIAA High School football playoffs kicked off with a bang Friday evening, Nov. 2, in Basking Ridge.
The North Jersey Section 2 Group 5 matchup between fourth-seeded Ridge High School and fifth-seeded East Orange Campus High School answered some questions that gave us a bright insight into what’s to come for both squads in future seasons.
Ridge is definitely a threat in the North Jersey Group 5 landscape and will pose a problem for those that face them. East Orange, on the other hand, is one team that is definitely back on the rise despite the 28-7 first-round loss to Ridge under rainy conditions.
The Jaguars had their four-game winning streak snapped and moved to a 6-3 record, while Ridge improved to 8-1 on the season.
“With a combination of the weather and some miscues, we weren’t on our game,” said East Orange Campus HS head coach Rae Oliver.
Ridge Red Devils Head Coach Bill Tracy is very familiar with the way East Orange likes to play. “We want to contain them and not let them get to the edge,” he stated prior to kickoff. Tracy had coached previously at Livingston for 11 years and was able to keep East Orange guessing during that time.
Ridge took advantage of a first-quarter penalty that put the Jaguars at a slight disadvantage on their first possession of the game. The penalty took the Jags out of scoring position which forced them to punt away the ball for the first time since playing Seton Hall Prep in Week 4. Red Devils QB Wesley Hudkins saw an opportunity to lob a 30-yard connection to WR Cameron Lloyd. East Orange was stunned with that and was not ready for the two big plays that came after that. The 98-yard, five-play drive, which started by one of East Orange punter Leonard Munford’s three booming punts that pinned Ridge against its own end zone, was capped by the first of three one-yard plunges by Ridge RB/LB Christian Sweeney.
East Orange responded quickly on its second possession. QB Nasir Montgomery found wiggle room when broke out of an almost impossible situation. The Red Devils defense, led by Sweeney and Hudkins, had Montgomery bottled up in the backfield, but couldn’t quite close the deal as Montgomery escaped for a big gain to put the Jaguars within striking distance. He used his RB-by-committee of Locksley Burke, Bryant Manuel, and Munford before tossing up an 11-yard corner pocket strike to WR Quadir Scott to pull the Jaguars even 7-7 after the PAT kick by Munford with 2:48 left in the first quarter.
The second quarter was pretty much about gamesmanship and trickery when both sides tried a fake punt with Ridge coming away with the positive yards that set up its second touchdown. Sweeney would do the honors for the one-yard dive into the house after escaping for 45 yards to give his team the go-ahead 14-7 score with just 34 seconds left in the first half.
The second half was all Ridge. The Red Devils were able to stick to their game plan of containing the Jaguars and winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. “We were prepared, but we couldn’t execute the plays we like to run,” said Oliver as he referred to the adjustments that Ridge made on the fly. The containment led to the Red Devils limiting his star players to no rushing touchdowns and just one through the air with just 37 rushing attempts for 170 yards and 7 of14 passes for 47 yards.
Ridge’s passing tandem of Hudkins and Lloyd hooked up for a 48-yard touchdown pass to put the game at 21-7 in the third quarter. Sweeney found his third and final touchdown of the night which would be from a yard out in the fourth quarter to close out the Jaguars’ playoff hopes as the Red Devils advance to Saturday’s semifinal tilt against the top-seeded Piscataway Chiefs. The winner of that game will play the winner of Friday night’s game between Union and Union City in the final.
“We are looking forward to a fun Thanksgiving Day Game with Barringer,” said Oliver. He said he will go back to the drawing board to see what his staff can do to get past the first round next season.
The Thanksgiving game and festivities for the annual Old Guard Dinner, as well as the all-class reunion, will start Wednesday evening, Nov. 21 with the Old Guard Dinner at Iberia’s of Spain on Ferry Street in Newark, and will continue Thanksgiving morning at Newark Schools Stadium at 10 a.m.
East Orange Campus (6-3)
August 31, Won, Watchung Hills, 50-17
Sept. 7, Won, at Passaic, 30-0
Sept. 22, Loss, at Montclair, 28-27
Sept. 29, Loss, Seton Hall Prep, 20-14
Oct. 5, Won, West Orange, 14-7
Oct. 12, Won, at Livingston, 18-7
Oct. 20, Won, at Columbia, 41-14
Oct. 26, Won, Bloomfield, 57-21
Nov. 2, Loss, at (No. 4 seed) Ridge, 28-7*
Nov. 22, at Barringer, 10:30 a.m.
*NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group 5 state playoffs. EOC was No. 5 seed.