East Orange Campus HS football team to host rival Montclair in sectional playoffs

Jaguars down Bloomfield to improve to 7-1 on the season

EOCHS’ Mekhi Powell carries the ball during the win over Bloomfield.
Photos by Jerry Simon. EOCHS’ Al-Shadee Salaam looks for a hole while carrying the ball.

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BLOOMFIELD, NJ — The East Orange Campus High School football team is entering the playoffs on a roll.

The Jaguars will meet a familiar foe in the quarterfinals as they host rival Montclair at Paul Robeson Stadium in the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association North Jersey Section 1, Group 5 state playoffs this Saturday, Nov. 9, at  1 p.m.

EOCHS is seeded No. 3. Montclair is the sixth seed. The winner will face the winner of No. 2 seed Passaic County Tech and No. 7 seed Watchung Hills in the semifinals.

The Jaguars defeated Montclair, 26-6, in Week 3 this season at home in a Super Football Conference-Liberty Division game on Sept. 28.

EOCHS, which clinched the divisional title for the second straight year, won its fourth straight game to improve to 7-1 after a 26-6 win over winless Bloomfield at Foley Field in Bloomfield on Friday, Nov. 1.

The Montclair Mounties traditionally have been one of the best public schools teams in the area, winning the North 1, Group 5 title for three straight seasons from 2012 to 2014 and also in 2017. Though they have just a 5-4 record this season, the Mounties have won three straight games and four out of their last five games. The latest win was a thrilling 24-21 decision over a good Irvington team on Saturday, Nov. 2, at Woodman Field in Montclair in which the Mounties scored the winning touchdown on a pass play with four seconds left in the game.

The EOCHS Jaguars were in a relatively festive mood going into the game against Bloomfield after clinching the divisional title and qualifying for the playoffs.

The Bloomfield Bengals came into the game looking for their first win of the season as they lost a few close calls that could have easily swung in their favor. But the game against East Orange proved to be the heart-breaker on their Senior Night. The Bengals will graduate 30 seniors this yea,  making it one of their largest classes that Bloomfield head coach Mike Carter has had in some time.

The first quarter started with both teams struggling for field position. East Orange got things moving on its first possession after the opening kickoff. Quadir Scott, Al-Shadee Salaam, Ian Brown and Jasim Brown all found a way to move the ball 70 yards, taking six minutes and 20 seconds off the clock. But the Bengals’ defense came away big as it stopped East Orange’s vaunted attack with a goal-line stand in the opening drive. However, Bloomfield immediately turned the ball over after a punt, giving the Jaguars excellent field position going into the second quarter.

Salaam kept up his offensive pressure, taking the bulk of the workload and helping to push the Jaguars’ offense 67 yards in 10 plays to break the scoreless deadlock with a six-yard punch into the end zone for the 6-0 lead  with 11:16 left in the second quarter, followed by the failed point-after try.

Both teams traded punts before the Bengals were able to answer as the first half was winding down. The Jaguars were looking to force another turnover, led by KeShawn Munford, Locksley Burke, Ian Brown and Scott. But Bloomfield quarterback Christian Parisi found Dante Gibbs sneaking past the Jaguars’ secondary for a 19-yard strike with just under two minutes left in the half to tie the score 6-6.

Scott, the EOCHS quarterback, answered immediately by engineering a four-play, 55-yard march and scoring the go-ahead touchdown from 17 yards out after the two-point conversion with just 26 ticks left on the clock to give EOCHS a 14-6 lead.

The third quarter was all about defense, as both squads kept each other out of the others’ red zone. Burke had a relatively quiet night, but yet was still effective from his linebacker position, forcing three sacks while picking up eight tackles. Munford had a forced fumble and three-and-a-half sacks, while snagging 10 tackles.

The Jaguars’ offensive line had a combined 30 pancake blocks while stuffing all comers, giving Scott much needed time to get the ball off.

By the fourth quarter, Scott had fully taken over the game. Methodically, the quarterback guided the Jags to an eight-play, 77-yard drive that he capped off with a five-yard dive into the house, stretching the lead to 20-6 with the 9:48 left in the game. Again he bolstered the Jaguars’ one last time with another eight-play drive, going 48 yards and giving the ball to wide receiver Terrell Neals, which he scooted 17 yards for the final 26-6 score.

“We knew that Bloomfield would want this more, but wanted to preserve our chances at a higher seed for the playoffs next week,” EOCHS head coach Rae Oliver said after the game.

Carter stated that this is one of the rare seasons that he’s had and he wasn’t sure if they will be playing a consolation game after posting a 0-9 season. “We will find out on Monday if we will be playing or not.”

Sports editor Joe Ragozzino contributed to this article.

Photo gallery by Kerry E. Porter