EAST ORANGE, NJ — The East Orange Campus High School football team defeated Montclair, 20-7, on Saturday, Oct. 1, at Woodman Field in Montclair. The Jaguars won their second straight game, to improve to 2-3 on the season.
The story of the week was, who will win the Super Football Conference–Freedom Red Division, with Montclair looking to play spoiler in the hopes of another classic showdown with the Jaguars coming to Woodman Field. East Orange was riding high off its 52-12 steamrolling of the Bloomfield Bengals, while Montclair was also coming off a big win over Livingston, after losing badly to Union City, winning big against Nutley, and losing its first game of the season in a tight defensive struggle to West Orange.
Both EOCHS and Montclair are sporting new head coaches, John Jacob for the Jaguars and Jermaine Johnson for the Mounties. Johnson took over Montclair after coaching at Belleville High School for the past few years. Both coaches were looking forward to this game, as a lot was riding on its outcome on the march to the state playoffs.
East Orange elected to kick and go on defense to start the game. East Orange’s defense, led by defensive backs BJ Covington and Joshua Richards, and lineman Elijah Pullins forced an early three-and-out in the first quarter. Montclair initially punted the ball all the way to the East Orange 1-yard line from its own 15-yard line, but an offsetting penalty on both teams negated that punt. East Orange set up shop at its own 24-yard line with quarterback Kyree Fisher, wide receiver Richards, and running backs Irijah Wright and Kasim Cross leading the way. East Orange drove 76 yards in eight plays to punch the first score as Fisher dove in from 10 yards out, taking a 7-0 lead after the point-after kick.
Montclair got the ball again, but East Orange stopped them in their tracks while getting pinned behind their own 5-yard line as a result of the Mounties’ punt heading into the second quarter.
With the second quarter underway, the Jags were starting to find their stride until a fumble gave the Mounties the ball. But once again, the stingy Jaguar defense was all over the Mounties, creating havoc for Montclair’s Drew Pfeifer, who was sacked for the first of four sacks by defensive lineman Kymanie Deacon. Montclair attempted to go for the first down, but East Orange forced a turnover on downs at its own 41-yard line.
The Jaguars made quick work of a 59-yard drive in five plays with the help of a defensive holding call against the Mounties. Fisher played the air attack well, finding his receiving corps of Richards, Covington and Michael Henderson, who would haul in a 16-yard fastball for a touchdown, giving East Orange a 14-0 lead with 3:19 left in the first half.
The two squads traded the ball two more times, when Montclair attempted a deep hook-and-lateral play with just eight seconds left in the half but was stopped when East Orange caught up quickly to prevent the Mounties from killing the shutout going into the half.
On the other side of the half, East Orange took the ball from its own 49-yard line and again marched downfield 51 yards in six plays that included a 22-yard reception from Fisher to Richard and Wright skipping into the end zone from 5 yards out, giving East Orange a 20-0 stretch on a rainy, balmy afternoon.
As the third quarter slowly dragged on, the game became a little chippy as Montclair was hit for five consecutive penalties for a slew of unsportsmanlike personal fouls, defensive holding calls, and a possible ejection of a coach or player. By New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association rules, any coach or player ejected from a contest will have to sit out the following game before being deemed eligible to coach or play again. However, it was confirmed by Johnson after the game that Montclair was able to avoid the ejection.
But the offensive machine of Montclair was starting to wake up, as it flexed its muscles by stopping East Orange’s drive on the Montclair 20-yard line. Montclair’s Semaj Adams, David Thom-Rogers and Ja-khi Chance all found inspiration as they helped their struggling team move the ball 80 yards in 10 plays to get on the scoreboard, finally, with 11:12 left in the game. Adams danced into the end zone from 6 yards out for the 20-7 score.
East Orange played ball control for the rest of the game, coming away with three sacks in the fourth quarter and four pass breakups by Covington and Richards, who also snagged an interception early in the game. The final score would remain 20-7, with East Orange improving its record to 2-3 and Montclair also moving to 2-3.
This win has now set the table for the annual Battle of the Oranges: East vs. West at West Orange High School for the Super Football Conference–Freedom Red Division championship on Friday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. The winner will be in the driver’s seat for the NJSIAA Group 5 playoffs.
Jacob summarized the game by stating that his squad is a work in progress, trying to get better. Johnson was displeased with the outcome of the game and with some of the calls that were made, stating that there should have been a couple of calls made on the other side of the field as well. “We have a tough road ahead of us, as we have Irvington Saturday afternoon in Irvington,” Johnson said.
Both schools would need to run the table in order to qualify for playoffs at the end of October. East Orange will face Passaic Tech for homecoming on Saturday, Oct. 15, before going on the road to take on a very tough West Essex Knights team the following week. Montclair will face Ridgewood the following Friday evening before closing the mad dash out with Columbia. “We needed this game along with a win against one of the big boys,” concluded Johnson.
Photos Courtesy of Kerry E. Porter.