East Orange Campus HS football team falls to West Essex in final game before the state playoffs

The East Orange Campus High School football team walks onto the field before the game at West Orange on Friday night, Oct. 7. Players hold a poster with the image of East Orange Campus sophomore basketball standout Letrell Duncan, who was fatally shot on Monday, Oct. 3 in East Orange. EOC went on to beat West Orange, 25-12.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — It’s week 8 and the final game to qualify for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s state football playoffs. State qualifiers will have 16 public schools in each group which will break down to 8 team sections in which they will play for the sectional championship. The winner of each section will then play in the group semifinals, formally the North Jersey regional finals. The winner of each semifinal will advance to the NJSIAA group finals to be held the last week of November and the first week of December.

With the latest group rankings, East Orange Campus is currently projecting as an eighth seed in North Jersey Group 5. So, with two games left in the season, East Orange went on the road to North Caldwell and paid a visit to the Knights of West Essex Regional High School this past Friday evening, October 21, 2022. West Essex is coming off a big 44-6 win over Belleville while East Orange lost an emotional 19-13 nail-biter to Passaic Tech. West Essex is also a projected eighth seed in North Jersey Group 3. Both schools are playing for possible home games through the playoffs.

East Orange Campus led by the receiving corps of Joshua Richards, BJ Covington, and Michael Henderson along with OL/DL Elijah Pullins, RB Irijah Wright, LB Kasim Cross, and QB Kyree Fisher, are dedicating the remainder of the season to their late friend and classmate Letrell Duncan. 

West Essex, led by the rushing tandem of RB Mike Maglione, Luke Struss, QB Jack Massato, and WR Vin Raniero, got the scoring going early in the first quarter when Maglione found an escape route off his left side going for 53 yards for the early 6-0 lead. East Orange Campus didn’t have an answer for the Knights as they punted the ball away three times on all their possessions during the first half. The Knights would fake everyone out in the whole stadium when they were expected to run the ball with a 38-yard bomb to WR Vin Raniero from QB Jack Massato with 6:43 left in the first half. 

West Essex would rattle off four first down runs to set up a 4-yard punch into the end zone by Luke Struss giving the Knights a 20-0 lead into the half.

East Orange would take the ball to open the second half but a crucial fumble on their opening drive would seal their fate as the Knights would keep the playoff-bound Jaguars scoreless. 

The Jaguars will now have to go on the road to start their title defense as the NJSIAA playoff selection committee will make the determination as other schools are making their case to be included in the tournament on this final qualifying weekend. West Essex’s win will definitely have the potential to host at least one home game during the playoffs as they gain enough points to move up in the North Jersey Group 3 playoffs. 

East Orange head coach John Jacob simply stated that his team is still a work in progress after the game. West Essex head coach Chris Benacquista said after the game, “We knew East Orange was big and physical, so I am happy for my team’s preparation.” He also stated that he’s happy for his squad’s resilience as they prepare for their run towards the NJSIAA Group 3 playoffs. 

East Orange Campus’s Irijah Wright was held to just 50 yards rushing on 8 carries while QB Kyree Fisher completed 5 of his 16 passes for 72 yards and no touchdowns. Meanwhile, BJ Covington was a busy guy as he and teammate Joshua Richards were in on a combine 30 tackles and 6 pass break ups.

At press time, the NJSIAA has rolled out the potential playoff matchups. A follow up article with all your local teams with up to date standings, will be published as the road to the NJSIAA Group Football Playoffs begin.

Photo Courtesy of Kerry E. Porter