EAST ORANGE, NJ – The football talent is abundant at East Orange Campus. That much is clear.
But when it comes to achieving success, the intangibles always play a big role. They include work ethic and preparation.
That’s the message that first-year head coach Rae Oliver and his staff are trying to instill in their team.
And by the start of the season, Oliver is confident the Jaguars will master those areas.
“We spent time learning to watch film, getting prepared and the work ethic,” said Oliver. “I am very optimistic. We may not be moving as fast as everyone, but by Game 1, we’ll be ready to go. I look forward to the experience.”
Overall, the team is young, led by a promising sophomore group.
Oliver expects an explosive offense that will be spearheaded by senior Rady Rojas, a jack-of-all-trades-type player who is effective on both sides of the ball. Rojas can play quarterback, running back and receiver, and will also play outside linebacker and safety.
Battling out for the starting quarterback job are a pair of sophomore transfers – Qadir Scott and Nasir Montgomery, who come from DePaul Catholic and Montclair Immaculate Conception, respectively. Both are athletic. Scott is savvy and poised, while Montgomery has “a cannon of an arm,” said Oliver.
At running back, senior Devonne Swan is another transfer from Morris Catholic and has looked promising.
The offensive line is thin, but will hopefully develop. Senior tackle Nasim Maron will lead the unit.
In addition to Rojas, the defense will be led by senior outside linebacker Jamir Holcome, who plays with a fearless approach by utilizing his speed and power.
For the Jaguars, there is a sense that things are moving in the right direction, as players are coming back to play for their hometown, in addition to buying into the idea of team preparation.
“Our future looks bright,” Oliver said. “Some of the kids who have transferred back already infused a lot of energy. We’re enthusiastic. For their age, there is a high football IQ. What we’re trying to do is merge that football IQ with practical aptitude. Even though you can throw a football 80 yards, you need to get to practice on time.”
The Jaguars are “only worried about anything other than what we need to do,” continued Oliver. “We’ll be as good as we are if we work hard and focus…. What we’re trying to instill is work ethic, habits of success. It doesn’t matter what they do: football, school work, being a good kid…. We’re moving forward. We’re taking steps in the right direction.”
NOTES – Oliver, an East Orange native, was an assistant coach on the East Orange Campus team that lost to Roxbury in the 2009 NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 state final at the old Giants Stadium. He spent the past two seasons as an assistant coach at Seton Hall Prep under Vito Campanile. Oliver also was an assistant coach at Montclair and Bergen Catholic, two of the most highly-regarded programs in the state… The co-offensive coordinators are Eric Palmer and Kevin Batty. Palmer is an EOCHS graduate who played at Montclair State, while Batty was the assistant coach last year at Wayne Hills, the defending NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 4 state champion.
Sept. 8, Memorial, 7 p.m.
Sept. 16, at Columbia, 1 p.m.
Sept. 23, at Livingston, 6 p.m.
Sept. 30, Paterson Kennedy, 1 p.m.
Oct. 7, Montclair, 1 p.m.
Oct. 20, at Bloomfield, 7 p.m.
Oct. 28, at Morristown, 1 p.m.
Nov. 4, West Orange, 1 p.m.
Nov. 23, Barringer, 11 a.m.
Records for the past three years:
2016: 6-4 (Section 2, Group 5 state playoffs, lost to Elizabeth, first round)
2015: 4-6 (Section 2, Group 5 state playoffs, lost to Bridgewater-Raritan, first round)