Irvington HS football team enjoys another stellar season

Fahmah Toure, No. 6, holds the ball during the 22-21 home win over Montclair on Oct. 8.

IRVINGTON, NJ — Though its goal of winning a state sectional championship for the second straight season unfortunately fell short, the Irvington High School football team enjoyed another great season.

The top-seeded Blue Knights lost to fourth-seeded and defending champion Northern Highlands, 17-13, in the semifinals of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s North Jersey, Section 1, Group 4 state playoffs on Friday night, Nov. 4, at the IHS football field.

The Blue Knights, under seventh-year head coach Ashley “Smoke” Pierre, finished the season with a stellar 8-3 record. They were ranked as one of the top teams in the state by the Star-Ledger throughout the season.

It was a rematch of last year’s North Jersey, Group 4 regional championship won by Irvington, 19-14, at Rutgers University’s SHI Stadium in Piscataway. That victory, coming on the heels of winning the North 2, Group 4 sectional title, capped the Blue Knights’ 2021, 11-2 season.

In Friday’s game, Northern Highlands jumped out to a 10-0 lead. Danny Smiechowski scored on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Nate Johnson, followed by Daniel Moor’s extra-point kick, to give Northern Highlands a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Moor booted a 20-yard field goal in the second quarter to make it 10-0.

The Blue Knights got on the scoreboard later in the second quarter when quarterback CJ Pittman threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Nasir Addison, followed by John Sainthelmy’s extra-point kick, to cut it to 10-7 at halftime.

Smiechowski caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from JR Walley, and Moor kicked the extra point, to extend the lead to 17-7 in the third quarter.

Pittman connected with Addison on a 45-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to draw the Blue Knights to 17-13. The conversion run was unsuccessful.

Notes: Pierre, an Irvington native, has guided the Blue Knights to the postseason in the six seasons that the playoffs have been contested, including two sectional final appearances. 

Pierre’s record as the IHS head coach is an impressive 57-20.

In 2020, the Blue Knights went 7-2, but the playoffs were canceled due to the pandemic.

Last season, Irvington defeated Middletown South at home to capture the program’s first sectional championship. Pierre guided the Blue Knights to the 2018 North 2, Group 4 sectional final, but the team lost at Phillipsburg. In all, Irvington has been to three state sectional finals. The first was in 2006 when they lost to New Brunswick, 18-14, at Rutgers in the North 2, Group 3 final. The Irvington head coach then was 1991 IHS graduate Darnell Grant, who is the current West Orange High school head coach. Grant this season has led West Orange to its first state sectional final in program history.

Photo Courtesy of Felicia Laguerre Owens