ORANGE / LIVINGSTON, NJ — It’s not often that you get a race to the finish in a football game, and it is even more rare when you get to see it happen twice in the same season. Orange has been on a reversal of fortune these past few weeks, starting with their win against Belleville, followed by a 28-6 win over Bloomfield at Bell Stadium a week ago. Senior running back Montez Boswell had 254 yards rushing on 18 carries along with all four touchdowns. Freshman quarterback Maurice Williams had 111 yards rushing to add to the dominant performance.
Livingston had to find a way to stay ahead of what was coming to Jacobson Field in Livingston on Friday, Nov. 20. They have been plagued with COVID-19–related issues and were only able to muster four games during this shortened season. Coming into the game with Orange, Livingston’s lone win this season was against Barringer; the Lancers had lost handily to both East Orange Campus and West Orange high schools.
“We wanted to send our kids out on a high note since we had to endure the mandated quarantine,” a Livingston parent, whose son is a member of the senior class, said at the game.
From the opening kickoff, this game was a slow build as both teams flexed their speed and ability to move the ball against stingy defenses. Both squads traded no less than two punts before there were any points on the board. Livingston punched their ticket first with 5:07 left in the first quarter, finding paydirt after quickly taking three minutes off the clock and sending junior running back Quinn Devlin, who capped the eight-play, 51-yard drive by scooting into the house from 3 yards out. Livingston dodged a big blow when Orange running back Boswell’s 73-yard touchdown was called back for a holding penalty early in the second quarter. Livingston seemed to have control of the game, keeping the Tornadoes offensive’s weapons in Louce Julien, Boswell, Eddie Thomas and Williams from totally erupting on them.
There was much more knuckle-dragging as both teams fought hard to curry the game in their favor throughout the third quarter. But when the fourth and final frame came into view, all things rally, and the kitchen sink came into play. Livingston, led by Quinn and senior quarterback David Cotugno, needed to get ahead of the momentum shift in the game, but it was the Tornadoes’ stingy defense, led by Julien and Thomas, that kept the applied pressure on the Lancers and forced them to punt the ball away.
Julien gave the Tornadoes the gasoline to set up a comeback for the classic finish. Julien broke free for a 40-yard wind-churning rumble up the Livingston sideline, setting up Boswell three plays later for an 11-yard power trot to the endzone to pull within a point after the blocked PAT kick with 9:50 in the game.
Livingston did not sweat the score, although their lead and hold on the game was dangerously in jeopardy. Once again, a few minutes later, Orange sent Boswell for a second 11-yard score, giving them a very tentative 12-7 lead that stemmed from a six-play, 85-yard sustained drive and a couple of Boswell’s “Beast Quake” imitations for good measure. Livingston’s dynamic duo didn’t let that sit with their squad and sought to fix that right away. Cotugno first decided to go long and dropped a 41-yard completion in the breadbasket of his junior tight end Ben Hauser and sent Devlin off his right tackle for a 21-yard responding score to retake the lead 15-12 with just 4:30.
But the final knockout punch came when Boswell dragged the entire pile before squeaking through for the final 2-yard touchdown and the go-ahead 19-15 score with just 49 ticks in the game. Livingston tried to answer, but a slew of yellow-flagged laundry littered the field, which stalled their drive at the Orange 39-yard line.
Livingston head coach Bob Breschard was not available for postgame comments, but acknowledged that had been a good game.
Orange coach Randy Daniel said he was happy with the outcome and wanted to get his young quarterback some experience, since he will be the future of the Tornadoes for the next few years.
“I wanted to send this group of seniors out on top,” he said. “We felt the games against Nutley and Columbia were winnable, but we simply overthought ourselves in those games.”
Daniel felt that had things been slightly different, his squad could have been a 7-1 team rather than ending the season at 5-3.
“We are done for the season,” Daniel said. “I just hope that we can come back next season to a full schedule and a possibility to play in the state playoffs.”
Photos Courtesy of Kerry Porter