WEST ORANGE, NJ – The West Orange High School varsity football team opened the season in impressive fashion.
The Mountaineers, under head coach Jim Matsakis, rallied past highly-regarded Montclair HS, 26-19, to kick off the season on Thursday, August 30, at WOHS’ Joe Suriano Stadium.
Sophomore running back Shakhi Carson rushed for 180 yards on 18 carries to lead the WOHS offensive attack.
Montclair, coming off an undefeated state championship season, jumped out to a 16-0 halftime lead.
But the Mountaineers showed their resiliency in the second half, scoring 26 unanswered points.
Senior wide receiver Terrence Toussaint got WOHS on the scoreboard with a 6-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to cut it to 16-6. The two-point conversion pass failed.
Senior receiver Jordan White scored on a 31-yard TD run to draw WOH S within 16-12 later in the quarter. The extra-point kick failed.
Sophomore receiver Dorian Rawls gave the Mountaineers the lead on a 31-yard TD run in the fourth quarter. Brian Reitberger, a junior, kicked the extra-point kick to make it 18-16 WOHS.
Rawls then returned an interception 45 yards for a TD later in the fourth quarter. Reitberger added the extra point for a 28-16 advantage. Rawls had a great game as he finished with three interceptions.
Montclair kicked a field goal late in the game to produce the final score.
Montclair last season finished 12-0, capped by the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group 5 title. Montclair was ranked No. 8 in the state by NJ.com coming into the contest with the Mountaineers.
Matsakis was proud of his team’s resiliency against a strong team in Montclair.
“It was absolutely an exciting game to watch as a fan and a coach,” said Matsakis. “It was nice to see the young men embrace the West Orange ‘never give up mentality’ and come from a 16-0 deficit at the half to rally for a win over the defending state champions from Montclair. Following the senior leadership of Jordan White, the underclassmen came through in a big way. With Dorian Rawls leading the way defensively with three big-time interceptions, the front seven were able to keep Montclair in check and shut them out in the second half.
WOHS notable stats:
Next game: West Orange will visit Paterson Kennedy on Sept. 7 at 6 p.m.
The Mountaineers want to show that the win over Montclair was no fluke.
“Any time you can defeat a program like Montclair, it is special, but in reality the magnitude of this victory will be determined at the end of the season when we really see what type of team they are,” Matsatis said. “For this game to mean anything, we must follow it up with another strong performance in Paterson against a very good Kennedy team that defeated us last year. If we do not have the success we expect, then the Montclair game was nothing more than the upset that others say it was. I hope to believe that beating Montclair was expected and not necessarily an upset.”
Photos by Steve Ellmore.
Cynthia Cumming contributed to this article.
Editor’s note: This article was updated to include comments from head coach Jim Matsakis.