WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange High School football team defeated Barringer, 52-21, during its Senior Night game on Friday, Nov. 1, and dedicated it to two of its own.
Tragedy struck the heart of the West Orange community on Oct. 27 when WOHS students Larry and Michael Verducci were involved in a dangerous car crash. The young men are currently in critical condition at Morristown Memorial Hospital fighting for their lives.
Both Verducci brothers have had a tremendous impact on the community in which they reside. Larry is also a member of the Mountaineer football squad. His teammates refused to leave the brothers behind and elected to dedicate the final games of the season to both Larry and his brother Michael. The team put a brand new chip on its shoulder in the form of the Verducci brothers, and Larry and Michael very quickly became the heartbeat of this young, talented team.
Posting an impressive 5-3 record up until their Nov. 1 game against the Barringer Blue Bears, the Mountaineers looked for their third home win of the year at Suriano Field and a repeat of their 2018 14-6 victory. The Mountaineer defense, which had been stout all season, would need to stop Barringer quarterback, Corey Walker, who has multiple D1 offers in just his junior year of high school.
On the opening two plays of the game, both teams had forfeited their first turnover. On the opening kickoff, the Mountaineers failed to gain possession and the Blue Bears recovered the ball. On the ensuing play, Chris Parsons of West Orange recovered a fumble on their own 31-yard line, placing the Mountaineers within striking distance.
Shakhi Carson burst out of the backfield for seven yards and crossed the goal line on his feet, putting his team ahead 6-0. A faulty snap on the part of the Mountaineer special teams unit failed on the point-after try. For the third straight week, the West Orange offense had opened up the game with a touchdown when first setting foot on the field, doing so against Bloomfield High School a week prior, and Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) during their Week 7 match-up against the Bulldogs.
The Blue Bears quickly responded with a touchdown of their own, as Walker took a play-action run into the end zone on a fourth-and-one gamble.
Barringer head coach Ronly London elected to take a chance on a fourth-down attempt, putting trust in his offensive unit, which would ultimately come through with a score. A successful PAT by the Blue Bear kicker put Barringer ahead in the score column, as the score stretched to 7-6. The following West Orange possession resulted in a lead-shifting touchdown as 6-foot-3, 185-pound receiver Jayson Raines showed his vertical skills as he went up and grabbed a score for the Mountaineer offense.
Barringer failed to get anything going on its next drive, and would be forced to punt it into the hands of West Orange’s return man, Aidan Healey. Healey gained no yards, but the Mountaineers were granted great field position as the ball was marked down at the Blue Bear 46-yard line. The Mountaineers made quick work of their fifth game possession in Blue Bear territory.
Quarterback Mason Murdock heaved a pass to Raines, his most targeted receiver, who reached up over a defender for another touchdown. Kicker Bryan Reitberger put a successful PAT through the uprights for a 19-7 score.
The following Barringer drive ended in a turnover on downs, as London dropped to a 50 percent success rate on fourth-down attempts during this contest. WOHS head coach Darnell Grant and the Mountaineers answered with another touchdown as Raines scored his third TD in the first half. The score was 25-7 heading into the locker room at the half.
The second half continued to favor the Mountaineers, who put up another 27 points and held the Blue Bears to 14. The West Orange second-half scoring plays consisted of a 70-yard dump-off touchdown pass from Murdock to breakout running back Makhi Green, a 17-yard touchdown rush by senior running back Michael Charles for his first touchdown of the season, a touchdown pass on the brink of the goal line from Murdock to Amiyn Hanks, Jayson Raines’ third touchdown pass that went for 18 yards and a kickoff that Green returned 80 yards for a touchdown. The West Orange defensive unit had been stout, holding the Blue Bears scoreless on five of their seven total second-half possessions.
Murdock finished his spectacular day with five touchdowns, 305 passing yards, and a completion percentage of 80.9 percent (17-of-21). Raines had eight total receptions for a booming 157 yards and three touchdowns, while Hanks received four passes for 83 yards and one touchdown. In the run game, Carson ran the ball eight times for 108 yards and one touchdown, while Green scored two total touchdowns, including a 70-yard touchdown pass and an 80-yard kickoff return to the end zone, and Charles trotted into the end zone for a 17 yard score, and ran for over 55 yards. On the defensive side, Adonis May led the team in tackles, racking up 14, and junior captain Chris Parsons generated a turnover in the game, which later translated into a touchdown.
The Mountaineers had not only made their town proud, but they had made the Verducci family ecstatic and had won for their teammate Larry and his brother Michael. The win against Barringer stood for more than just another step towards the playoffs. It stood for the brotherhood that is the Mountaineer football team, and it stood for the grand family that is the West Orange community.
A Go Fund Me page has been set up to help the Verducci family here.