WEST ORANGE, NJ — When the season began, the West Orange High School football team had a mission: to reach its first-ever state sectional championship game and win the title.
The Mountaineers accomplished that feat.
Though their hopes for a state group championship fell short, head coach Darnell Grant’s team can look back at this historic season with much satisfaction.
A week after winning the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s North Jersey, Section 2, Group 5 state playoff championship, the Mountaineers ended their amazing journey when they fell to Passaic County Tech, 21-7, in the NJSIAA’s Group 5 state semifinal on a cold Sunday afternoon, Nov. 20, at Franklin High School in Somerset.
West Orange finished the season with an 8-4 record.
The Mountaineers took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when senior quarterback Amir Stewart hit senior wide receiver and University of Illinois–bound Saboor Karriem on a 7-yard touchdown pass, followed by senior Sam Godinez’s extra-point kick.
Passaic County Tech, the North Jersey, Section 1 champion, got on the scoreboard on Trashon Dye’s 3-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. But the extra-point kick was missed. The teams went into halftime with West Orange leading, 7-6.
After a scoreless third quarter, PCT scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. Dye scored on a 6-yard run, followed by the 2-point conversion by Ma’Kao Taylor, to give the PCT Bulldogs a 14-7 lead. Travon Dye, Trashon’s twin brother, scored on a 22-yard run, followed by the extra-point kick, to close out the scoring.
West Orange was looking to avenge a 12-6 home loss to PCT on Friday, Sept. 16, in its third game of the season after a 2-0 start.
The Mountaineers had a great run to give themselves a chance to reach the state championship game. This is the first year for state public group playoff championship games. The current playoff format began in 1974.
The Mountaineers won three road games in the sectional playoffs. In the first round, the sixth-seeded Mountaineers upset third-seeded Watchung Hills, 18-10, on Friday, Oct. 28.
The Mountaineers then stunned second-seeded Ridgewood, 34-31, in overtime in the semifinals when Karriem caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Stewart to end the game, sending them to their first state sectional championship game in program history.
West Orange made the long drive to Phillipsburg, near the Pennsylvania border, and won, 28-7, in the sectional final on Thursday night, Nov. 10. Phillipsburg was undefeated before the game and ended at 10-1.
The Mountaineers had a strong senior group that will be missed. Along with Karriem, Stewart and Godinez, other top seniors were wide receiver and defensive back Jarvis Jones, who is committed to UConn; running back Jehki Williams, who suffered a season-ending injury against Watchung Hills; defensive lineman and Georgia Tech commit Gensley Auguste; defensive lineman Jhensen Touze; wide receiver and defensive back Matthew Barrino; running back and linebacker Al-Jahmir Newsome; running back and defensive back Elijah Pean; and linemen Jay Straker, Mason Malloy, James Felton and Brandon Green.
Grant completed his fourth year at the helm. In his first year, 2019, the Mountaineers went 7-4 and reached the North 2, Group 5 semifinals. West Orange finished 6-1 in 2020. The 2020 playoffs were canceled due to the pandemic. Last season, they went 8-3 and also reached the semifinals in North 1, Group 5.
Here are the WOHS players who earned all–Super Football Conference–Freedom Red Division honors, as voted by the divisional coaches.
First team offense:
- Amir Stewart, senior quarterback.
- Saboor Karriem, senior wide receiver.
- Mason Malloy, senior lineman.
- Jay Straker, senior lineman.
First team defense:
- Gensley Auguste, senior lineman.
- Jhensen Touze, senior lineman.
- Myles Snead, junior linebacker.
- Jarvis Jones, senior defensive back.
First team special teams:
- Terrell Wilfong, sophomore punter.
Second team offense:
- Adonis White, sophomore running back.
- Brandon Green, senior lineman.
- Ricardo Camacho, junior lineman.
- Jehki Williams, junior running back, at-large selection.
Second team defense:
- Jake Jeffay, junior lineman.
- Chris Barrino, sophomore linebacker.
- I’yan Gainer, sophomore wide receiver and defensive back.
Coach of the Year:
- Darnell Grant.
Photos by Steve Ellmore