The Columbia Cougars (2-3-0) are seeking their first win in nearly a month Saturday afternoon when they take on the West Orange Mountaineers (3-3-0) on the road.
In the last meeting between the two teams last season, West Orange trampled Columbia 55-0 in the Cougars’ worst loss of the year.
For Columbia, senior quarterback Deion Hudson will shoulder the load under center and look to get his team back on track. Hudson’s senior year has been marred by inconsistency, but when he is playing well, there is a noticeable difference in Columbia’s play as a team.
Last week, against Seton Hall Prep, Hudson went 8-for-17 with 198 yards and a touchdown; however, he also threw two interceptions, both of which eventually led to Pirate touchdowns.
The pressure won’t be solely on Hudson, though. Columbia’s tandem running backs, junior Marcus Nash and senior Willie Malone, need to make an impact in the running game to allow Hudson some breathing room.
Nash and Malone have combined for 347 yards on 66 carries this year so far and have scored a touchdown apiece. Nash and Malone are eighth and ninth respectively in the Super Essex Division in rushing.
The Mountaineers have been hot and cold this season so far. They defeated Nutley on the road 39-20 last week but suffered a 38-14 loss to Seton Hall Prep the week before.
West Orange looked for strong leadership from senior Brandon Cowley coming into the season to help them win, but even with three wins, the Mountaineer quarterback has struggled.
He is 16-for-46 (34 percent) passing on the season for 224 yards and only has two touchdowns. He also has thrown two interceptions.
Cowley doesn’t have many weapons in the passing game, either. Of his 16 passes completed, eight different receivers have caught at least one pass and no receiver has more than 76 yards receiving.
Because the passing game has been so weak, West Orange has relied heavily on their running game. Senior Irvin Paye is expected to have huge games every week and so far, he’s responded by doing just that.
Paye has 47 carries for 237 yards and is averaging 5.04 yards per carry, which is a little above average in this year’s Super Essex Division. Paye has also scored two rushing touchdowns this season.
The matchup between Columbia and West Orange is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday at Lincoln & Soriano Field in West Orange.
The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.