SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD — One of the keys to Scotch Plains-Fanwood's rebuild is exercising consistent play over the course of a season. Saturday afternoon, the Raiders got a first-hand look at a team that has recently been in their position, but turned into a powerhouse behind the fruits of consistent performance.
Montgomery exploded for six touchdowns in the first half and scored on their first seven drives of the game to run away with a 50-14 victory over Scotch Plains-Fanwood on the Raiders’ homecoming Saturday afternoon at Perry Tyson Field. The Cougars — a much-improved squad that figures to be a major factor in the state North Group 4 playoffs — amassed over 450 total yards of offense, 330 of which came via the air, even with a running clock for almost the entire second half.
“We’re doing good things, but we’re just not doing them on a consistent basis,” said Scotch Plains-Fanwood head coach Austin Holman. “Once we get consistent at doing things, we’ll be at the level of a Montgomery. Coach Zoran [Milich] has been there for 15-20 years. The thing is, they’re doing things constantly — we are not. That’s the difference between these two programs right now.
Shawn Martin and Christian Piesch each had major touchdown catches in the first half to keep Scotch Plains-Fanwood in it, but the Raiders ultimately could not come up with enough offensive plays to overcome the early Montgomery onslaught. Nor could they stop some of the skill players on an absolutely explosive Cougar offense, which saw six different players enter the end zone under a unique two-quarterback scheme.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood’s two big touchdowns in the half were impressive and helped junior quarterback Hayden Widder amass over 15 passing yards, while Martin added 135 all-purpose yards. However, the Raiders' success came in small kernels, which Holman knows has to translate into more consistent play in order for the Raiders to get to the level of a Montgomery type.
“We showed glimpses, but they were only glimpses,” Holman said. “You can’t win games with just glimpses.”
Montgomery entered this game on a roll, winners of its previous three contests, and Scotch Plains-Fanwood brought out heavy defensive pressure early to try and stop that. But with the Raiders cramming the box, Montgomery took to the air and opened the floodgates right away.
On Montgomery’s first drive of the game, a 40-yard pass to Lucas Kopecky put the Cougars at the Raider two-yard line, where Weber Karsay would run it into the end zone one play later. It was all gas pedal from there for the Cougars, who needed just three plays to cover 61 yards on their next drive, finishing with a 25-yard touchdown run by Alex Benitez, who went up the guy virtually untouched.
Scotch Plains-Fanwood would answer with a major play of its own on its ensuing drive, when Hayden Widder hit with Christian Piece on a 79-yard breakaway touchdown pass up the middle to make it 14-7, but that would be as close as the Raiders would get.
Montgomery came right back on its first play after Piesch’s score with a 67-yard touchdown reception down the left sideline by Carter McFadden, who would then proceed to give the Cougars the ball back after intercepting a pass on the Raiders’ ensuing drive. That led to yet another Montgomery score, as McFadden hauled in a 23-yard TD pass three plays later to make it 29-7 with still over a minute left in the first quarter before a large and stunned crowd.
“I don’t think we’re going to see a passing team like that and receivers like that all season — and we haven’t seen them all season,” Holman said. “They found some openings. I know Cranford beat them, but I really think that team can be better than Cranford.”
An expansive 12-play Raider drive bridging the first and second quarters stalled on a turnover on downs deep in Montgomery territory at the 16, and the Cougars took over to answer with a 13-play, 84-yard move to make it 36-7 after a Benitez seven-yard TD run with 4:35 remaining in the half.
A short screen pass to Martin on the Raiders’ next series turned into a 55-yard touchdown to make it 36-14 after the PAT, but once again, Montgomery answered quickly and powerfully. The Cougars needed just two passing plays — one for 50 yards and the other 26-yard touchdown to M7 — to score again after getting the ball back, making it 43-14 at the half.
Kopecky then made catches on the first two plays of the second half — the second of which was a 39-yard touchdown — to give Montgomery the 50-14 lead and instill the running clock for the remainder.
Kopecky is a 6-foot-1,170-pound senior wide receiver with heavy college interest, and just one of the many talented players on this Montgomery team. Scotch Plains-Fanwood saw all too well what makes the Cougars so dangerous, as Benitez, Lainez, Furey, and McFadden help make the core of one of the more unique and potent offenses in the Mid-State 38 conference.
“They’ve got guys who are good football players and they made some plays,” Holman said. “Kopecky is one heck of a receiver — probably one of the best receivers I’ve seen in a while. They have some good ballplayers, but we’ve got some good ballplayers too. We’re going to keep fighting.”