MAPLEWOOD, NJ -- It took awhile for the West Orange offense to hit its stride against previously undefeated Columbia Friday night. But the Mountaineers' defense set a ferocious tone right away.
West Orange's offense eventually started clicking. But its defense made absolutely sure that the Cougars' offense never did.
Shaki Carson and Jayson Raines each scored two touchdowns as West Orange, after a scoreless first quarter, broke away for a 35-0 victory over Columbia before a packed house at Underhill Field.
Carson rushed for 71 yards on 16 carries. Raines caught four passes for 100 yards. Mason Murdock completed 10 of 22 passes for 147 yards with two TD passes and no interceptions for West Orange (3-1).
And, while the offensive contributions of all three were integral to the Mountaineers' victory, their defense throttled all efforts by a Columbia team that came into the game flying high with its first 3-0 record in nearly a decade. Consider that, on the Cougars' second play of the game from scrimmage, Stephen Henry gained 20 yards on a carry to his own 40-yard line.
The rest of the game, Columbia (3-1) gained a total of minus-12 yards with one first down.
"We are really improved on defense," West Orange's first-year head coach Darnell Grant said. "We do have a lot of talented guys on that side of the ball. It was a great team effort. I don't know if it was our best of the season, but my standards are high. We played a good defensive game against Montclair, too (a 29-6 win on opening night)."
Columbia, which played well defensively for large portions of the game, as well, couldn't sustain any offensive rhythm against West Orange's pass rush and defensive coverage. In fact, the Cougars did not complete a pass until early in the fourth quarter.
"Our pass rush was relentless," Grant said. "(Defensive linemen) Aquan Robinson and Jason Dort played strong games, and our DBs were very good in coverage."
Columbia, which got a standout defensive game from linebacker Abdoul Kone, put forth a stifling defensive effort of its own in the opening quarter, holding West Orange to just 17 yards and one first down. A 28-yard gain on a screen pass from Murdock to Carson on the second play of the second quarter seemed to spark the Mountaineer attack.
That was the long gain in a 63-yard, 10-play drive that saw Carson exploit blocks on the left side of his offensive line, where tackle Robinson and guard Luke Stennett were winning their battles up front to spring Carson loose. The junior halfback gained 17 yards off left tackle to the Columbia 2-yard line, then plowed through for the game's first TD on the next play with 7:35 left in the half.
A 25-yard punt return by Aiden Healy to the Cougar 22-yard line set West Orange up for its next TD. Carson went in behind Robinson's block at left tackle for a 3-yard TD run with 3:47 to go in the half, and Bryan Reitberger kicked the second of his five extra points for a 14-0 lead.
West Orange took over after a punt on the Columbia 41 with 48 seconds left in the half. Not content to go into halftime with a two-touchdown lead, the Mountaineers went into their two-minute offense. Murdock completed a 6-yard pass to Raines and a 10-yarder to Mehki Branch for a first down at the 25 with time winding down.
On the next play, Murdock threw a deep fade to Raines, who outleaped his defender in the left corner of the end zone with 22 seconds left for a touchdown and a 21-0 lead.