MASSILLON, Oh. — Montclair High School has established itself as one of the best football teams in New Jersey over the past few decades, with a rich legacy and tradition unlike any other program in the Garden State.
This weekend, it will lock horns with another team carrying all those same attributes, except on a national level.
In a move that few public school teams make, Montclair (1-1) will travel out of state Friday and play at the birthplace of high school football against Washington (3-0) of Massillon, Ohio — the second-winningest team in United States scholastic football history — at 7:30 p.m. The game will be played at historic Paul Brown Tiger Stadium, which seats 16,600, and will surely reach that capacity Saturday.
A contingent of Montclair fans are expected to make the approximate seven hour, 452-mile trek from Woodman Field out to Massillon. But those who won’t can watch the entire game free via a $5 broadcast stream link here. Montclair had hoped for the game to be shown on ESPN, but the network will instead broadcast Bishop Gorman (N.V.) vs. De La Salle (Ca.).
“Getting out of state is a good opportunity to re-set out season after a disappointing opener,” Montclair head coach John Fiore told TAPinto Montclair in a phone interview Friday. “We cleaned it up and did better last week [against Nutley], but coming out here this week, if we can hit it on all cylinders, we could surprise some people.”
The Mounties enter their third national game under ninth-year head coach Fiore on a high after, coming off their first win of the season, 35-0, against Nutley Saturday. It was far from a clean game for the Mounties, though, as personal fouls and four turnovers could’ve cost them had they not coaxed six turnovers themselves. Those lose ends must be tightened Friday, because the Mounties cannot get away with many mistakes against a powerful team like Washington.
“They’re traditionally a very good team,” Fiore said. “They were 10-4 last year and lost in what would be the equivalent of our sectional final that we won, and they have a lot of kids coming back from last year, so we know they’re good.”
Just how good?
Washington is currently ranked No. 133 in the country per MaxPreps, and No. 10 in Ohio, a state known for its religious following of high school football. If the Lions were a New Jersey team, they’d be the top-ranked public school in the state and compare closest to St. Joseph of Montvale, which MaxPreps ranks No. 97 nationally. The Born Power Index — which will be used to seed the New Jersey playoffs this year — says that St. Joseph would beat Montclair by 13.6 points, so on paper, Washington would be favorited by slightly over a touchdown Friday.
But with the talent on both teams, projections are just a number.
There will be a slew of future Division I players on the field in this one, which makes it arguably the top game in the country this week. Montclair features a pair of Rutgers recruits in QB Charles Murphy Jr. and DT Willie Matthews, in addition to Central Michigan RB commit Josh Crawford. Massillon is absolutely stacked, too, with D-I recruits such as: ILB Jamir Thomas, who will likely commit to either Ohio State, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Minnesota, or Pittsburgh, per Rivals; WR Jayden Ballard, a sophomore already offered by Ohio State and Pittsburgh; QB Aidan Longwell, a Kent State baseball commit; and WR Tre’Von Morgan, holder of offers from Akron, Ball State, and Eastern Kentucky, among three others.
Montclair prepared for the game by taking an admissions tour then practicing on the facilities at Penn State University before rolling into Massillon Thursday evening. The Mounties will also take a tour of nearby Kent State during the weekend before returning home.
“They’re going to be a good football team — they have some great players — but we’re also a good football team with some great players,” Fiore said. “It’s kind of hard when you watch film to determine the level of competition they’re playing, and vice versa for them with the level of competition we’re playing. It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow night, but as long as our kids play hard and give a full effort and execute the game plan, we’re going to be happy.”