WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange High School football team's 52-21 victory over Barringer on Senior Night Nov. 1 was dedicated to two of the Mountaineers' own.
Tragedy struck the heart of the West Orange community on Oct. 27 when West Orange High School students Larry and Michael Verducci were involved in a dangerous car crash. The young men are currently in critical condition at Morristown Memorial Hospital. Click HERE for the full story and to contribute to the GoFundMe Page set up in their name.
Posting an impressive 5-3 record up until their Nov. 1 game against the Barringer Blue Bears, the Mountaineers looked for their third home win of the year at Suriano Stadium and a repeat of their 14-6 victory over Barringer in 2018. The Mountaineer defense, who had been stout all season, would need to stop Barringer’s quarterback, Corey Walker, who has multiple Division 1 offers in his junior year of high school.
On the opening kickoff, the Mountaineers failed to gain possession and the Blue Bears recovered the ball. On the ensuing play, Chris Parsons of West Orange recovered a fumble on the Barringer 31-yard line, placing the Mountaineers within striking distance.
Shakhi Carson burst out of the backfield for 7 yards and crossed the goal line on his feet, putting his team ahead, 6-0. A faulty snap on the part of the Mountaineer special teams unit failed on PAT. For the third straight week, the West Orange offense had opened up the game with a touchdown when first setting foot on the field, doing so against Bloomfield High School a week prior, and the Passaic County Technical Institute (PCTI) during their week seven match-up against the Bulldogs.
The Blue Bears quickly responded with a touchdown of their own, as Walker took a play-action run into the end zone on a fourth-and-one gamble.
A successful PAT attempt by the Blue Bear kicker put Barringer ahead in the score column, as the score stretched to 7-6. The following West Orange possession resulted in a lead-shifting touchdown as 6-3, 185-pound receiver Jayson Raines showed his vertical skills as he went up and grabbed a pass from quarterback Mason Murdock for the Mountaineer offense.
Barringer failed to get anything going on their next drive, and would be forced to punt. The Mountaineers were granted great field position as the ball was marked down at the Blue Bear 46-yard line. The Mountaineers made quick work of their fifth game possession in Blue Bear territory.
Murdock heaved a pass to Raines, his most targeted receiver, who reached up over a defender for another six points. Kicker Bryan Reitberger put a successful PAT through the uprights, with a 19-7 score.
Raines scored his third TD in the first half to give West Orange a 25-7 lead heading into the locker room at the half.
The second half continued to favor the Mountaineers, who put up another 27 points and held the Blue Bears to 14. The West Orange second-half scoring plays consisted of a 70-yard dump off touchdown pass from Murdock to running back Makhi Green, a 17-yard touchdown rush by senior running back Michael Charles for his first touchdown of the season, a touchdown pass on the brink of the goal line from Murdock to Amiyn Hanks, Raines’ third touchdown catch that went for 18 yards, and a kickoff returned 80 yards for a touchdown by Green.
The West Orange defensive unit had been stout, holding the Blue Bears scoreless on five of their seven total second-half possessions.
Murdock finished his spectacular day with five touchdowns, 305 passing yards, and a completion percentage of 80.9 percent (17-for-21). Raines had eight total receptions for a booming 157 yards and three touchdowns, while Hanks received four passes for 83 yards and one touchdown.
In the running game, starting running back Carson ran the ball eight times for 108 yards and one touchdown, while Green scored two total touchdowns and Charles trotted into the end zone for a 17-yard score, and ran for more than 55 yards.
On the defensive side, Adonis May led the team in tackles, racking up 14, and Parsons generated a turnover in the game, which later translated into a touchdown.
The Mountaineers had not only made their town proud, but they had made the Verducci family ecstatic and had won for their teammate Larry and his brother Michael. The victory over Barringer stood for more than just another step toward the playoffs. It stood for the brotherhood that is the Mountaineer football team, and it stood for the grand family that is the West Orange community.
Mark Mincolelli is a student at West Orange High School.