WEST ORANGE, NJ – The Mountaineers came out with a chip on their shoulder and played physical football to shut out East Orange 35-0 on Halloween night at Suriano Stadium.
After a 43-14 loss against Montclair on Oct. 25, West Orange was picked to lose 40-35 to East Orange by the Star-Ledger, giving the team fuel to get the win. The win clinches a playoff spot for West Orange, making this the second time in school history the football team has qualified for the playoffs in back to back seasons.
Physicality was the key to the win for West Orange, said East Orange Coach Marion Bell III. Bell noted that the Mountaineer defensive line was more physical than the Jaguars offensive line and that the Mountaineers were “physical all night.” West Orange Coach James Matsakis said that his players made an effort to come out strong after a sluggish and slow start last week against Montclair.
Senior quarterback Eric Oden led the way for the Mountaineers with over 250 total yards of offense. Oden completed ten of his fourteen attempts, throwing for 150 yards. He also ran for 95 yards on twelve attempts and scored a touchdown in the air and on the ground. Coach Matsakis said that changing the play at the line of scrimmage helped put the team in a position to succeed.
The Jaguars started the game with the ball and turned it over on downs after a bad snap on the punt. West Orange had the ball at the fifteen yard line with a great red zone opportunity, but John Hamilton’s field goal attempt missed wide right and the game remained scoreless.
Later in the quarter, West Orange was driving down the field. The drive appeared to be over when the Mountaineers faced a fourth and long situation. The Mountaineers surprised the Jaguars with a fake punt on 4th and 14 and continued down the field, ending the drive on a five yard touchdown run by Michael Osuji.
East Orange started the second quarter strong, advancing the ball down the field on a reception by Tyraiq Beals. The drive was halted when Devante Williams’ pass was intercepted by Jevon Mason in the endzone and returned thirty two yards. A Michael Osuji run took the ball all the way to the Jaguars 37 yard line. The Mountaineers scored two plays later on a 20 yard touchdown run by senior Markeese Falconer to take a 14-0 lead with 8:49 left in the half. West Orange added another touchdown on its next drive on a 35 yard pass to Jarod Vyent to make the score 21-0 going into halftime.
At halftime the West Orange High School Marching Band and Color Guard performed their show “The Endless Cycle” and the Mountaineer cheerleaders performed their routine. In the spirit of Halloween, kids in costume were invited down to the field for candy and to participate in a costume contest. Little Red Riding Hood went over the river and through the woods and Count Dracula came all the way from Transylvania to claim their prizes.
Down twenty-one points, the Jaguars needed to score on their first possession of the second half to change the momentum. On fourth down deep in their own territory, the Jaguars tried a fake punt but wound up turning the ball over on downs at their own fifteen yard line. On the next play, Eric Oden ran fifteen yards for his second touchdown of the game, making the score 28-0 in West Orange’s favor with 6:40 left in the third quarter. After a few changes of possession, West Orange quarterback Jonah Brodsky scored the final touchdown of the game on a two yard run with 6:05 left in the 4th quarter.
The Mountaineers defense handled the challenges presented by the East Orange offense well, which Coach Matsakis attributes to the preparation of the coaches and players. UConn commit Tyraiq Beals had 54 receptions, 881 receiving yards, and 14 touchdowns through the first five games, leading the state in all three major categories. As of October 20th, Devante Williams was third amongst state passing leaders with 1,629 passing yards and 19 touchdowns. Neither player was a major factor in the game.
East Orange had trouble maintaining possession, which lowered the effectiveness of the offense. The Jaguars lost two fumbles, threw an interception, and turned the ball over on downs multiple times. “When we had chances to score we shot ourselves in the foot and made mistake after mistake, and you can’t do that,” said Bell. These turnovers often gave West Orange a short field, which made scoring easier for the Mountaineers.
West Orange moves to 5-3 and will face rival Seton Hall Prep Pirates on Senior Night at home on Saturday Nov. 8, while East Orange falls to 2-5 and will play the 6-1 Montclair Mounties, who have averaged over 45 points in their last four wins, on Nov. 8 in East Orange.