WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange High School football team is vying for state championship this season, but the Mountaineers will be challenged by an elite opponent in Week One next month.
Second-year head coach Darnell Grant has West Orange’s own version of the “Four Horsemen”: Jayson Raines (wide receiver), Shaki Carson (running back), Mason Murdock (quarterback) and Aquan Robinson (defensive end).
Three of the four seniors are already committed to Division 1 colleges: Raines just committed to Stanford University, Carson is committed to Kent State and Robinson is heading to UMass. Murdock has had several offers and has yet to decide.
Because of the adjustments to online classes and the delays caused by the ongoing coronavirus restrictions, the football season has been pared down to six regular-season games in 2020. West Orange will host state-ranked St. Peter's Prep in the season opener Friday, Oct. 2. There are no games in September.
The four players explained that they not only have been attending school together for 12 years, but that they all grew up playing Mustang football with West Orange PAL.
“It’s much more than teammates and friends,” Raines said. “It’s a family. We always will be.”
According to Murdock, “About 75 percent of the returning team are seniors,” for a total of about 15 athletes.
“The team keeps getting better, and they’re having a great week,” said Grant. “All the coaches are proud of the work they’re doing.”
During the summer, the team has been practicing according to NJSIAA COVID-19 protocols, and Grant noted that the team will be receiving lower face shields in addition to the upper shields already on the helmets.
In describing NJSIAA’s decision to have a fall sports season after the last spring sports season was canceled, “It’s been a blessing to showcase our talent,” Robinson said. The team hopes to play at least six regular games. Pre-season practice begins on Sept. 14 and scrimmages on or around Sept. 28. Attendance at games will be limited based on state and NJSIAA Covid-19 protocols.
“Our players represent the best of West Orange High School,” Grant said. “They excel not only athletically but academically.”
“This year, it’s the states or bust,” Raines said.
Cynthia Cumming, West Orange Schools, provided much of the information for this report.