It took the Montclair High School football team just 13 seconds to set the tone in the North 1, Group 5 NJSIAA Championship game.
The Mounties’ star senior running back Daniel Webb returned the opening kick for 92 yards for a touchdown and a good kick from senior Harry Wiley put the Mounties up 7-0 before Union City fans could even blink an eye.
Montclair rode their momentum all the way to the program’s eighth state championship title with a 35-14 victory over Union City to complete a perfect 12-0 season, on Friday, Dec. 1 at MetLife Stadium.
“Before this day even happened I told myself if I get a kick return on the opening kick at MetLife, I have to take it (all the way),” Webb said. “I saw one lane and then that was that.”
With 1:45 remaining on the clock in the first quarter, senior quarterback Tarrin Earle ran in the team’s second touchdown on fourth and goal while Wiley delivered the extra point to make it 14-0.
The Mounties again turned to Webb, a West Point commit and the All-Time leader for career touchdowns in Essex County with 28, as he opened the second quarter with another touchdown to give the home team a comfortable 21-0 lead.
“Webb is the best player in the state, no doubt about it,” Earle said of his teammate. “We knew he was going to set the tone early and when he did, our team just kind of relaxed and we weren’t up tight anymore.”
Union City found themselves in unfamiliar territory this season, having only given up 22 points to the Mounties in their last meeting during the regular season when Montclair earned a 22-7 victory on Sept. 28. Despite the loss, the Soaring Eagles are still the only team to hold Montclair to under 40 points all season long.
— baristanet (@baristanet) December 2, 2017
Still, Union City did not give up and put up seven points on the scoreboard with 3:27 left in the second quarter off a touchdown from Jean Alvarez and an extra point from Camilo Giraldo.
But the Mounties wanted more and Earle completed a pass to senior wide receiver Colin Callahan as the score moved to 28-7.
With 48 seconds left in the half, Union City threatened a second touchdown at second down and goal. But it was Mounties senior defensive back Tysean Williams who broke up two consecutive passes to push the Soaring Eagles to fourth down, where they were halted by a tight Montclair defense as time expired.
Union City held Montclair for most of the third quarter until Earle connected with junior Charles Murphy for a 25-yard touchdown, and another good field goal from Wiley widened the Mounties’ lead to 35-7 with 2:37 remaining in the third quarter.
The Soaring Eagles found a way to add one more touchdown in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough as the Mounties held tight to their lead and walked off with the triumph.
“The fans and the entire town, they were all behind our backs from the beginning and just from that (opening) play, we knew we had it in our pocket,” Webb said.
The title goes down as head coach John Fiore’s fourth and Earle’s second as the Mounties won their last championship in 2014. Montclair fell just short of making it to the finals the past two years, but this year was different.
“When I got the ring my freshman year, I didn’t even feel like I deserved it because I was just on the team,” Earle said. “So we set out on a mission – us seniors – that we had to get another one. The past two years losing very close games in the semifinals really took a toll on us but we knew we had to drive this year. It’s just elation that I’m feeling.”
For Webb, it was a true journey throughout his high school career, but ultimately culminated with the perfect ending.
“From day one, we told ourselves, this is where we’re going to be,” Webb said. “We made a plan and we set it, and we just achieved it.”
— Julie Kayzerman (@juliekayzerman) December 2, 2017