The Mountaineers Advance to 4-1, Downing Livingston 42-7

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The Mountaineers Advance to 4-1, Downing Livingston 42-7

West Orange running back Shakhi Carson stiff arms his way to a touchdown run in the early-goings of the match-up.

West Orange running back Shakhi Carson stiff arms his way to a touchdown run in the early-goings of the match-up.

Stephen Zichella

West Orange running back Shakhi Carson stiff arms his way to a touchdown run in the early-goings of the match-up.

Stephen Zichella

Stephen Zichella

West Orange running back Shakhi Carson stiff arms his way to a touchdown run in the early-goings of the match-up.

Mark Mincolelli

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LIVINGSTON, NJ – The West Orange Mountaineers marched into Livingston, New Jersey, in search of another win to improve their record to 4-1. Along with them, tagged along the West Orange faithful, who had packed the stands more densely than the home team had. The Livingston Lancers looked to overcome the challenge of defeating the highly favored Mountaineers, who were coming off of a dominant, 35-0 win over the Columbia Cougars a week prior. Lancer quarterback David Cotugno, and wide receiver Luke Nardone, would have to create an offensive masterpiece in order to out duel the Mountaineer squad to pull off just their 2nd win of the young season.

West Orange would be adding back a huge piece of the defensive unit, #33 Matt Bove, who had suffered a concussion that would sideline him for several weeks of the season. The Mountaineers looked to use this momentum to stumble by the Lancers, on a 55°F afternoon.The first 3 drives of the football game had all ended in punts, as neither team could get anything going on offense. West Orange had struggled moving the ball in the 1st quarter all season long. Quarterback Mason Murdock (#11) and his unit had failed to put those struggles to rest, and again came up scoreless in the opening quarter. The scoring, however, would begin shortly after the end of the 1st quarter. Murdock dropped back and heaved a pass down the left sideline intended for #4, Amiyn Hanks, who went up and made an athletic grab for a 22-yard touchdown reception. With 10:34 left in the half, the Mountaineers were up 7-0 over the Lancers, after senior kicker Bryan Reitberger (#16) had knocked the extra point through.

Photo Credits to Stephan Zichella: West Orange wide receiver Amiyn Hanks, just moments prior to his 22-yard touchdown reception.

 

A forceful hit on the kick return by the teams captain, #14 Chris Parsons, gave the Mountaineers another spark, as the sideline transformed into a frenzy. The West Orange defense remained stout, as Livingston would be forced to punt again, giving the ball back to Murdock and his offense. D1 prospect, Shakhi Carson, took the ball to the house on a 36-yard, ankle-breaking touchdown run. The Mountaineer lead stretched to 14-0 after Reitberger knocked his 2nd extra point through (he would go 6 for 6 on extra points to complete the day).

West Orange would trot into the locker room at half time with a 14-0 lead, but refused to become complacent. Trailing at the finish of the opening half, the Lancers would need a spark. They would indeed be provided with that spark, as they stole the momentum from the Mountaineers. A punt muffed by #2 Dorian Rawls of West Orange, would be a devastating blow to the confidence of West Orange. #24 Jack Schreiber of the Lancers, who recovered the muffed punt, had just changed the path of the game. The Lancers would take over on the West Orange 25 yardline, and quarterback David Cotugno would complete an 18-yard touchdown pass to the diving Luke Nardone (#17), to slice the lead in half. The score was altered to 14-7, after senior kicker Spencer Feldman put the extra point through the uprights. Cotugno would finish the game with 227 passing yards, going 22 for 38. Star receiver Luke Nardone would go on to complete his afternoon with 12 total completions for 98 yards.

Murdock and the Mountaineers would respond, hitting a 54-yard touchdown pass to #8 Jayson Raines. Slicing through the Lancer secondary with blazing speed, the West Orange sideline and bleachers a burst of energy and confidence. In a sprint to the endzone, there was no doubt Raines would win the race for a score. After the PAT was deemed “good,” the score increased to 21-7, leaving the Lancers awestruck.

Photo Credits to Stephan Zichella: West Orange quarterback, Mason Murdock launches a pass downfield for a 54 yard touchdown pass.

 

The Lancers were granted another opportunity to turn the direction of the game around, when senior punter, Anthony Lopa, pinned the Mountaineers on their own 1 yardline. Forcing a 3-and-out, the Lancers looked to score quickly with the field position they would presumably be granted, but the plan fell apart following a muffed punt recovered by #7 Jahmil St Pierre. West Orange would gain possession, killing the hopes of the Lancers.

On a turnover by Murdock, the Lancers were again given hope. In a promising drive containing a 32 yard pass by Cotugno, it would all come to a crashing halt after a wide-open drop in the corner of the endzone by a Lancer receiver. A daunting interception delivered by #2 Dorian Rawls of West Orange, would conclude all hopes the Lancers had in completing an upset against the high powered Mountaineer squad. West Orange would score another 3 touchdowns coming to a final score of 42-7.

Photo Credits to Stephan Zichella: Head coach Darnell Grant of West Orange, shares a laugh with his coaching staff on the sidelines during Saturday’s game vs the Livingston Lancers.

Murdock would finish his afternoon completing 17 out of his 33 attempts for 206 yards and 4 touchdowns, leading his team to victory: “This year the team is really a brotherhood,” says Murdock. “I think we really came together this offseason with all the hard work we put in to try to change the culture of this program, and I think we are all tired of how things used to be and are ready for change.” The Mountaineer quarterback also made it clear to me that a state championship is not a goal, but it is an expectation. Following the game, I caught up with #14 Chris Parsons, who made a couple of huge hits and is an emotional leader on the Mountaineer team. I asked him how it felt to be named captain as a junior on the squad, and he told me: “it is honestly the craziest feeling ever. I did not expect it when I was picked. I am very grateful that my teammates have that much confidence in me to help lead.” It’s clear that the mountaineers have all the pieces needed to have a successful season as evident in this victory against the Lancers. 

Photo Credits to Stephan Zichella: Coach Jerome Hayes looks on as his team looks to beat a fiery Lancers team.

 

 

 

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