Refreshed is a great way to describe the characteristic of the 2018 Montclair State Football Team. The 2018 team didn’t grasp their recent success overnight. It took a change inside of the men and culture on and off the field.
The team is aware of the impact this year’s group has affected the program, truly bringing a switch to the energy in the stadium. Some of the guys are more open to talk about that. “All relationships are great. We’re a great team. Everyone’s come close this year, it’s a nice refreshing thing, says senior wide receiver Carsen Johnson.
On Saturday November 3rd Montclair took on Rowan University where emotions and Red Hawk pride ran high at the team’s Senior Day Game. With plenty of family and friends sitting in the stands, 10 different seniors led their team onto their home field for the very last time this season including captains Mauro Altamura and Jake Weber.
There was no better spectacle than the teams senior game to see the bond these brothers share translate onto the field. Montclair would jump out early scoring all 28 of their points in the first half while shutting out Rowan.
After a 4th down stop by the defense, the loud spoken offensive lineman Matt Schnoll jumped off bench in excitement with the chance to score once more before halftime. His excitement rolled over into the second half as he came out yelling “It’s Showtime, It’s Showtime, Let’s give ‘em a show!” This sophomore is a prime example of how this seasons culture rubbed off on just about every player.
Schnoll claims, “Last year everyone was me, me, me. Now we’re focused on putting family first.” Like many players on the team they live with one another and the group would be the first to tell you they spend most of their time off the field together.
“All the time, it’s always who I’m with, after classes and stuff, in between classes we’re always hanging out in the stu. It’s always with them,” says Johnson. Trading a sophisticated and smooth handshake with fellow wideout Daunte Fletcher showed the swagger of the receiving core and their bond on the sideline that day.
Close bonds often come with those that are closest to you on the field. You can start with the offense. QB Ja’Quill Burch has been held to a high standard of production from bringing a large amount of success to the offense this season. Burch knows how important the pieces are around him and is grateful for the group of guys he’s giving the ball to, but also though big guys blocking for him up front. When asked about his receiving core he says “It’s tight. Brotherly love.”
Most of the guys gave that answer “Brotherly love,” when asked to explain their bond with their teammates. Burch proved his passion for his teammates in a dead play where after seeing his wideouts helmet be pushed into the turf by the opponent Rowan, and no flag being thrown by the referee for unsportsmanlike, Burch was the first to defend his receiver getting in the face of the ref and coming to his teammate’s aid. Although possibly risking a penalty on his own team he wanted to defend the honor of his brother.
Right along with Burch, senior Willie Barr speaks highly of those men who block for him. He’s made it a tradition to go out to eat with his “homeboys” every Thursday night. Barr also shares the load of the carries with junior Ralph McClean, who he has a close friendship with. Along with everyone on the sildine and stands Barr is one of the first to give the echoing “RALPHY” call when he breaks off for a long run.
Then there’s Montclairs defense. A tight unit led by the captains, linebacker Mauro Altamura and defensive lineman Jake Weber. “These guys have fought for me all year and I’m so appreciative for all of them. I know me and Mauro and the rest of the seniors we all are. We’ve been talking about it all week, just about how thankful we all are for each other because this has probably been one of the best teams I’ve ever been on.” Weber’s comments shed light on the gratitude he has for his for the brothers he plays beside.
Like a few college Big10 football teams Montclair has adopted the celebratory Turnover Chain. Following a turnover caused by the defense that player gets to rock the oh so flashy gold $ Turnover Chain around their neck on the sideline. A tipped pass by junior Rodney Diprenda fell into the hands of senior Giuseppe Gugliuzza for an interception setting up Montclair’s second touchdown of the day and giving him the feeling of the Turnover Chain around his neck.
"It’s on us to pick each other back up"Jake Weber
Coming off to the sideline, everyone hyped over the interception, there was no one person more riled up then Defensive Coordinator Todd Agresta. He sees all the mistakes the defense made before the interception, and ready to instill the corrections into their head sometimes at high volume. Weber says “Guys just gotta rally, and we rally around each other. That’s the biggest thing. We preached a lot coaches are gonna be the ones on you coaches are gonna be the ones to yell at you, to mke you be where you need to be. It’s on us to pick each other back up.”
Altamura shows he’s a captain great at that, by often speaking to his defensive brothers on the sideline, getting them ready to go back out on defense. And he has a secret to it. “Sometimes with these guys you have to know how to get them going. So me and him #37 Jaier we just always say you know watch, I’m gonna do it now, I’m gonna make a play now. Just sit back and watch.” Not only giving advice to his fellow teammates but competing with them on who’s gonna make that big play next gets Altamura’s defense going. Immediately following the talk between Altamura and Jaier Garrett the defense forced a fumble recovered by Jalen Harris. It was now his turn to wear the Turnover Chain.
The boys took their focus to the following Saturday, where they traveled down the road to take on William Patterson and finish out their regular season with a win, 24-0. They finish the season with a record of 8-2 which would be their best finish since the 2014 8-2 season. Weber says their record “is a hell of a place to be after being picked to finish 8th in the conference.”
"Keep Pounding"Sam Mills
More importantly the few that are on their way out would like to leave a lasting culture of family above anything else. For those seniors who walked into this program years ago, and for the next group of recruits that will wear the red and white jerseys next, they will live and play by that Sam Mills motto. Jake Weber relays it. “We used to get on each other a lot. When you make a bad play oh you gotta do this, you gotta do that, when this year it’s been more we’ve gotta stay the course, we gotta play our game. You know mistakes happen in a football game, nobody’s perfect, but at the end of the day you gotta keep pounding.”
Jeffrey Brown III is a from Trenton, NJ. A Junior, attending his in state college Montclair State University. He minors in Journalism and has plans to enter the major the Sports Media and Journalism concentration in it’s School of Communications and Media Arts. Brown’s love for both sports and writing gives him the hopes to be a sports beat writer one day.