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West Orange senior Michael Osuji (3) was a terrific 'north-south' runner in helping to lead the Mountaineers to upset win over Montclair on Saturday afternoon in one of the big upsets in Essex. (Photo by Glenn Kross-www.glennkrossphotography.com)
Senior Naseem White (left) has been standout at both running back and quarterback during the past two seasons for East Orange Campus. (Photos by Mustafa Hooten)
Al-Majid Hutchins has fit in quite smoothly in his two seasons as EOC head coach
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Among the EOC standouts vs. Bloomfield were senior running back-quarterback Naseem White, who caught a 28-yard TD pass from junior QB Q’uran Dixon and also threw what proved to be the game-winning 34-yard scoring pass to Marshall with just over a minute to go.
If he decides to insert the versatile junior Rady Rojas at QB on occasion, which he does, Hutchins actually has a 3-QB system, and can cause match-up problems for opponents with the different personnel the Jags can throw out there at any given moment.
White, who runs a 4.5 in the 40, also starts at cornerback and is a dangerous kick returner along with tailback-cornerback Nasir Neal, who has 4.47 speed in the 40. Rojas is a solid (6-foot-1, 195-pound) specimen who excels at strong safety or linebacker and can do virtually anything on the offensive side of the ball, whether it’s at running back, receiver or QB. He also handles kicking and punting chores for EOC.
A defensive stalwart for the Jags is senior sack machine Khalil Holcomb (6-0, 245) who Hutchins describes as “a lights-out defensive force and absolute beast on the D-Line.”
EOC (4-2, 83 power points) is currently fourth in the N2G5 playoff picture and a good ways behind present third-seed Ridge (6-1, 109), but with a decent lead over Elizabeth (4-3, 74), which has also played one more game than the Jags.
Hutchins, who played for EOC before graduating in 2007, then enrolled at Rutgers before transferring to Stony Brook where he starred at cornerback for the Colonial Athletic Association FCS team, was a 3-year assistant at his high school alma mater before taking over the head job when longtime coach Marion Bell was not rehired during the summer before the 2015 campaign.
“It was an unfortunate situation at the time, but I’m not that far removed from having played in the East Orange Campus football program, I knew the kids here and they were comfortable with me,” said Hutchins. “It’s a great opportunity and I love the city of East Orange and working to build the football program here for years to come.
“I teach (special education) so I see a lot of the kids during the day and three of my assistant coaches are in the middle school, which is a good thing because you need to build relationships with your younger kids. We’d like to keep the talent in East Orange and not lose great talent like Will Hill (St. Peter’s Prep, University of Florida and NFL) and Jabrill Peppers (Don Bosco Prep, Paramus Catholic and University of Michigan).
“We have four junior football teams (Rams, Jaguars, Panthers and Hurricanes) and we hope that those players will eventually play for the high school in their city.
“Some people may not realize that we have three different high school buildings here in East Orange so it’s a challenge to put everything together on one high school team, but we’re on our way, we have 45 or so guys on the varsity who represent the program in the right way and to me it’s more important to have the right guys who are committed to what we need to do to be successful here.
“Coming from behind to beat an undefeated Bloomfield team is a great step for this team and now we look to build on that when we host Morristown Friday night.”
West Orange Rides Osuji, Onyechi & Co. To Shock Montclair
Time will tell whether this past Saturday’s West Orange victory over heavily-favored Montclair is a signature win for the Mountaineers football program, but Coach Matsakis is simply hoping the energy of what could be a landmark victory in his four seasons as head man will propel his team as it prepares to face a dangerous Livingston team on Saturday afternoon.
West Orange is presently seventh in terms of power points (78) in N1G5 and looks headed to be a No. 7 or No. 8 seed when the field is seeded on Nov. 5 if it can get the job done this Saturday at Livingston.
Still, the afterglow is quite shiny for a program that had not recorded a win over the vaunted Mounties since 2010 before Saturday’s big upset on a damp and windy afternoon at historic Woodman Field.
“When I was at Butler (where he coached for nine seasons) we used to look at Mountain Lakes as the standard, and we rarely beat them,” said Matsakis, who also coached at Jefferson. “I have a lot of guys from Butler on my staff here at West Orange and we’ve called Montclair our Mountain Lakes because they are the most talented team, and – in my mind, without a doubt – they are still the favorite to win our section.
“Our coaching staff would like to think it is a signature win to beat Montclair, but what it really does right now is just make our next game at Livingston that much more important because if we don’t win there we really haven’t progressed the way we think we have.
“Montclair manhandled Passaic Tech and were missing a big-time lineman (Owen Drexel) against us and I know what it would be like for us if we were missing a two-way starting lineman as talented and important as he is for them.
“We were able to ride (running back) Michael Osuji (21 carries for 153 yards and 4 TDs) a lot, he’s our ‘north-south’ guy, and East Orange transfer C.J. Wilson (7 carries for 38 yards), who runs a 4.4 in the 40, is our ‘East-West’ guy with his speed and agility, and he’s made a big impact in just his third game (35 carries for 498 yards, 14.2 yards per carry and 5 TDs) with us after he moved with his family to West Orange.
“As consistent as Osuji was running the football against Montclair I actually think he was even better on defense where he excelled at middle linebacker (5 tackles) and with (Rutgers commit) C.J. Onyechi (7 tackles) dominating on the outside along with (junior) Sebastian Rawls (10 tackles) - and both of those guys were making plays all over the field - we were able to do a pretty good job against them.”
Montclair committed 16 penalties to West Orange’s seven and –according to stats provided by Kevin Meacham of The Montclair Times – the Mounties had 421 yards of offense (6.0 per play) to 285 (4.8 per play) for the Mountaineers.
West Orange out-rushed Montclair, 220-78, but the Mounties had 343 yards through the air thanks to their QB Tarrin Earle (24-of-42, 2 TDs, 1 Int.)
The Mountaineers also did a decent job – when compared to previous opponents - of ‘containing’ Montclair’s explosive running back Danny Webb (20 carries for 70 yards, 2 TDs and two receptions for 65 yards, 1 TD).
Trailing 22-13, Montclair took advantage after recovering a West Orange fumble, striking pay dirt as Earle connected with wide out Robert Nicholas on a 9-yard TD pass to pull to within 22-19 with 2:05 remaining in the fourth quarter.
Osuji’s 39-yard TD scamper made it 29-19 with 1:06 to play, but Earle then hit wide out D.J. Williams, on a hook-and-lateral as the ball then went to Webb who went the rest of the way covering 60 yards to pull the Mounties to within 29-26 with 39 seconds remaining.
The Mountaineers then recovered an onsides kick and ran out the clock to cement the biggest win in the Matsakis era at West Orange.
“It’s just an awesome win for the school,” said the enthusiastic Mountaineers head mentor, whose team made costly mistakes in previous losses to Union City, Irvington and Bloomfield. “If you saw how the teachers, administrators and kids were so excited in the hallways today, you’d get a good feel for just how big this victory is for West Orange football.”
“Now, we just hope we can continue to build on this moving forward!”
Sideline Chatter’s Essex County Top 10:
1-IRVINGTON (7-0) - Blue Knights host former Irvington coach Chet Parlavecchio and his PV Hornets
2-BLOOMFIELD (5-1) - Bengals have first stumble with upset loss at EOC
3-MONTCLAIR (4-2)- Mounties have to try and rebound against SHP
4-SETON HALL PREP (1-6) - Pirates can earn significant win vs. Montclair
5-WEEQUAHIC (6-0)- Indians have to maintain their A-game at Hoboken
6-WEST ORANGE (4-3)- No time for a letdown for sky-high Mountaineers
7-EAST ORANGE (4-2) - DT Khalil Holcomb is sack machine for Jaguars
8-WEST ESSEX (5-2) - Brian O’Neill excels at LB and RB for physical Knights
9-SHABAZZ (5-2)- Javis Hanks, Jashim Gordan and David Orduson are lockdown defenders for Bulldogs
10-CALDWELL (5-2) - Chiefs face important road test at Whippany Park
This Weekend’s (Oct. 28-29) Schedule:
Friday Night, Oct. 28, at 7 p.m.:
Fort Lee at East Side (Schools Stadium)
Morristown at East Orange Campus (Robeson Stadium)
Columbia at Morris Knolls
Bayonne at Bloomfield
Passaic Valley at Irvington
Belleville at Millburn
Barringer at West Essex
Central at Orange (Bell Stadium)
North Warren at Cedar Grove (Panther Park)
Weequahic at Hoboken
Verona at Boonton
Pingry at Newark Academy
Saturday afternoon, Oct. 29, at 1 p.m. (unless otherwise noted):
Montclair at Seton Hall Prep (West Orange HS)
Glen Ridge at Immaculate (Codey Field)
West Orange at Livingston
Parsippany Hills at Nutley
Caldwell at Whippany Park
West Side at Mountain Lakes
Hackley at MKA, 1:30 p.m.
Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister
West Orange's Michael Osuji is a force at middle linebacker (above) along with being one of the top running backs in Essex County this fall season. (Photo by Glenn Kross)
Coach Jim Matsakis and his West Orange Mountaineers earned a signature win as they upset Montclair, 29-26, this past Saturday at Woodman Field. (Sideline Chatter photo)
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