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Montclair' senior running back Shaquan Oliver had 13 carries for 136 yards and scored a key touchdown in this past Saturday's 34-28 victory over Seton Hall Prep to earn honors as the Sideline Chatter/360 Fitness Athlete of the Week. He now has rushed for 823 yards in 5 games. (Photos by Doug Allen)
RB Shaquan Oliver (45) has a firm grip on ball after taking handoff from quarterback Elijah Robinson in Montclair's 34-28 win over Seton Hall Prep.
Montclair RB Enjoys Himself
By Steve Tober
MONTCLAIR- Being part of the town of Montclair, along with a key member of the high school’s highly-touted, history-laden football program is certainly an experience that Shaquan Oliver is taking fully to heart and embracing these days, and he simply wants to fully soak in what he hopes are seven more football games in his senior season as a prime Mountie running back.
The powerfully-built 5-foot-10, 225-pound senior had a couple of critically important runs while rushing 13 times for 136 yards and the clinching touchdown as Montclair (4-1, 1-0 in the Super Essex Conference-American Division) defeated Seton Hall Prep, 34-28, last Saturday at West Orange High School.
His 2-yard TD run, set up by his 35-yard scamper, gave Montclair a 34-21 lead with 2:04 remaining in the fourth quarter, and proved to be the game-clinching score.
Oliver, who now has 110 carries for 823 yards (7.5 yards per carry) and 7 touchdowns so far this season in five games, is the Sideline Chatter/360 Fitness Athlete of the Week.
On a team where the feature performer is the Boston College-bound senior quarterback Elijah Robinson, who racks up his own impressive rushing numbers (18 carries for 194 yards and 4 TDs vs. SHP) Oliver is the perfect complement to his friend and backfield mate, providing a solid component in the Mounties’ 1-2 tandem of a ground assault.
The journey to get to this point for the senior running back from Delaware has had its twists and turns, but the final landing in terms of his scholastic career and new hometown has been quite fruitful once the transition was completed and he had settled in quite nicely.
After spending his first two seasons at the Hodgson Vocational Technical High School in Newark, Del., Oliver moved with his mom, Lashonda, and younger sister - now 14-year-old freshman Rasheemah - to Montclair when Lashonda’s job with Comcast required her to relocate to the Garden State.
Seeking a town where her children could hopefully transition smoothly, Lashonda selected Montclair, where she knew that one of Shaquan’s good friends from Hodgson Vocational, all-state defensive end Darius Slade (now a freshman at Ohio State), had moved to the home of the Mounties the previous year.
“When my mom was transferred to the Comcast office in Union she wanted to find a town where we could benefit the most from our high school experience and where we might be the most comfortable,” said Shaquan. “The fact that Montclair had a great football program as well was really just an added benefit and I knew Darius was doing well there having been friends with him since our days together in Delaware.”
Oliver didn’t blossom right away as he attempted to blend in with his new football team and became accustomed to the Mounties’ offense and his teammates and coaches, but there were very good days to come in his junior season in 2013.
“It was a learning experience,” he said. “I was settling in at school and also learning our plays, but it was great that my teammates, including Elijah and (linebacker) Kevin Robinson, made me feel more comfortable, and the coaches were patient with me as well.”
The high point for Oliver as Montclair was on its way to a perfect 12-0 season and a second straight North 1, Group 5 playoff championship came in the semifinals vs. Union City when he carried the ball 21 times for 120 yards and scored a touchdown in the Mounties’ hard-fought 40-35 victory.
Then, in the championship game vs. Ridgewood at MetLife Stadium, he was a true star, rushing for 200 yards on 17 carries and a TD as Montclair cruised to a 33-0 triumph.
This season, things did not start well for Montclair in a 29-7 loss at Pascack Valley which snapped the team’s 24-game winning streak; however, both the Mounties and their power running back have emerged since then, and the team has righted the ship.
Oliver rushed for 178 yards and scored 4 TDs in a 41-20 win over Nutley, and then in his return to Delaware, and not far from his former New Castle home, he had 119 yards and 2 TDs in a 64-35 victory over the St. Mark’s School.
“It was great to return to Delaware and see some old friends and family at the game,” said Oliver. “But, Montclair is my home now and I am totally a Mountie as I look to enjoy the rest of my senior year concentrating on helping to lead this football team to a third straight playoff championship.”
Oliver has already received offers from the three main military academies in West Point, Navy and the Air Force, although he’s not sure that is the avenue he wants to pursue after high school.
“It was actually kind of shocking at first when Army approached me first, and then Navy offered followed by Air Force about four or five days after that,” said Oliver. “I have visions of becoming involved in sports medicine or finance and perhaps even going to medical school so I’ll have to wait and see what transpires as far as other schools becoming interested in me as well as we move forward before I make any decision on what I will do for next year, but I know the military academies are a huge commitment.”
Oliver recently had an unofficial visit to Syracuse along with teammates Kevin Robinson and (two-way end) Josh Allen, and liked what he saw there.
“I really liked the main campus at Syracuse and enjoyed my weekend there,” he said. “It made me realize I might really enjoy a college experience like that if the opportunity presents itself.”
Oliver knows that some schools may be put off just a bit by his lack of height at 5-10, but at 225 he is both powerful and fast (4.65 in the 40-yard dash) and he’s worked hard on his speed and agility since last year.
“I trained during the summer with our strength coach (Mike Stoia) and worked on my speed while running on the track with Elijah and (graduated Mountie wide receiver) Donovan McDonald,” he added. “I feel I’ve gotten faster even though I know a lot of people consider me a power back.”
Oliver’s favorite player is Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, who coincidentally enough is powerfully built at 6-0, 217 pounds. His own coaches compare him to former NFL star Jerome Bettis, and he may even remind some folks of the late NFL standout Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, although the Mountie senior is not familiar with the early 1980s Passaic High School star who used to do his thing against Montclair on Thanksgiving Day back in 1982 and ’83 when the two teams were temporary Turkey Day rivals.
“It’s nice to be compared at this point with great players like those all-time greats, but I realize I’m still working hard to improve myself at the high school level and I have a lot of growing to do as a football player,” said Oliver. “All I know is, I’m enjoying the entire Montclair experience right now, both in school and in town because there is a real family environment here, much different for me than in Delaware.
“I feel welcomed in Montclair and the town really gets behind its football team while showing a lot of love. The coaches care about you and try to help you become a better player and person, I have made some good friends and feel that I’m close to all my senior teammates, plus I enjoy being with the younger guys on the team as well.
“It’s been a learning experience these last couple of years, for sure, but I’m really enjoying the journey!”
Student-Athletes selected for the Sideline Chatter/360 Fitness Athlete of the Week award receive a free speed and agility session at the state-of-the-art 360 facilities located at 25 Greenbrook Road in Fairfield. For more information on all the sessions available at 360, call 1-877-787-0360, ext. 1005 or log on to http://wwwnj360fitness.com
Follow Steve Tober on Twitter @Chattermeister
Montclair RB Shaquan Oliver is on his way for long run vs. SHP
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