Photo Credit: Sunil Sunder Raj

Montclair grinds out win over Columbia in the Quarterfinals of the North Jersey Section 1, Group 5 Tournament

Montclair faced  Columbia in the Quarterfinals of the North Jersey Section 1, Group 5 Tournament at Woodman Field in Montclair, New Jersey. The Mounties(7-3) entered the game as the third seed, while the Cougars(4-5) were sixth.

Montclair and Columbia faced each other for the second consecutive week. The Mounties won the regular season finale convincingly against the Cougars, 42-7.

Scoreless after the first quarter, Montclair struck paydirt early in the second quarter with quarterback Bubba Lewis unleashing a 57-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jace Auletta.

The teams traded turnovers within a minute of each other. First, Columbia defensive lineman Yazid Thompson recovered a fumble. On the flip side, Auletta intercepted a pass.

The Mounties started at their 32-yard line. Oswald Russell Jr. broke off a solid run into Cougars territory. A personal foul assessed against the Columbia defense pushed the ball down to the 31-yard line.

Montclair reached the 11-yard line, but a six-yard loss on third down forced a field goal attempt. That proved no problem for Mounties kicker Benjamin Price as he belted a 27-yard field to extend the advantage to 10-0 with less than six minutes remaining.

In the second half, the Mounties received the opening kickoff. Montclair began the drive from their 31-yard line and drove down the field methodically. On third down and long after a holding penalty, Lewis completed a 38-yard pass to wide receiver David Thomas-Rogers.

Lewis connected on a pass to Mack Mathisen and, with the Cougars defense committing another costly personal foul penalty, advanced the ball down to the Columbia 11-yard line.

However, the Cougars' defense dug a line in the sand and forced the Mounties into another field goal attempt. A chip shot field goal for Price as he knocked home an 11-yard field to widen the Montclair margin to 13-0 with seven minutes left.

Columbia started the ensuing offensive possession from their 35-yard line. Cougars quarterback Charlie Morrison completed a pair of passes to Max Gigante. On the ground, Steve Memo bulldozed through to gain chunks of yardage.

The Cougars benefitted from a highlight reel moment when Morrison lofted a pass towards the left side of the field, with wide receiver Zhamir Rowan skying into the air to reel in the catch and came tumbling down to the ground. A personal foul assessed against the Mounties defense pushed the ball down inside the ten-yard line.

Columbia faced second and goal at the five-yard line, when Morrison handed the ball off to Memo, who then plowed into the end zone for the score that trimmed the deficit to 13-7 with three and half minutes to go in the quarter.

The back-and-forth action continued with Montclair getting the ball back. Russell Jr. ran the ball five consecutive times, which proved effective as the Mounties reached the Cougars 28-yard line.

On second down, the Montclair offense threw a curve ball as Lewis hooked up on a 23-yard pass to Jayden Lee. On first and goal at the four-yard line, Ja-Khi Chance took the handoff and surged straightforward into the end score that stretched out the Mounties advantage to 19-7.

Montclair was able to protect the lead due to the defense forcing the Columbia offense into multiple three-and-outs and having to punt the ball away. The Mounties eventually cruised to the 19-7 victory.

Next up for Montclair is a match-up against second-seed Watchung Hills(8-2) in the semifinals of the North Jersey Section 1, Group 5 Tournament on Friday, November 3rd, at Watchung Hills High School, with kickoff set for 7 p.m.