Another season of Montclair State University football has come to an end as the Red Hawks took the field for the final time on Saturday, Nov. 16. They faced the Kean University Cougars at their home venue, Sprague Field.
As such with every last home game of the regular season, it was senior day, and Montclair State honored 13 graduating student-athletes who played in their last game with the program.
Head football coach Rick Giancola was choked up when discussing the night.
“It’s emotional,” Giancola said. “It’s emotional for me. It’s emotional for them. They spend so much time in football doing the things that we ask them to do for football. But not only that, you get to learn about them.”
Giancola went on to talk about his relationship with the team.
“You get to learn about their character, you get to learn about who you can trust [and] you get to learn about their citizenship,” Giancola said. “You talk to them about all of these different things and they become almost my sons. And that’s something that I think is very important with that relationship between player-coach, coach and player. I relish that. I enjoy working with some of these guys over and over and over again.”
At the start of the game, the Red Hawks did not come running straight out of the gates.
On their first drive of the game, junior quarterback Ja’Quill Burch fumbled the football following being sacked. The Cougars recovered the ball and took possession at the 25-yard line. On that same drive, sophomore quarterback Tyrae Taylor completed a three-yard pass to senior tight end Kyle Rooney for a Kean touchdown to take 6-0 lead.
Montclair State would get into field-goal territory with 1:54 left in the quarter, but sophomore kicker Anthony Marinelli just missed it with a kick too wide right. With 0:11 left in the half, Kean punted the ball to Montclair State, but senior wide receiver Mike Manzo-Lewis fumbled and the Red Hawks turned it over once again heading into the second quarter.
After a completed pass for four yards, Montclair State forced back-to-back incompletions, forcing Kean to attempt a field goal. Senior wide receiver Kason Campell blocked the attempt and took the ball all the way to the 41-yard line. Montclair State would take advantage of the turnover, as Burch would end up taking it to the house himself, scoring six on an eight-yard rushing touchdown.
The extra point by Marinelli was good and Montclair State took the lead 7-6. Later on, with 57 seconds left in the quarter, Marinelli also made a field goal to send the Red Hawks into halftime 10-6.
Montclair State would run away with the game in the third quarter.
It started with senior wide receiver Daunte Fletcher catching a touchdown pass from Burch just 3:15 into the second half. Burch would bounce back nicely after the fumble on the first drive, completing 21 of 30 passes for 271 yards, one passing touchdown, and one rushing touchdown.
Following the kickoff, Montclair State’s defense forced a three and out and forced Kean to punt. Junior wide receiver Zach Skrivanic blocked the punt which was recovered by senior defensive back Jaier Garrett, who took it all the way for a Montclair State touchdown to make the score 24-6.
The Red Hawks would score once more in the third quarter off a perfectly drawn up play. Burch took a snap then flipped it to his teammate in the backfield, senior running back Ralph McLean. McLean then threw a perfect deep ball to a wide-open Mitch Chugunov for the touchdown.
In the fourth quarter, sophomore defensive back Brennan Ray picked off two passes for scores, one for a touchdown and another off an extra point try. It was worth two points, closing out a Montclair State 40-12 victory to end the season.
The Red Hawks finished the season with an overall record of 6-4 and a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) record of 5-2.
After starting out the season 1-3 in their first four games, the Red Hawks won five of their last six games to end the season. Montclair State will now look forward to carrying the late-season momentum they gained into 2020.
Coach Giancola thinks the team can stay hot going into next season.
“I mean, we ended up doing the same thing last year and we thought that we were gonna have a better year than 6-4,” Giancola said. “But I give the kids so much credit because they could’ve stopped. They could’ve just turned around and said ‘Well the season’s over. Why should we? Why should we continue to play hard?'”
Coach Giancola discussed the team’s plan for their final games of the season.
“We talked about it and they wanted to be the best that they could be,” Giancola said. “So we had the three games left and we said ‘Look, the best we can be is 6-4. So let’s make this a three game series. Win the first one. Go into the second one. Win that one. Go win the third one.’ And that’s all we did.”