It’s that time of year again for Montclair State University football to take center stage for the 2022 fall season. The 2021 season was not the greatest for the Red Hawks, but they are ready for another year to prove the doubters wrong.
The Red Hawks have room for improvement after going 3-7 last year and 2-4 against the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). They averaged about 14 points per game, almost five points less than their opponents, and had fewer total yards and touchdowns.
All of that is in the past now as the Red Hawks look to regroup and prepare for the season ahead.
Offensive coordinator Steve Sciarappa had some good things to say about this year’s team and reflected on what can be improved from last season.
“What a great group of young men that we have,” Sciarappa said. “To watch them work so hard over the winter, into the spring and over the summer, and now we finally get that first game under our belt this week. I’m super excited to see all the hard work. My goal is to keep pace with those guys, to keep pace with their enthusiasm and to keep pace with their learning curve.”
Coach Sciarappa is entering his seventh season coaching at Montclair State and looks to continue being a positive influence on the players both on and off the field.
“I think the most important thing that I want to do every year is walk into that season with all the responsibilities in my head of, ‘What is a good educator, what is a good influencer?’” Sciarappa said. “What does that person look like, that’s going to put his players in a position to be better men, better students and better people in the community down the road? That’s my goal for this year and every year.”
The team’s offense is right where it wanted to be this offseason and is prepared for whatever these next three months throw at them.
“Right now we’re hitting all of our marks for progressing [and] for learning the system,” Sciarappa said. “We’re right on track and we’re very encouraged by what we see on the field right now.”
One player to look out for this season is junior running back Makai Mickens. Mickens finished last season as the leading rusher with 485 rushing yards and five total touchdowns. But the veteran halfback is ready to show more of what he’s worth this year.
“I’m a baller,” Mickens said. “I just do whatever I need to get the ball and make the best for my team.”
Mickens is ready to take on the role of a leader and help the younger guys get to where they want to be.
“A lot of kids think I’m a senior here, but I’m really not, I’m technically a sophomore, or kind of a junior,” Mickens said. “The veteran part is the part I have to play to lead everybody to go in the right direction.”
On the other side of the ball, the Red Hawks’ defense has developed greatly and is ready to attack this season. Sophomore linebacker Dorian Gashi is excited to be with the squad.
“The chemistry’s been amazing,” Gashi said. “Everyone’s out there playing hard, playing tough.”
Gashi had a very successful season last year winning NJAC Defensive Rookie of the Year and NJAC Defensive Player of the Week five times. He looks to build on last season and help the team in any way he can.
“I’m just going to try to put the team in the best situation that I can to win,” Gashi said. “That’s really all I do every time I step on the field. Although words don’t really mean much, it’s just trying to put the team in the best spot to win.”
The NJAC Preseason Coaches Poll ranked Montclair State fourth behind Rowan University, Kean University and first place Salisbury University, who went undefeated against the conference last season. The Red Hawks will look to climb to the top of that list and completely flip the narrative from last season.
This is a team to be optimistic about and there’s a lot to look forward to on Saturdays these next three months. Although the majority of the roster is young, there is a solid veteran presence that is more than capable of leading the team to a successful year.
It’s always a good sign when the coaches have only good things to say and the younger players are eager to get on the field and prove themselves.
The Red Hawks will open up the season against the Tomcats of Thiel College at Sprague Field on Saturday, Sept. 3.