Last season for the Montclair State University football team was unique, to say the least. The season was played in the spring instead of the fall. Only three games were played in the whole season, so every game really counted then.
But in the end, the Red Hawks beat out William Patterson University in a dominant fashion to win the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) North Division championship. Going into this season, the team, including senior defensive back Mike Ramos is happy there is a sense of normalcy going into the fall.
“The spring was very different,” Ramos said. “I have never played a football season in the spring before. It feels good to be back out there in the summer and into the fall and competing with everybody again.”
While it may feel good to dwell on the past and look back on recent achievements, other times it can hurt your mindset and hold your performance back. The start to the fall 2021 season for the Red Hawks has turned into one of those times.
In the first game against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), the Red Hawks did not allow a score until the end of the second quarter. Going into the second half, with a 7-0 deficit, the Red Hawks defense was phenomenal with two interceptions returned for touchdowns and a 92-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown.
But in the fourth quarter, heartbreak struck Montclair State after that insane defensive performance. With a 20-14 score and 18 seconds left in the game, RPI threw a 20-yard passing touchdown and sealed the extra point to take a one-point lead, and in the end, win the game.
Brennan Ray, another senior defensive back for the Red Hawks and First Team All-NJAC selection last season recognizes that with any football game, there is always something to improve upon, whether it’s a win or a loss.
“While we did have a great performance, there are little things we do have to work on so that we can duplicate that performance, or even do better in the next game,” Ray said. “We really have to work on our technique this week. We already know what to do and where to be, and we have great game plans from our coach Todd Agresta. So ultimately, we have to work on that and communication.”
All the way down in Pennsylvania, the Red Hawks’ next game started with quite the bang as Montclair State forced a safety by Delaware Valley University after forcing them to play from their own one-yard line. Then, it looked as though what they practiced paid off. But right at the end of the first half, once again, the game began to slip away from the Red Hawks.
Delaware Valley scored a 71-yard passing touchdown to end the half. The second half of the game only got worse. A rushing and a passing touchdown summed up the third for Delaware Valley, and a 51-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth was the last straw for the Red Hawks to find any way to win the game. It was truly a soul-crushing way to end.
It is also important to note that the Red Hawks offense has had a lackluster start to the season. They have only mustered up 181 yards of offense in the first two games as both the passing and rushing attacks have struggled mightily. Montclair State has yet to register an offensive touchdown this season.
But even with a disappointing start from the football team, Ramos will not let this get them down.
“We just have to take it week by week,” Ramos said. “This is not a good feeling at all, but our main focus is Salve Regina [University] this Saturday. We aren’t focused on anything else other than that game.”
The Red Hawks’ next game is against Salve Regina on Sept. 18. Thankfully, this game will be right here at Sprague Field and even with masks being required for all fans, it is expected to be a packed house for the Montclair State side. Ray is more than excited for the home crowd coming up in a few days.
“This time, the fans are not taking it for granted,” Ray said. “They are going to be rowdy and we want to feed off that energy. Right off the jump when we come out onto the field — that energy helps us to play a whole lot better.”
So if you are looking to support your school and help the football team get on the right foot this weekend, this is the time to bring your friends and family and scream as loud as you can for the Montclair State football team. The noise can help to cloud their thoughts of the past and focus on what is happening in the moment.