The Montclair State University football fell short against William Paterson University, losing 17-14. The Red Hawks ended the season 2-8 and failed to win a game against the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) resulting in a 0-6 record against the conference.
It was a back-and-forth battle between the Pioneers and the Red Hawks for the entirety of the first half. Montclair State showed out first with a four-yard rushing touchdown by graduate student safety Brennan Ray about halfway through the first quarter.
The Pioneers answered right back though with an interception returned for a touchdown. Both teams scored again in the second quarter with sophomore quarterback Aidan McLaughlin scoring for the Red Hawks making it 14-14 at halftime. But a 29-yard field goal in the third quarter by the Pioneers would be the deciding factor.
Montclair State had a chance for the comeback of the season late in the fourth quarter after starting quarterback Mason Murdock left with an injury. With under two minutes left, the Red Hawks managed to drive down the field all the way to William Paterson’s 15-yard line down three points. But a costly fumble would seal the deal for the Pioneers.
Associate head coach Mike Palazzo spoke on the result of the game.
“[It’s] just been the story of the season,” Palazzo said. “We just can’t seem to finish games. It’s unfortunate for the guys, the guys have worked hard. We gave it everything we had until the last play of the game and it’s just been who we are. These guys have great effort, they don’t ever quit. I feel sorry for them that we couldn’t go out on the right note but I’m happy they developed that ‘never die’ attitude that we had.”
This game was the story of the season indeed as it was the fourth game in five weeks that the Red Hawks lost by three points or less and were determined by plays in the final minutes of the game.
Sophomore linebacker Nick Burgess spoke on the mentality the team has and how they keep fighting no matter the situation or the outcome of the game.
“We battled all game,” Burgess said. “We’ve lost a couple of games by a few points so it’s tough. But we battle, that’s all that matters. We battled, we kept pounding and that’s all that matters.”
It was an emotional day as well with it being the last game of the season and the Red Hawk’s senior day. Emotions were showing as seniors and coaches were embracing each other for their last game as they move on to the next chapter of their life.
“I’m sad to see these guys go, but I love them and I’m happy to see them grow as young men,” Palazzo said. “Guys like [Ray], guys like Mike Ramos, guys who’ve been with us for five years, giving everything they have. I’m proud of the young men they’ve become and I hope that some of the traits they learned here will carry over into the next phase of life.”
With the season over, the offseason starts right away as the Red Hawks look forward to next year and the improvements they can make.
“Offseason starts Monday,” Burgess said. “We’re meeting, we’re talking about how the season went and the evaluations and everything. [I’m] looking forward to helping out with recruiting and everything and you know just working on the mind and body all offseason making sure that you’re right for spring ball and being ready for August.”
Recruitment is the next process as Palazzo, who is also the recruiting coordinator, gets ready to bring in the next set of players.
“[I’ve got to] hit the ground running with recruiting,” Palazzo said. “I always feel like I’m behind in recruiting, but that’s just the nature of that beast. [I’ve got to] go recruit and start refilling the cupboards because you’re always [going to] lose guys and start getting ready for next year.”