In just a few days, the Montclair State University football team will take the field in one of the most anticipated football games in over a year.
This year’s homecoming game will be against The College Of New Jersey (TCNJ), who currently hold a 2-2 record this season. After a virtual homecoming in 2020, the Montclair State campus community is eager to return to a more normal event with in-person festivities, including the annual football game.
Historically, the homecoming game has brought big crowds to Sprague Field. In 2019, over 3,000 fans packed the stadium for the homecoming football game as they were treated to a dominating 24-0 victory over Christopher Newport University.
The combination of fans in the stands and the homecoming atmosphere is just what the Red Hawks need to turn their 1-4 season around.
Senior defensive back Brennan Ray understands the magnitude of this game and the opponent for the upcoming matchup.
“When we play New Jersey teams, we don’t like to lose to them,” Brennan said. “We take pride in being a [New Jersey] football team.”
The Red Hawks are coming off a 27-7 loss against the 14th ranked Salisbury University. After going down 27-0 at the half, Montclair State came out and left Salisbury scoreless in the entirety of the second half. Despite the struggles this team had on both sides of the ball, Ray knew that the Red Hawks weren’t going down without a fight.
“Coach came up with a new game plan and we were excited about it,” Ray said. “We came together and came up with a totally different game plan on how to attack the offense and it ended up working really well.”
That loss dropped the Red Hawks to a record of 0-1 in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC). They can change that this weekend, as with homecoming, the moment may be set up perfectly for it to happen.
Ray understands what is at stake for the team and what is needed to change the trajectory of this season. He and the entire football team play for moments like these, so it’s only a matter of executing the game plan in their eyes.
“We have a lot of work to do this week and we are excited,” Ray said. “Especially with it being homecoming, we want to put on a show for the fans and everyone on this campus that’s going to be there.”
Being that Montclair State didn’t have an in-person homecoming last year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this game has been a long time coming for many. For the underclassmen, it’ll be their first time.
The seniors and juniors have been able to reminisce on their past homecoming memories as they hope to bring that same energy into this year’s game. Junior tight end Cameryn Martin remembers his first homecoming game back in 2019.
“I remember my freshman year we played against [Christopher Newport] and overall the environment was nuts, unmatched and unrivaled,” Martin said. “There’s something about homecoming, it’s really going to be something special and to be under the lights too, the excitement is definitely there.”
The last time Montclair State football played an evening football game, they won the 2021 NJAC North Championship. This time around, they hope to defeat TCNJ and turn their season around.
Martin realizes the stakes at hand and believes in his teammates to get the job done.
“Confidence-wise we believe in each other, we know the best has yet to come,” Martin said. “It’s really a matter of [whether] we put it all together and come out of the gates fast like we did against Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).”
Montclair State comes into the game on a four-game winning streak against TCNJ, winning nine of the last 12 games. It’ll be the rivals’ 87th meeting in which Montclair State has taken 55 victories in the series. Piecing together these storylines makes for a matchup that both teams have been waiting for for over a year.
The overall homecoming day will be filled with sporting events as well as a pregame show from the Red Hawk Sports Network from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. That will lead into kickoff at 6 p.m., where it’s expected to be a frenzy of Red Hawk fans ready to cheer on their football team.