The feeling at Livingston High School was unlike any other in the past three years of Millburn Varsity Football: not only did the Millers defeat their Super Essex Conference rival in Livingston, but they shut them out.
The Millburn football team is back, with a new coach in Patrick Leonardis, and newly formulated offensive and defensive units.
The first quarter of the game was neck-and-neck; both the Millers and the Lancers were kept scoreless.
But in the second quarter, the offense exploded behind junior quarterback Milo Freeman. Freeman found senior Steven Montuoro for an 11-yd TD pass (after a fumble recovery by senior Mac Novich), and only minutes later, handed off to senior back Alex Schoen for a touchdown. At the half, despite penalty after penalty called against the Millers, the score was 13-0, and the crowd, who completely filled any available space in the "away" bleachers, went berserk. The Millburn Pep Band and Cheerleaders pumped up the crowd of what must have been at least 400 Millburn students, and about the same number of Millburn families.
A highlight of the first half was when the Millers defense stopped the Lancers on the one-yard line, thanks to solid defensive efforts by seniors AJ Simon, Kelsey Graham, and Montuoro, allowing Millburn to recover possession. That goal-line stop immediately followed a blocked punt that put Livingston inside the Millburn 25, proving the ability of the Millers defense to work calmly under pressure.
The penalties swiftly came to a stop in the second half, with the Millburn defensive unit seldom allowing the Lancers into their own backfield or red zone.
Freeman (9-17, 103 yds, 1 TD) and the Millburn backs kept the ball on the ground throughout the second half, with big runs leading to more big scores.
Schoen was arguably the player of the game, completing 25-yard and 59-yard scoring drives in the second half. While on defense, Schoen even converted an interception.
According to the Newark Star-Ledger, Freeman (69 yds), Schoen (12 carries, 144 yds), and Montuoro (eight carries, 56 yds) combined for 269 rushing yards. Montuoro also converted two receptions, totaling over 100 yards from scrimmage for him.
Juniors Gabe Greenberg, Evan Steinfeld, and Jake Solomon also gained significant yardage on the ground for the Millers.
Receivers sophomore Jared Harris and senior Chris Chiaramonte had some key receptions for Millburn.
The Millburn gridiron squad is led by senior captains Sam Brody, Chris Chiaramonte, Andreas Fanos, Kelsey Graham, Jake Grzeszczak, Andrew Izotov, Josh Jimenez, Michael Lieberberg, Steven Montuoro, Mac Novich, Alex Schoen, AJ Simon, Nazar Stelmakh, Stephen Stimmler, and Joe Wiener.
It is still uncertain whether Millburn will display the offensive and defensive prowess they demonstrated at Livingston throughout the season, but one thing is for certain - the program has undoubted upward momentum.
Senior captain lineman Mac Novich believes the most important factor to the Millers winning in the future "is the belief that we can. We are told that we can do great things, and with our talent and coaching staff, we can. We just have to keep working hard, and preparing for what the next week has to offer".
Senior captain Jake Grzeszczak believes Millburn is a program on the rise. "When we play our games at high-tempo, we believe no team in our conference can stop us. We have worked throughout the summer for this - this is a new Millburn football team and we believe we can do great things."
Grzeszczak adds that "seeing more fans at an away game that would typically come to a home game exemplified the fact that we are on the rise." The seniors thank all the students and families who came to the game.
The Millers look forward to seeing MHS' Neigel Field packed for their first home game, Friday night, September 28th, vs. Barringer.