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Cougars prepare to make giant leap on the gridiron in 2022

Montgomery High School quarterback Michael Schmelzer rolls to his left and fires a pass to wide receiver Matt D'Avino for a first down during a quad scrimmage on Aug. 17 in Montgomery. Montgomery opens up the season on Aug. 26 against Robbinsville.

MONTGOMERY – Following an impressive 8-2 season in 2019, the Montgomery High School football team has stubbled a bit on the gridiron the past two seasons and are coming off a 3-6 campaign in 2021.

Coach Zoran Milich feels the tide can turn this year for his Cougars with the talent on the Montgomery roster, led by junior quarterback Michael Schmelzer, senior outside linebacker Joe Rossman and junior wide receiver Matt D’Avino.

“We’re right there,” Milich said. “I like what we have with all the pieces together.”

Schmelzer was a big part in helping the Cougars “right the ship” midway through the 2021 season and qualify for the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section I, Group IV Tournament.

He took over as the Cougars’ starting quarterback in Week 5 against Franklin High School and didn’t look back, throwing for 738 yards and nine touchdowns during the last five games of the season.

Montgomery went 3-2 in the five games that Schmelzer started at quarterback in 2021.

Now, entering his first full season as the Cougars’ starting quarterback, Schmelzer says he’s really happy to be back on the field playing the sport he “loves” and hopes he can help Montgomery be a “great team” this season.

“I’m excited for a fresh new opportunity this year,” Schmelzer said. “We can be a really good football team this year.”

Schmelzer will have a good crop of wide receivers to throw to this season in D’Avino and seniors Nino Spera and Ethan McManus.

At the running back position, Milich said the team is excited to see what senior Chris Eubanks can do at the starting tailback spot this fall.

“We’re really hoping he can be the guy that can take the ball and run with it,” Milich said of Eubanks. “He’s our speed guy. He’s a guy that if he hits (the hole), he can be gone.”

Senior Gavin Guidette and junior Brady Post will also be key components to the Montgomery running game this season, said Milich.

The biggest question mark for Montgomery on offense entering the 2022 season is the inexperience and youth across its offensive line.

Juniors Lucas Szczepanski (center) and Shlok Chaurasiya (tackle) both saw time on varsity at the end of last season and will be looked upon to lead the Cougars in the trenches to start this season, Milich said.

On defense, the Cougars will look to both Guidette and Rossman to lead the way from their linebacker positions.

Spera brings experience to the back end of the Montgomery defense in the secondary, while senior Elhadji Diara will anchor the Cougars’ defensive line.

Despite having some youth and inexperience in key positions, Milich believes his squad has the ability to make a big stride on the gridiron this season if they stay healthy and lead the program to its third state playoff appearance in four years.

Montgomery opens up its season with a Week 0 road contest against Robbinsville High School on Aug. 26. The Cougars will play their first three games of the 2022 season on the road and wouldn’t have its home opener until Sept. 16 when they face Somerville High School.

Montgomery High School wide receiver Matt D'Avino catches a pass for a first down during a quad scrimmage on Aug. 17 in Montgomery.
Montgomery High School wide receiver Nino Spera catches a screen pass and runs up the field during a quad scrimmage on Aug. 17 in Montgomery.
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