By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
When Robert Kearns decided to return to his childhood roots and take over the Queen of Peace football team once again, he really didn’t know what to expect.
“I saw the schedule and I thought we could be competitive,” Kearns said. “I thought we would be there until the end and be in every game. But in terms of wins, I didn’t know.”
But Kearns’ thoughts quickly changed after he saw the Golden Griffins start preseason training.
“When we started workouts, I saw the size of our offensive line and I was encouraged by that,” Kearns said. “I knew that we had a good quarterback in Anthony Villano. I knew that I had the best young coaching staff around.”
Kearns was also blessed to have his long-time friend and colleague Ed Abromaitis become a member of the coaching staff. Abromaitis was already the school’s athletic director.
“We’ve known each other for 40 years,” Kearns said of Abromaitis. “We coached together on and off for 20 years. It’s worked out well here.” Abromaitis is in charge of the team’s defensive backs.
“We have a good mix of the young and the old,” Kearns said. “It couldn’t have worked out better.”
It also helped that Kearns inherited a running back like Kevin Momnohin.
“He’s like a coach’s gift,” Kearns said of Momnohin, who has re-written the school’s record books this season.
Momnohin has collected a school record 1,915 yards rushing with an astounding 33 touchdowns. He had 275 yards and five touchdowns in a recent win over neighboring rival North Arlington and added 144 yards and two scores last Friday night in a loss to Cresskill.
“He’s just phenomenal,” Kearns said. “Every week, I keep saying that I can’t ask for more and he keeps giving me more. His work habits are incredible. He wants to succeed in everything he does, whether it’s in football, in track or in the weight room. I saw right away that this kid was a winner.”
Momnohin has guided the Golden Griffins to a 5-4 record, which was good enough to secure the No. 4 seed in the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 1 state playoffs. They will play at home at the new Riverside County Park facility Friday night at 7 p.m. against a very familiar face.
When the Golden Griffins face St. Anthony of Jersey City in the opening round of the state playoffs, they will see former QP head coach Ed Stinson on the sidelines with the Friars. Stinson spent two seasons as the head coach of the Griffins (2008 and 2009).
But the Golden Griffins will have a home game in the states, playing on a new facility, under the lights. No one could have imagined that was possible.
“Without a doubt, I couldn’t have written a better script any better than what has happened,” Kearns said.
A year ago, the Griffins struggled keeping players on the field. One after another, the players fell victim to injury.
But Kearns wanted to make sure that there was no repeat with the injury bug.
“We took things a little differently,” Kearns said. “We spent a lot of time with conditioning and weight room training. We know how to rest their legs. Everyone is healthy, thank God, and we’re keep going on the right track.”
Of course Momnohin is the engine who makes the Griffins go. He’s having an All-State caliber season.
“Everyone knows he’s going to get the ball,” Kearns said. “And when he gets the ball, good things are going to happen. It’s magic. He’s just a very special kid. What he’s done has been unbelievable. No matter what point of the game, he gets this look on his face and he’s just gone. He has that extra step that most people don’t have. And when he uses it, he’s gone. It’s been like Bill Belichick inheriting Tom Brady. I give the ball to 5 (Momnohin’s jersey number) and 5 goes.”
But the team is not all Momnohin.
“Tajier Jefferson has been an absolute moose,” Kearns said. “He’s playing well on both sides. The offensive line has been tremendous. Anthony Villano is great, running and throwing. Everyone has really jelled together nicely. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”
So the Griffins get a home game in the states. It’s a perfect setting for what should be a great game.
“Everyone is buzzing about getting a home playoff game,” Kearns said. “It’s great for the school. There should be such a great crowd there. Everyone is excited about it.”
And one thing should be duly noted, according to Kearns.
“Queen of Peace is back,” Kearns said. “Some people said that the place is dying and the end is near. Well, we’re back and we’re going to be here for a very long time.”