By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Being the new head boys’ basketball coach at North Arlington High School, Rich Corsetto was hoping for his new team to get off to a strong start in his new regime.
“It’s pretty important to start off well,” said Corsetto, a basketball lifer who was away from the game for the last three years. “Not only for me as a coach, but the entire program. It sets a tone for the rest of the season.”
Well, the Vikings have exploded out of the box, soundly defeating 13th Street Tech of Newark and Belleville in the first two games of the Corsetto era.
“It’s great,” Corsetto said. “It’s good to be back in it with a great group of young men who are working hard and doing everything that we’ve asked them to do.”
Corsetto knew that he was inheriting an experienced program from former longtime head coach David Walsh, who resigned last year after 10 years as head coach at his alma mater.
“I figured we had some experience,” Corsetto said. “I figured we could correct some things and make a few changes in how we play. We could install new things and the kids are picking up on that very well.”
Corsetto knew he had the makings of a solid squad by the way the Vikings performed in three preseason scrimmages.
“They also played in a fall league in Bloomfield that got them ready,” Corsetto said. “We played some good teams in Bloomfield, so that was good experience.”
Corsetto said that he has a solid rotation, one that was put into place during the preseason.
“We go about eight or nine deep, which is not bad for who we play,” Corsetto said. “A couple of kids have surprised me with their development. They play really hard together as a team. They know each other. I think that’s very important.” Corsetto also likes the team’s balance. “We have three seniors who are very close friends,” Corsetto said. “We also have a good group of sophomores who are learning. That’s good for the future. They get along well. They’ve known each other for a while. It’s a good mix.”
Leading the way is senior do-everything Nick Martin. The 6-foot Martin is a rugged, tough inside player.
“He’s a hard-nosed kid, but don’t be surprised if he steps back and hits that short jumper,” Corsetto said. “He’s a very intelligent kid and it’s like having a coach on the floor. I think he’s going to be a coach someday. I feel that way about him. He’s a nice kid. He’s the backbone of our team.”
Another key returnee is 5-foot-9 senior point guard Thai Scott, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
“He’s worked hard to come back and he’s come back quick,” Corsetto said. “It’s unfortunate he missed all of that time, because he does a nice job as our floor leader. He plays hard every night.”
The third senior returnee is senior guard Mike Brazzel. The 5-foot-7 Brazzel is a bundle of energy, a whirling dervish, kind of like North Arlington’s version of the cartoon Tazmanian Devil.
“He brings nothing but energy off the bench,” Corsetto said. “He’s a hard-nosed kid who is very quick when he’s under control. He’s the fastest kid on the team.”
Sophomore Edgar Carranza is a transfer from Christ the King in Newark, where he started last year. Carranza is making his mark already with the Vikings.
Junior Jose Checo is perhaps the Vikings’ most important player. The 6-foot-4 Checo is the Vikings’ threat to score inside and take on some of the taller opponents.
Sophomore Steven Valez is a 6-foot-1 sophomore who is working down low with Checo.
Sophomore Kevin Cerqueira is the team’s instant offense.
“He’s a nice little-all around player,” Corsetto of Cerqueira, who should see a lot of action from the outset. “He’s a nice player with a good shot from outside. He’s just going to get better.”
Joe Morales is a 6-foot-1 sophomore forward.
“He’s a banger, a real tough kid,” Corsetto said. “He never played organized basketball before, so he’s still learning.”
The Vikings got off to a 2-0 start and were scheduled to face Harrison earlier last week prior to press time.
“It feels pretty good,” Corsetto said. “The kids are working hard and playing hard. That’s the one thing that sticks out. My wife pointed out that the kids do play hard. That’s a good sign. We just have to keep it going.”