By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
It’s been a few months since Rich Tuero officially took over as the head football coach at his alma mater Lyndhurst High School, so there’s no state of shock involved with anything Tuero does as head coach anymore.
“It’s been a great transition,” said Tuero, who took over for Joe Castagnetti as head coach, but Castagnetti remains on staff as an assistant coach. “I’m lucky to have a great coaching staff with great consistency. We’re all on the same page. I’ve been with these guys my whole life, so that helps.”
The Golden Bears finished 3-7 last season and graduated an astounding 22 seniors from that squad.
Needless to say, the Golden Bears will have a different look this season, with a new head coach and a new roster.
“We can say we’re young and inexperienced, but a lot of these kids were with me on the JV (junior varsity) level,” said Tuero, who was the head JV coach last year. “So it’s like we all just moved up to the varsity together. I told them that they were either all in or all out and so far, they’ve all bought in.”
Tuero has a simple goal in his first season. “We just have to continue to get better every day,” Tuero said. “We can never get satisfied.”
The Golden Bears have a battle right now at quarterback, with three players looking to earn the starting nod.
Senior Jonathan Wartel (5-8, 155) and a pair of juniors George Ryan (6-1, 170) and Pete Guerriero (5-9, 170) are all vying for the No. 1 quarterback slot.
“I still don’t know who the guy is,” Tuero said. “All three bring something different to the table.”
There’s no doubt who the Golden Bears’ top running back is. Junior Matt DeMarco (6-0, 180) returns to his starting running back slot in Lyndhurst’s spread offensive set.
“He’s grown a little and looks good so far,” Tuero said. “He has all the tools. He’s respected by his peers.”
How much so? Well, Tuero turned the idea of a team captaincy to a vote of the players.
“Matt was the top vote getter by far as a junior,” Tuero said. “He’s just a hard-nosed, tough football player. He can run over you or run past you. He’s just a hard working kid.”
Senior Joe Cosenza (5-9, 195) will also see some time at running back.
“He’s a hard-nosed bruiser,” Tuero said. “He’s a north and south runner.”
The Golden Bears utilize four wide receivers in their offense.
Junior Quinton St. Helaire (5- 7, 150), a standout in track and field, gives Lyndhurst a ton of speed on the perimeter. If he’s not the quarterback, Guerriero will move to wide receiver.
Senior Derrick Ruiz (5-9, 165) returns as a wide out. Another receiver is senior Marc Estevez (5-11, 175), the basketball standout who has joined the football team for the first time.
“He’s a good athlete and a good leader,” Tuero said of Estevez.
Senior Jordan Stuart (5-8, 175) is the Golden Bears’ tight end.
The Lyndhurst offensive line has some good size and experience. Sophomore Matt Schnoll (6-3, 310) is a returnee who started every game as a freshman last year.
“He’s a man-child,” Tuero said of the hulky Schnoll. “He has the potential to be a good one. He has great feet.”
Junior Ryan Smith (6-0, 240) is the other starting tackle.
Senior Pete Urgola (5-9, 190) returns as a starting guard and he’s joined by the Lyndhurst version of the eye doctor’s eye chart.
Junior newcomer Oluwayomi Olasehinde (6-0, 205) is a first-year football player who has earned a slot at guard.
“He’s a good football player,” Tuero said.
The center is junior Fred Rivers (5-9, 195). The Golden Bears will play a 3-4 defensive formation.
Schnoll and Smith are the defensive ends with senior George Feurtado (6-0, 260) at the nose guard.
The outside linebackers are Olasehinde (pronounced exactly as it is spelled) and Stuart.
DeMarco heads the inside linebackers, along with Rivers and Cosenza.
Ruiz and Wartel are the cornerbacks, with Guerriero and St. Helaire at safety.
The Golden Bears have to take their young roster into a very tough schedule, facing Waldwick to start the season next Friday.
“This is how it is,” Tuero said. “We have speed, but we’re small. We have to use the speed to our advantage. We need to keep people healthy. We’ve been working on that all throughout the offseason. We don’t have a lot of depth, so we have to keep our players healthy.”
Tuero said that he has been keeping his top personnel out of a lot of workouts to keep them fresh throughout the season.
“We’re doing fine right now,” Tuero said. “We have a lot of great kids who are buying into what we’re doing. They’re doing the right things.”
And has it hit home that Tuero is finally coaching his alma mater?
“I love it, because this is what I wanted,” Tuero said. “I love this team. They’re giving every last effort they have. If they just get a little better every day, that’s all I ask for. We have two mottos. We have to get better every day and we’re either all in or all out.”
Judging by the attitude of the Golden Bears, they’re all in for their new coach.