The Lyndhurst High School football team posted a 5-4-1 record in 2016.
In a lot of NJSIAA sectionals around New Jersey, the 5-4-1 record might have been good enough to qualify for the state playoffs.
But that wasn’t the case in North Jersey Section 2, Group II.
The record, combined with the new format set up by the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference, kept the Golden Bears out of the state playoffs by a grand total of three power points.
The Golden Bears’ chances at gaining a state playoff berth were damaged by the early season outbreak of the Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD), a highly contagious disease that usually plagues toddlers of preschool age.
So there were a lot of disappointing factors that played into the Golden Bears’ record last year.
Rich Tuero, who is in his fourth season as the head coach at his alma mater, is hopeful that the same circumstances won’t plague the Golden Bears in 2017.
“The kids know the deal,” Tuero said. “They were kept out of the state playoffs and it left a bad taste in our mouths. We want to get rid of that bad taste.”
Tuero feels like he’s much more relaxed now as a head coach, gaining valuable experience every year.
“Everyone told me that you get more and more comfortable with every year,” Tuero said. “I’m not satisfied. It’s a learning game. I’m busy learning from other people and adapting it to my coaching style. We’re trying to get better every day.”
Tuero is especially pleased with the play of his linebacker corps.
“We have a nice group of guys back from last year, guys who can make plays,” Tuero said. “All of the defensive backs are back as well. I’m excited about the way we look there.”
If there is one question mark in the early going, it has been the Golden Bears’ play along the line of scrimmage _ on both sides.
“My line is brand new,” Tuero said. “So that’s a bit of a big deal. But they’re learning and they have potential. We have nothing but puppies up front.”
The Golden Bears have a talented leader at quarterback in junior Brian Podolski (6-foot-2, 180 pounds).
“Brian took over the team in Week 5 last year and having that experience definitely helps him coming into this season,” Tuero said. “He has all the tools to be a very good quarterback. He has a rocket arm. He has good legs. The only thing he needs to work on is his confidence.”
Senior Chris Feurtado (5-7, 170) returns for his final year, but while he was rehabilitating a knee injury he suffered last year, he injured his other knee and that has forced him to the sidelines in the early going.
Sophomore Peter Partyke (5-8, 180) has transferred to Lyndhurst after the closing of Queen of Peace. Partyke is playing running back with the Golden Bears after playing quarterback with the now-defunct Golden Griffins.
“We are excited about having Peter back there,” Tuero said. “He can run with the ball.”
Freshman Anthony DeMarco (5-8, 170), the younger brother of former Golden Bear standout Matthew DeMarco, currently playing at Montclair State, is also in the backfield.
The receiving corps features senior Jonathan Karlok (6-2, 185), a four-year starter at Lyndhurst.
“He’s our captain,” Tuero said. “He’s our leader. He’s a good blocker. He’s a good pass catcher. He’s the man.”
Senior Jordan DeAbreu (5-10, 180) is another captain and another respectable pass catcher.
Senior Nick Cutola (6-2, 180) is a converted quarterback who was turned into a wide receiver.
“He’s doing well at receiver,” Tuero said. “He knows everything about the offense because he was a quarterback. He also is a very hard worker. He busts his tail.”
The tight end is senior Matt Tomko (5-10, 170), another returning starter.
The offensive line is led by senior tackle Nick Fitzgerald (6-0, 275) and junior guard Shane D’Andrea (6-2, 250), both of whom are returning starters.
Senior guard Nick Frey (6-0, 220) is a team captain who was shifted from tight end to guard. Junior Antonio Lobos (6-4, 280) has a lot of promise to go with that size at tackle. Senior Terence Beebe (5-11, 250) is the team’s new center.
The Golden Bears utilize a 3-4 formation on defense.
Fitzgerald and junior Paul Cimicata (6-2, 215) are the defensive ends with D’Andrea holding fort at nose tackle.
The promising linebacker corps features Jake Oyuela (5-10, 180) and Tomko at outside linebacker, with Frey, who was moved to inside backer last year, and junior Jeffrey Grasso (5-9, 180) at the inside linebacker slots.
“Grosso reminds me of Matt DeMarco,” Tuero said. “He had over 100 tackles last year as a sophomore.”
D’Abreu and senior Louis “G.Q.” Della’Aquila (5-9, 165) are the cornerbacks, with Karlok, who has started there since he was a sophomore, and Jay Lauria (5-10, 170) at the safeties. Lauria is a junior.
The Golden Bears begin the 2017 season with a game against neighboring rival Harrison.
Tuero knows that the potential is there for his team.
“I think we can be a pretty good team,” Tuero said. “One thing is for sure. No team is going to outwork us. We’re going to be ready.”
Sure sounds like a promising campaign all around.