Harrison’s Huseinovic comes up big in must-win game

Harrison High School senior Dustin Huseinovic always had a good role model to emulate _ namely his older brother Adam.

I definitely looked up to him,” the younger Huseinovic said. “I was just a little kid, but I wanted to be like him. I wanted to play with the older guys. There’s four year difference between us, but I wanted to be able to play with him.”
Adam Huseinovic had a fine career at Harrison, both in football and baseball. In fact, Huseinovic was The Observer Athlete of the Week on Sept. 25, 2013, rushing for 196 yards on 19 carries and scoring two touchdowns in the Blue Tide’s win over Wallington, snapping a hideous 18-game losing streak in the process.

After helping the Blue Tide return to the NJSIAA playoffs last season, Dustin Huseinovic was expected to lead the Tide this season, both offensively and defensively.

But there was a little snag in the early going of the season, as the Blue Tide lost their first two games of the new season to Lyndhurst and Hawthorne.

Second-year Harrison head coach Mike Hinchcliffe knew that if the Blue Tide wanted to make a return trip to the state playoffs, they needed to change things in a hurry. And the changes had to include the team’s most valuable player.

“We had to open up the offense a little to take a little pressure off Dustin,” Hinchcliffe said. “It was harder for Dustin to manufacture yards as a receiver, so we moved him back into the backfield. We knew that if we could get Dustin some open space, he would do something with it. We had to minimize the attention that was spent on him. We knew that he was a strong player and with open space, he could be very dangerous.”
The Blue Tide also shifted things a little on defense, switching from a standard 4-3 formation to what Hinchcliffe called “a 3-3 stack,” which puts more defensive backs on the field. Again, it was a move to best utilize Huseinovic’s speed and talents.

“We did it so he was able to attack the box,” Hinchcliffe said. “He’s such a good athlete. When he’s going well, nothing is going to stop him.”

So with the Blue Tide facing a crucial do-or-die game against Elmwood Park last week, the Blue Tide put their hopes on the shoulders of their best player.

“When we make changes, it’s for the team,” Hinchcliffe said. “But the team only goes as far as Dustin can take us. We had to make the most of our chances.”

Huseinovic was ready for his new responsibilities.

“I wasn’t worried,” Huseinovic said. “I think I was just waiting for us to put it all together. Any role that Coach Hinchcliffe has to offer me, I’m going to do it, because he knows what’s best for the team. I was open to the changes. Over the first two games, I had more of a receiver role, but I wasn’t getting the ball as much. But these changes worked out well.”

Sure looked that way.

Huseinovic carried the ball 12 times for 197 yards and scored three touchdowns. He also had 10 tackles and collected two sacks in the Blue Tide’s huge 28-14 victory.

“I just knew we weren’t coming out of that game with another loss,” Huseinovic said.

For his efforts, Huseinovic has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

Talk about irony. Almost four years ago to the date, Adam Huseinovic had 196 yards and two TDs to earn Observer Athlete of the Week honors. Dustin Huseinovic collected one yard more than his older brother in earning Athlete of the Week accolades as well.

Hinchcliffe knew that he could rely upon Huseinovic.

“He’s a very good athlete,” Hinchcliffe said. “He’s a typical small school athlete. He plays both ways in football and plays other sports. He has to be an Ironman for us. He has to stay on the field all the time. He has to play through the little nicks and bumps he may get. He hasn’t come off the field all season. He’s never shied away from responsibilities. We keep piling things on his plate and he understands his role.”

Huseinovic said that he loves playing both football and baseball, but he believes he is a better performer on the gridiron.

“I’m better in football so I like football better,” Huseinovic said. “We want to get back to the state playoffs again. That’s our biggest goal. Now we definitely have a shot. We plan on having a great season. This is just the start.”
The Blue Tide faces Secaucus this weekend.

“We want to get back to 2-2,” Huseinovic said. “It’s like a fresh start for us. If we can get back to 2-2, we’ll go from there.”

Hinchcliffe says that he has a good relationship with Huseinovic.

“We needed something to feel good about after the first two losses,” Hinchcliffe said. “If we were successful against Elmwood Park, we could build off that. I counted on Dustin to get things done. He has this special tenacity about him, almost like he’s in Beast mode (eluding to Oakland Raiders’ running back Marshawn Lynch’s nickname). He can do it all. He doesn’t ask questions. He doesn’t complain. He doesn’t ask why he has to do certain things. He’s everything you could want in a football player.”

Just like his older brother.

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer