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Rick’s has weathered the storm


By Anthony J. Machcinski
Observer Correspondent

In October 2012, when Hurricane Sandy devastated much of the area, Rick’s American and Foreign, a Bumper 2 Bumper store in North Arlington, was no exception.

The business, formerly on River Road, was flooded in the basement with over twoand- a-half feet of water. But the damage incurred was not only focused on floodwater.

“On the second floor, the roof had blown off and the rain destroyed everything,” said Rick’s American and Foreign owner Rick Garofola.

After 14 years at that location, Garofola tried to stay strong and keep Rick’s right where it was. Read more »

Thoughts & Views: Today, it’s Crimea, tomorrow, who knows?

Students of world history and geopolitics are likely burning the midnight oil these days, following the exploits of Russian President Vladimir Putin as he redraws the world map with the annexation of Crimea in Ukraine.

And the map’s contours could change even more, nervous Western observers note, if those thousands of Russian troops staging along the eastern border of Ukraine should happen to invade.

Perhaps Putin wants Russia to directly benefit from the tourism revenues from Crimea’s Black Sea resorts or perhaps Putin – with help from one of his loyal oligarchs – has picked out a prominent place on the coastline to build a posh hotel and fitness center where he can stay.

Frankly, with the rest of Ukraine’s economy reportedly in the tank, I’m not entirely clear why Putin is butting in, if for no other reason than to prevent the European Union from partnering with Ukraine and, of course, to gain control of the large Navy base in the region.

And he well knows how deeply many of the Union’s member countries like Germany and Poland and the Netherlands are dependent on Russia for their energy needs.

So Putin can afford to snub his nose at the sanctions that President Obama has mustered to try and deter his aggression against Russia’s neighbor.

Even Ukrainians themselves – the ones who haven’t declared themselves pro-Russian – haven’t seemed to kick up much of a fuss about being occupied and, apparently, being forced to relocate if they don’t wish to accept conditions of occupation.

Ill-equipped Ukrainian defense forces have folded quickly, offering little resistance to the masked intruders demanding their ouster and getting it.

One exception reported in a recent New York Times dispatch – which stirred memories of a famous scene in Rick’s Café in the movie “Casablanca” – was of a group of Ukrainian naval cadets who dared to sing their country’s national anthem in defiance of their “masters” who then ordered their allies to top them by vocalizing the Russian anthem even louder.

Somehow I don’t think this Crimea adventure portends a “beautiful friendship” between Putin and Chancellor Merkel of Germany in a new alignment of convenience. Perhaps, instead, it foreshadows new five year plan for Ukraine, with all the attendant hardships.

Did you read about the Weehawken teenager who managed to sneak through a hole in a construction fence, amble into the new One World Trade Center tower and take the elevator to the top?

It’s not exactly reassuring to know that the new symbol of America’s determination to stand up to terrorism and start over is so easily subject to such an embarrassingly simply “invasion.”

With the countless millions of dollars this country has spent on Homeland Security since September 2011, it is humbling to realize that simple human error – attributed to a lax security guard – opened the door to an enterprising youth’s indiscretions.

So you’re newly installed Knicks President Phil Jackson and you’ve watched your team come perilously close to blowing a huge lead to Phily after your coach clears his bench with five minutes to go in the game and then you see your team blow another big lead and lose to an injury-depleted Cleveland team after your coach allows the Knicks to sleep-walk through the fourth quarter.

Hey, Phil, the only system that you should be thinking of installing with this bunch is the Bermuda Triangle.

Good luck.

– Ron Leir

KPD blotter: Two nabbed in mugging

At 11:40 p.m. on Sunday, Match 16, a 22-year-old Newark man was walking at Devon and Hoyt Sts., “minding his own business,” when two other males accosted him and knocked him to the ground, Kearny Police Chief John Dowie reported.

The muggers “ran his pockets” and left him lying beaten and bloody on the sidewalk, police said.

However, he managed to get good descriptions of his attackers.

A police search of the immediate area came up negative, but a short time later, Officers Chris Medina and Joe Martin spotted two men matching the descriptions walking on the 600 block of Kearny Ave., Dowie said. When questioned, the men reportedly gave evasive answers.

On his hands, one of the suspects had numerous scrapes and dried blood, which he could not explain, and during a pat-down, he was found to be in possession of a butterfly knife, Dowie said. He also was reportedly in possession of suspected marijuana.

The two were taken to headquarters, where they were identified by the victim as his assailants, the chief said.

Mark Webb, 21, of Newark, and Xavier Guridi, 19, of Kearny, were both charged with robbery and conspiracy. Webb, the one who allegedly had blood on his hands, was also charged with unlawful possession of a weapon and possession of a CDS.

Other recent reports from the KPD blotter included the following:

March 16

At 7 p.m., Sgt. Peter Gleason and Officers Jay Ward and Pat Becker responded to a Kearny Ave. establishment after receiving reports of fights breaking out and of a bartender having been bitten by one patron, identified as Kenny Negrin, 25, of North Arlington.

Negrin resisted being arrested and cuffed, and another man, Brian Scheckter, 26, of Kearny, attempted to intercede on Negrin’s behalf, police said. Scheckter was himself arrested on a charge of disorderly conduct.

Several police units went to the area to disperse crowds that were gathering.

March 17

Officer Leroy Bibbs responded to the Rite Aid Pharmacy on Kearny Ave. at 12:30 p.m. on a report of a shoplifting- turned-robbery. The officer was told that a woman had filled a bag with unpaid merchandise and tried to leave by the rear door. Confronted there by a store employee, she reportedly fought with the worker and fled to a waiting car — but the employee managed to get the license plate number.

Dets. Michael Gonzalez and Bryant Obie tracked the plate to a rental car and, after a review of the store’s security tapes, the suspect was identified as Vanessa Shaarawy, 29, of Kearny, police said. A warrant was issued for her arrest.

At 7:15 p.m., at Kearny and Midland Aves., Vice detectives, armed with knowledge of a prior drug transaction, stopped two individuals and confiscated five glassine bags of suspected heroin, stamped “Magic City,” police said. Charged with possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia were Michael Daly, 39, of Harrison, and Ulises Rebozo, 40, of Kearny.

March 19

Officer Chris Medina, on patrol at Davis and Quincy Aves. at 2 a.m., was alerted by his license-plate reader to the approach of an unregistered vehicle. Medina stopped the car on Ivy St. and found it to be operated by Luis Huillcapoma, 53, of Kearny, who police said also had a suspended license and an outstanding Belleville warrant. The unregistered vehicle was impounded, Huillcapoma was charged on the license offense, and Belleville PD was notified that he was in custody.

At 3:30 a.m., on the 200 block of Davis Ave., Officer Michael Santucci took into custody Aaron Taylor, 26, of Harrison, who, during an altercation with a female, allegedly took her cell phone and smashed it. He was charged with simple assault and criminal mischief.

– Karen Zautyk

Jazz vocalist Jane Stuart still going strong



Photos courtesy Jane Stuart Jane Stuart at various gigs.

Photos courtesy Jane Stuart
Jane Stuart at various gigs.


By Anthony J. Machcinski
Observer Correspondent

Home is where the heart is, especially for Jane Stuart, Nutley’s resident jazz star, who played at the Nutley Public Library on Saturday.

“I love it,” said Stuart about performing in Nutley. “I love having the opportunity to sing for some of the seniors hear in town. This is an opportunity to come and here me and hear some songs that they maybe don’t get to hear very often.”

Stuart, who has lived in Nutley for the past 15 years, got her start at the age of five, when she sang on a New York City TV show, “Moser Starlites.” From an early age, Stuart knew that performing was something that she wanted to do. Read more »

Kearny realtor wins award

Luis Pinto

Luis Pinto


Jan R. Kwapniewski, president of Coccia Realty, announces that Luis Pinto Jr., a full-time licensed sales associate with Coccia Realty’s Kearny office, has been awarded the New Jersey Association of Realtors’ 2013 Circle of Excellence Sales Award Bronze Level.

The award is given to individuals who are members of the New Jersey Association of Realtors in good standing who logged a minimum of $3 million in sales volume and 15 units closed in 2013.

Since he was licensed as a real estate agent in 2004, Pinto has been involved in hundreds of real estate transactions. Among his specialties are residential and commercial sales and he is touted for his listing style and property marketing ability.

Pinto attributes a portion of his success to his constant broadening of his real estate sales skills through consistent education and training that he receives at the Board of Realtors and other real estate sales courses. Pinto also credits his success, in part, to Coccia Realty’s dynamic systems, tools and marketing strategy, of which he takes full advantage.

Born in Portugal, Pinto came to the United States as a child and grew up in Harrison. In addition to English, Pinto speaks fluent Portuguese and Spanish. He currently resides in Kearny and may be reached at Coccia Realty’s Kearny Office.

Business Review: A century of taking care of people


Photos courtesy Mark Wiggins Exterior and interior of Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home.

Photos courtesy Mark Wiggins
Exterior and interior of Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home.


By Anthony J. Machcinski

Observer Correspondent

The death of a loved one is never something easy for those left behind; however, the staff at Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home in Kearny take pride in being able to ease that pain as much as possible.

“The most rewarding part (of my job) is when I hear people come up and thank me for any of the little part that we’ve done,” said Mark Wiggins, the owner and manager of Armitage and Wiggins. “I couldn’t imagine, if I was in a bereaved state, me thanking people during that time. So when people come up and give me a hug or shake my hand and say thank you, I know I’ve done something positive for them.”

In its 100th year of service, Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home has provided comfort and care for generations of the area’s grieving families.

“I made a conscious decision to stay (in Kearny),” said Wiggins, who has been a part of the funeral home for 31 years. “I did that specifically because I need to be in touch with people’s everyday lives. When you’re bereaved, you need somebody who has a handle on who you are and what your family is like.”

Wiggins said the funeral home got its start at a storefront on Kearny Ave. next to Town Hall before moving to the corner of Liberty St. and Kearny Ave. In 1929, the funeral home relocated to 596 Belgrove Drive, where it remains today.

Wiggins got his start in the funeral home business while in high school, when he was asked to volunteer his time.

“I had a religion class where I had to volunteer time in a service-oriented business and my father suggested this,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins said that volunteering at the funeral home soon grew into a passion for the business.

“I stayed on and off in college and I evolved into staying with it when I saw what a special business it was,” Wiggins said.

Wiggins said that what makes the business special is the ability to help people out in a time of need.

“When you deal with a family that’s very emotionally sad … you realize how you can really touch somebody and help them when not many people can help at that time,” Wiggins said. “When they walk away and say, ‘this was much nicer than I expected,’ you know you left them on a positive note.”

Wiggins said that the funeral home takes the family through the entire process, from preparing the body to organizing the funeral.

“An important part of our job is to recreate that person’s image in a very lifelike and natural state, which gives people a great amount of comfort,” Wiggins said. “It’s calming for them to see their loved one looking peaceful and calm.”

Wiggins said the hardest part of his job is balancing the line between being sympathetic to the family while remaining detached.

“I know so many of the families that it becomes difficult not to become attached,” Wiggins said. “You have to stay separate but compassionate at the same time.”

Wiggins said that the funeral home business is a “24-7” business.

“There’s no such thing as a holiday or a weekend,” Wiggins said. “If they need you, that’s when they need you. I’m very hands-on. When you call (the funeral home) you get me.”

Armitage and Wiggins Funeral Home is located at 596 Belgrove Drive. The home can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 201-991-0657. For additional information, visit the funeral home’s website at www.armitagewiggins.com.

Then & Now

Photo courtesy George Rogers Collection

Photo courtesy George Rogers Collection


Photo by Karen Zautyk

Photo by Karen Zautyk



Here, on the left, is another one of those delightful local-scene postcards from the early 20th century, this one postmarked 1914 and showing St. Cecilia’s Grammar School at Chestnut and Hoyt Sts., Kearny.

Unfortunately, they cannot be seen clearly in the reproduction, but standing on the corner are three adorable children, two little boys in Buster Brown suits and a girl wearing a white, ruffled dress and picture hat — clothing that was standard daily garb for youngsters back then.

Regarding the school, it was built in 1908 and offered Catholic education to Kearny youngsters through Grade 8 until it was closed a decade or so ago.

The brick structure housed 15 classrooms. We don›t know what was originally behind that front door, but by the 1960s, it opened into a gymnasium/assembly hall/theater/basketball court (talk about mutli-tasking) that served the adjacent high school, which was constructed in 1920. In the basement was the cafeteria.

In case you›re interested, the school building is (or was) available for lease. You can fi nd a listing/description on the webpage of the Archdiocese of Newark’s Office of Property Management at www.rcan.org. It’s not dated, though, so we don’t know the current real estate status.

– Karen Zautyk

Around Town


St. Valentine Church, 125 N. Spring St., offers a Spanish Mass on Sunday, April 6, at 3 p.m. Starting in May, Spanish Mass will be offered the second Saturday of each month at 3 p.m. The church offers an evening of reflection and Stations of the Cross in Spanish on Friday, April 4, at 7:30 p.m.


Belleville Public Library and Information Center, 221 Washington Ave., offers the following children’s programs:

• Teddy Bear Tea Party – Registration is open April 1-28. The event is set for Saturday, May 3, at 2 p.m.

• Story Time and Craft – Saturdays: March 29, April 12 and May 17, all at 11 a.m.

East Newark

West Hudson Brave Women Fighting Breast Cancer meets on the last Friday of every month from 7 to 9 p.m. at the East Newark Senior Center, 37 President St. The group provides an atmosphere of warmth and comfort for patients and family. For more information, call Emma at 201- 998-6828, Rosa 201-246-7750, Fatima 973-485-4236 or email emidura2@yahoo.com.


Registration closes March 28 for Harrison Recreation TBall, Minor and Little League at the Community Center, 401 Warren St. Ages: T-Ball, 5 to 6; Minors, 7 to 8; and Little League, 9 to 12 (cannot turn 13 before May 1). For more information, contact the center at 973-268-2469.

The Harrison High School Drama Club will be performing “Sweeney Todd” on April 3 to 5 at 7:30 p.m. in the school auditorium, 800 Hamilton St. Admission is $10 for Adults and $5 for students, children and seniors.


A pancake breakfast fundraiser to benefit the American Diabetes Association will be held at Applebees, 175 Passaic Ave., on Sunday, April 6, from 8 to 10 a.m. Admission for adults is $10 and $5 for children age 2 to 9. Door prizes will be included. For tickets, contact Janice at 201-362-2958 or by email at shnanny@aol.com.

Kearny High School’s annual Project Graduation Volleyball Tournament will be Friday, April 25 in the school’s gymnasium, 336 Devon St. Contact Melissa Dyl for information at 201-978-8257.

Tickets are being sold for Project Graduation’s 50/50 raffle, scheduled for Friday, June 20, following graduation ceremonies. The winner need not be present. Tickets are $10 each. To purchase or sell tickets, contact Sandy Hyde at 551-265-8969.

Project Graduation meets the last Thursday of each month in the school’s faculty lounge and next meets March 27 at 7:30 p.m. For more information, contact President Steve Dyl at 201-991-7467.

The Book Discussion Group at Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., meets on Wednesday, April 9, at 6:30 p.m. Copies of each book are available at the front desk while supplies last. For more information, call the library at 201-998-2666 or visit www.kearnylibrary.org.

The library is seeking local authors interested in doing book talks. Contact the library for more information.

Kearny High School PTA presents Rocking with Rod Stewart, a performance by Jay Gates, on April 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Irish American Club, 95 Kearny Ave. Cost is $25 with refreshments, cash bar and a small raffle. Call Denise at 201- 428-8572 for more information or to purchase tickets.

Ladies of the Irish presents “Murder Mystery” on March 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Irish American Club. Cost is $35 with refreshments and cash bar. Call Mary 201-450-5210 for more information or to purchase tickets.

The Woman’s Club of Arlington presents “Cherry Blossom Mystery Evening” with author Brad Parks on April 6, from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Arlington Players Club, 12 Washington Pl. Proceeds benefit Family Promises and other charities. The event includes tea buffet, gift basket raffles and 50/50. Tickets are $25. Send checks to: Woman’s Club of Arlington, c/o Julie McCarthy, 25 Columbia Ave., Kearny, N.J. 07032.

Kearny UNICO announces:

• Membership meeting on Thursday, April 3, at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call Chapter President Lou Pandolfi at 201-368-24009.

• Fund-raising bus trip to the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City on Sunday, April 27, leaving from the parking lot of Kearny Federal Savings Bank at 8:30 a.m. Tickets are $30 per person and can be obtained by contacting Lou Pandolfi.

• Super 50-50 Raffle to be drawn of May 15. Tickets are $5 each or 3 tickets for $10. To purchase a ticket, contact any member of Kearny UNICO or Lou Pandolfi.


The Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst hosts a children’s Tricky Tray on Saturday, March 29, at the Senior Center on Cleveland Ave. Doors open at noon. Admission is $5. Lunch is available at a nominal cost. No outside food is allowed. Numbers will be called starting at 1 p.m. For tickets, call Janet at 201-935-1208.

Join special needs teens and adults from Special Angels Recreation, the Lyndhurst Police Department and the SPARK cheer dance squad for a game of basketball and half-time performance fundraiser on Saturday, March 29, at the Lyndhurst High School gym, 400 Weart Ave. Tickets are $5. For tickets or more information, call Debbie or Tara at 201-966-8738. Tickets are also available at the door. Special Angels does all of their own fundraising; they get no public funding and no one takes a salary. All donations go directly to Special Angels programs. For more information, visit www.puttingthepiecestogether.org.

Sacred Heart Home School hosts its annual Calendar Party Tricky Tray fundraiser on Friday, May 2, at the school, 620 Valley Brook Ave. Tickets are $20 and non-refundable. Admission includes sandwich, potato salad, beverage and dessert. Seating is limited and on a first-come, first-served basis. Ticket deadline is April 12. No one under 18 will be admitted and no alcoholic beverages are permitted. For tickets, call Patty at 201-803-9580 or the school at 201-939-4277.

Lyndhurst Fire Department, 299 Delafield Ave., will collect blood/platelets in honor of John Barnas, a Wallington resident with lymphoma, on Sunday, March 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit communitybloodservices.org for details and parental consent form for 16-year-olds. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments are available by calling 201- 251-3703.

Lyndhurst Library Children’s Room, 355 Valley Brook Ave., hosts the following events:

• Walk-In Story time is held every Monday, Wednesday and Thursday at 6:30 p.m. for grades pre-k to 2. The program includes coloring time. No registration is required. Registration is required for the following programs. Call the library at 201-804-2478.

• Easter Basket Craft – Children in grades pre-k to 4 make and fill an Easter basket with treats on Wednesday, April 9, from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m.

• “It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown” – Children in grades pre-k to 4 can hop on in for this exciting Easter movie on Monday, April 14, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.

• Ladybug Craft – Children in grades 1 to 4 are welcome on Monday, April 28, from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m.

Lyndhurst Health Department, 601 Riverside Avenue, Suite 1, offers a free Women’s Health Clinic, in partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center. Open to female township residents age 18 and over, the clinic includes education on breast self-examination and a pap smear. Call 201-804-2500 to make an appointment on a first-come, first-served basis.

North Arlington

The Borough of North Arlington requires that any one who wishes to have a ‘garage sale’ must first secure a permit with the town before doing so. Permits are $6 each and can be obtained at Borough Hall, 214 Ridge Rd., or on-line at www.northarlington.org.

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Rd., announces the following programs: For children and teens:

• Story Time, for ages 2 to 5, every Wednesday at 11:45 a.m.

• Evening Story Time for ages 4 to 6 on Tuesdays, March 4, and 25, at 6:30 p.m.

• Fifth Annual George Miller Art Show on Thursday, April 3, at 6 p.m. Note the library will be closed until the beginning of the show for preparations.

In celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, Garden State Rollergirls welcomes Bergen County United Way residents to its home opening bout on April 12 at the Inline Skating Club of America, 170 Schuyler Ave. The event includes a 50/50 raffle to benefit the Bergen County United Way. Doors open at 7:15 p.m. and the whistle blows at 8 p.m. This event is open to all ages. Tickets can be purchased at the door ($15 for adults, $10 for kids under 12) or online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/ event/601006 ($10 for adults, $5 for kids under 12).

Queen of Peace High School, 191 Rutherford Pl., along with Make Wine With Us of Wallington, are sponsoring a red carpet event to support the school’s spring musical, “The Sound of Music” on Saturday, March 29, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. at the high school. Tickets are $40 and include appetizers, wine tasting, raffles and music. Call 201-998-8227, ext. 28, to reserve tickets. Tickets will also be sold at the door.

Senior Harmony Club announces the following trips:

• Sands Casino on Thursday, April 24. For reservations or information, call Florence at 201-991-3173.

• Westchester Broadway Theater to see the musical “Ragtime” on Thursday, May 1. Reservations must be made ASAP. Call Anna at 201-939- 2960.

American Legion Alexander Stover Post 37 meets on Tuesday, April 1, at 8 p.m. at NAFD Engine Co. No. 2, 550 Schuyler Ave. All veterans are invited. For more information, call 201-214-8253.

Kardinals prepare for improved baseball campaign


Photo by Jim Hague The Kearny baseball team will count on its starting pitching and catching this season. From l. are pitcher Corey Sawyer, Josue Rodriguez, head coach Frank Bifulco, T.J. Witt and Brian Rowe.

Photo by Jim Hague
The Kearny baseball team will count on its starting pitching and catching this season. From l. are pitcher Corey Sawyer, Josue Rodriguez, head coach Frank Bifulco, T.J. Witt and Brian Rowe.

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

The Kearny High School baseball team suffered through a tough 2013 season, posting a 5-18 record. “I don’t only want to turn the page on last year,” said third-year head coach Frank Bifulco. “I want to write a whole new book. We had some tough losses last year. It was brutal. We played all the big teams tough and lost. It was just a bad year. We don’t even want to talk about it anymore.”

Bifulco believes he has the right team to make 2013 a distant memory.

“I think we have the right group of kids,” Bifulco said. “We have the kind of youth we’ve been looking for and a solid group of seniors to lead us in the right direction. Every day, there’s a great amount of energy and they look to get better every day. If we have a bad day, we just chalk it up and move on.”

Bifulco said that the Kardinals have been improving.

“They’ve been on fire since the first day,” Bifulco said. “If they don’t get it right the first time, they do it again. They were ready for four hours the first day, five hours the next. The energy is incredible.”

Bifulco is counting on senior Brian Rowe to be one of the leaders. Rowe has been the starting second baseman the last two years and will be one of the Kards’ top pitchers this season.

“Brian was our No. 2 pitcher last year and may be able to step up this year,” Bifulco said. “We have three guys who I can hand the ball and we can expect to win. That’s a positive that we haven’t had in a while. Brian is a three-year starter for us. He’s a grinder. He goes out there and fights every day. He gets the ball and says, “I’ll keep the game close.” He pounds the strike zone and keeps the ball down. He has a four-or-five pitch arsenal. He’s not overpowering, but he’s going to get outs.”

Junior right-hander Josue Rodriguez is another pitcher with experience.

“Josue pitched a lot for us last year,” Bifulco said. “He’s been grabbing the bull by the horns this year. He wants to be the ace of the staff. He wants the ball and he’s going to get it. The team knows when he’s on the mound, we’re going to expect wins. He’s going to be the guy we hope to ride.”

Sophomore Corey Sawyer is a promising lefty.

“He’s a transfer from St. Joseph (of Montvale),” Bifulco said. “He throws it well. He threw three shutout innings in his first scrimmage. He has to be a complete player for us. He knows the situation. We see what he has. He can throw the ball hard and mixes up his pitches well. He throws his pitches at different speeds. I’ll say he’s a crafty lefty with some zip. It’s a matter of taking it all to the mound, but he has a bulldog mentality.”

Junior Michael Hyde is a right-hander with promise.

“He should see some starts,” Bifulco said.

Senior Steven Dyl, sophomore Connor McClelland, junior Louis Sandomenico, senior Adonis colon and junior Kyle Gerwood will all get chances to throw for the Kardinals this season. That’s incredible pitching depth.

“Especially with the top three starters, I like the depth,” Bifulco said. “It just has to pan out. I’m very happy with the depth. I don’t know if many teams have the pitching depth and starting pitching that we do.”

The one handling all the pitching will be veteran catcher T.J. Witt.

“Now he knows he’s the main man on the team,” Bifulco said. “When he speaks, people listen. He knows that priority number one is to get the pitching on board. Number two is to lead the team. He’s ready to take over. He’s the one guy we need. I expect him to be our leader in all aspects.”

Dyl is the starter at first base. He’s another three-year starter.

“He’s very solid defensively,” Bifulco said. “We just need his bat. But he’s starting to show it.”

Rowe is the second baseman when he’s not on the mound. When Rowe pitches, junior Adam French plays second.

Sophomore Joseph Baez is the shortstop.

“He’s been going through the growing pains,” Bifulco said. “I tell him every day that he’s in a position that a lot of people want to be in. I’m willing to let his ability take over. He has a lot of talent. He handles the bat pretty well.” Rodriguez is the third baseman when he’s not pitching. When Rodriguez is on the mound, French slides over to third base.

“Rodriguez is a good hitter,” Bifulco said. “We need him to contribute with his bat.”

Hyde is the starter in left field, with sophomore John O’Neill earning the nod in centerfield.

“He can catch anything,” Bifulco said of O’Neill. “He carries himself well. You would never know he was a sophomore. He also puts the ball in play. He’s very fast.”

Sawyer is the starting right fielder when he’s not pitching. If he’s on the mound, then McClelland is in right.

Junior Aaron Gonzalez will see time at designated hitter.

The Kardinals are slated to open April 1 against Hoboken. The next games are April 3 against Memorial of West New York and then April 4 against neighboring rival Harrison, now coached by Bifulco’s former Kearny teammate Jairo Mendez.

The Kardinals have a home-and- home schedule with Harrison this season, adding to some local excitement.

More importantly, the Kardinals’ first three games are at home. That gives the team a good head start.

“Being that we have a young team, it’s good to have the games at home,” Bifulco said. “But we can’t get comfortable. Starting off at home is great, but after those games, the season gets going and everything is for real. Being at home will help us get that first win and we can go from there.”

And easily improve on last year’s disaster.

Locals lead St. Peter’s Prep to solid hockey season

Photo courtesy of the Fearon family From l., Augie Burkhardt, Robbie Mahon, Ryan Pezzolla, J.T. Fearon and Sam Burkhardt are all local residents who have helped the St. Peter’s Prep hockey program become one of the best high school programs in New Jersey. Mike Zdanowicz, not pictured, but another local member of the Marauders.

Photo courtesy of the Fearon family
From l., Augie Burkhardt, Robbie Mahon, Ryan Pezzolla, J.T. Fearon and Sam Burkhardt are all local residents who have helped the St. Peter’s Prep hockey program become one of the best high school programs in New Jersey. Mike Zdanowicz, not pictured, but another local member of the Marauders.


By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

The St. Peter’s Prep hockey team experienced great success in the past season, including a chance to play at Yankee Stadium while the rink was laid down at the world’s most famous baseball park.

Several of the members of that team hail from the area, giving head coach Mike Goodrich reason to be proud of the performances of the local players.

“There are so many towns locally that you wouldn’t think of getting hockey players,” Goodrich said. “The hockey world is so different than any other. It’s nice to be able to give kids who play hockey a program that they could continue to play. Not only are they good players, but they’re good people as well.”

Goodrich said that the local players who are members of the Marauders’ roster have to be experienced and talented.

“To play at our level, they have to be already good players, because there are so many others who want to be part of our program,” Goodrich said. “We have 65 kids in our program (freshman and junior varsity teams as well). So to be on our varsity, you better be a good player, because we play at such a high level.”

Added Goodrich, “Hockey is a different sport than say football or soccer. It’s very hard to develop kids when they get to the ninth grade. It’s tough to advance them if they hadn’t been playing. We introduce them to a new line of training, so they have to get on the ice at an early age.”

The Marauders finished 2014 with an 11-9-3 record, facing some of the toughest teams in New Jersey.

“We remained in the top 10 in the state with one of the toughest schedules around,” Goodrich said.

Leading the way for the locals on the Marauders is senior Ryan Pezzolla from North Arlington.

“Ryan is a great kid,” Goodrich said. “He has great hands and a knack for scoring. He was a very good offensive player for us.”

Sam Burkhardt is another senior who hails from Lyndhurst.

“He had the knack of scoring very big goals for us, especially early in the season,” Goodrich said. “He’s a hard working kid who worked very hard last summer to get better and make an impact for us.”

J.T. Fearon is a junior from Kearny.

“Fearon is a big, physical kid who played a big role for us,” Goodrich said. “We needed him to be a physical presence on the ice. He was also strong on the defensive end.”

Robbie Fearon is another junior from Kearny.

“He’s a beast,” Goodrich said. “He’s a physically tough kid to play against. He comes hard all the time. We use him with different situations on defense and offense. He’s a great kid to have.”

Augie Burkhardt is a sophomore and the younger brother of Augie. He has an extremely bright future.

“There are some NCAA Division I schools that are already showing interest,” Goodrich said. “Schools like Yale and Union are already looking at him. He’s a legitimate player. He’s going to play at the next level. He has a lot of potential.”

Freshman Mike Zdanowicz is another player with a bright future. Zdanowicz is from Lyndhurst, like the Burkhardt brothers.

“Mike is a good, up-andcoming player,” Goodrich said. “I like his potential.”

All of the locals began their hockey development playing street hockey and then getting to play with various ice hockey travel programs.

“We graduate eight seniors,” Goodrich said. “We have a great freshman class and another group of good players coming in. Our program is really starting to build and we’re starting to get some recognition.”

Goodrich applauds the efforts of the local players to become part of the Prep program.

“I think the location of St. Peter’s in Jersey City is convenient to those players,” Goodrich said. “It’s a good academic institution with a quality hockey program. The kids want to challenge themselves and play the best competition in the state. I think we were lucky to get these kids. They are all good kids and quality individuals.”

And the locals give the Prep hockey program a lot of hope and promise for the future.