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Kearny moves ahead with new coach Edwards

Photo by Jim Hague The Kearny High School football team welcomes a new head coach in 2013 in Nick Edwards. From l. are linemen T.J. Witt, Nick Springer, Edwin Machuca, Edwards, Byron Quevedo, Owen Martinez and Joe Rodriguez.

Photo by Jim Hague
The Kearny High School football team welcomes a new head coach in 2013 in Nick Edwards. From l. are linemen T.J. Witt, Nick Springer, Edwin Machuca, Edwards, Byron Quevedo, Owen Martinez and Joe Rodriguez.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Nick Edwards has been the head football coach at Kearny High School for only a few weeks now, but he’s already beginning to like what he sees.

“The amount of kids we have in training camp is the biggest thing,” said Edwards, who was hired to replace Pete Llaneza, who resigned at the end of last season. “We have 70 kids in the program and 45 with the varsity. That’s a good start. That’s a positive start.”

Edwards said that he wanted to change the face of Kearny football from the outset.

“I think from Day 1, when we first met with the kids, that we all knew things were going to change,” Edwards said. “We want to compete and that’s the first thing we have to do. The program hasn’t done much about competition in recent years. Right now, Kearny has a football team, but we want it to be a program.”

Edwards knows that the battle ahead is not going to be easy.

“It’s going to be tough,” said Edwards, a teacher at the high school who was an assistant coach for a few years. “I know Kearny is a soccer town. But the main thing is to stay on the path and keep moving forward. We can’t try to do too many things at once. It’s going to be taking it one day at a time.”

Edwards said that the response to his coaching has been positive.

“The attitude has been great,” Edwards said. “We always have had about 40 kids in the weight room. Training camp has been really tough, but we made it tough to give the kids some mental discipline as they move forward.”

Edwards is implementing a new offensive scheme which is taking time to learn.

“We’re running the spread offense, but we’ve kept the option part of it,” Edwards said.

Senior Tim Soto (5-foot-11, 165 pounds) is the starter at quarterback.

“He’s used to running the option, so we’re working on throwing the ball,” Edwards said of Soto. “But he has good speed running with the ball. We want to utilize him in the pocket throwing the ball.”

Soto is backed up by sophomore Christian Rodriguez (5-8, 165), who Edwards said “is going to be very good.”

One position where the Kardinals don’t have to worry about being good is at running back, where senior Gabriel Xavier returns. The three-year start Xavier (6-0, 185) gained more than 1,000 yards as a sophomore in 2011, but struggled through an injury-filled junior year.

“He can definitely play at the next level,” Edwards said of Xavier. “He has had some very big games in the past and we’re hoping that he has big games this season.”

Sophomore Richard Diaz (5-8, 165) is the backup to Xavier at running back.

The top receiver looks like senior Jorge Fernandez (5-8, 175).

“He is lightning fast and has tremendous hands,” Edwards said.

The Kardinals have a host of talented performers at wide receiver.

Senior Jax Angulo (5-7, 165) is a regular jack-of-all-trades, considering he can play a lot of positions.

“We’re putting him at the slot, the wide receiver, the backfield, all over,” Edwards said. “He’s a very dynamic player who runs well.”

Senior Sonny Nash (5-9, 170), the last of the talented Nash family members who have played for Kearny High School in the past, is another quality pass catcher, along with senior Robert Silva (5- 9, 165), junior Philip Tavares (5-8, 165) and the Benavides twins, Chris and Mike, both juniors and both 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds. The twins are so identical, right down to the braces on their teeth.

“They’re both very good athletes and good kids,” Edwards said. “They’re also honors students.”

Edwards explained the reason for going to the spread offense.

“I saw what we had and I knew that we had to get the ball to these kids somehow,” Edwards said. “We’re going to utilize them as best as possible.”

The starting offensive line doesn’t have a lot of experience, but Edwards is hoping they come along.

Senior Joe Rodriguez (6-2, 240) and junior Nick Springer (6-2, 250) are the tackles, with junior Owen Martinez (5-9, 200) and senior Edwin Machuca (5-9, 220) at guard. Senior Byron Quevedo (5-9, 190) is the lone returnee along the line, but he’s being moved from tackle, where he played last year, to center this year. Senior T.J. Witt (6- 0, 185) is the tight end.

Defensively, the Kardinals will feature Giovanni Diaz (5-10, 190) and Mike Chininin (5-8, 175) at defensive end, with Springer and freshman Hebber Reyes (5-9, 250) at tackles.

“The best players have to play,” Edwards said about putting a freshman like Reyes on the varsity. “He is very strong and is a good gap player.”

Photo by Jim Hague Senior running back/linebacker Gabriel Xavier looks to have an injury-free 2013, trying to recapture the form that saw Xavier rush for 1,000 yards as a sophomore.

Photo by Jim Hague
Senior running back/linebacker Gabriel Xavier looks to have an injury-free 2013, trying to recapture the form that saw Xavier rush for 1,000 yards as a sophomore.

 

Xavier, a three-year starter, headlines the outside linebackers.

“He’s an excellent defensive player,” Edwards said. “He’s as good on defense, if not better. He knows how to play.”

Nash and Christian Rodriguez are the team’s other outside linebackers.

Witt and Quevedo return to their inside linebacker slots, where they both played a year ago.

The cornerbacks are also returning, namely Angulo and Soto, with Jorge Fernandez in the mix as well in the secondary.

The Kardinals will begin the Nick Edwards era on Thursday night, Sept. 12, at Kearny High School at 7 p.m. There are no easy stops along the way of the 2013 schedule, with Bayonne, St. Peter’s Prep, Union City, Lakeland and North Bergen to follow.

One thing’s for sure: Edwards is certainly not going to take any forfeit losses this year. The Kardinals will line up and play all nine scheduled games.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but we’re going to play,” Edwards said. “My goal this year was to have a freshman, JV (junior varsity) and varsity team this year and to play every game. That’s the goal. We’re well on the way. With 70 kids in the program, it’s a huge success.”

Whether that can translate to wins both this year and down the road remains to be seen. But Edwards is ready for the challenge and that’s definitely the first step.

NA’s McCarthy preps for another high school grid season

Photo by Jim Hague North Arlington resident Dennis McCarthy has once again done his due diligence and with the help of his son David has produced the 2014 McCarthy Report, the premier tout service for high school football players in New Jersey to major colleges.

Photo by Jim Hague
North Arlington resident Dennis McCarthy has once again done his due diligence and with the help of his son David has produced the 2014 McCarthy Report, the premier tout service for high school football players in New Jersey to major colleges.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

As August quickly turns into September and the summer rapidly dwindles away, Dennis McCarthy gets a little more excited.

It’s not as if the North Arlington resident is not a fan of the summer months, it’s just that September means his favorite time of year – the return of high school football.

You see, McCarthy is the premier surveyor of high school football talent in New Jersey. For the last 23 years, the McCarthy Report – compiled with precise detail by McCarthy and his son David – has been the must get for major college football recruiters.

Plain and simple, if the recruiters want to know who to look for in New Jersey high school football, they need to look no further than the McCarthy Report.

Mind you, unlike many of the new-fangled tout sites found on the Internet, the Mc- Carthy Report is not provided to the general public. Its subscription list consists of only the top colleges in the country and no one else.

The McCarthy Report for the Class of 2014 almost didn’t take place. “The NCAA wanted to put us out of business,” said McCarthy, who works out of his North Arlington home.

“The NCAA wanted to clamp down on the big sites, because they were making money on recruiting. I think I’m just a little schmuck. They wanted us to change the subscription price with everyone. What it’s done is eliminated the small schools, because let’s face it, the smaller schools can’t afford to pay what a school like Ohio State pays.”

So it means that there are fewer NCAA Division II and Division III schools that subscribe to the McCarthy Report.

Because of the restrictions, McCarthy has decided to give their list of top New Jersey athletes, ranked from 101 to 200, to schools at no cost. The only list that continues to be via subscription is the Top 100.

“We want to help the smaller schools that have been good to us,” said McCarthy, who has already received permission from the NCAA to continue through next season. McCarthy is ecstatic over the current crop of seniors that will grace local high school football fields this season.

“It’s as good of a group that we’ve ever had, if not better,” McCarthy said. “We should have at least 83 Division I signings this year. The goal is 85, which is a complete Division I roster.”

McCarthy said that New Jersey has a good group of offensive linemen and wide receivers among the current senior class. Last season, there was a drop-off among defensive linemen, but not anymore.

“I don’t think there’s one position that is better than another,” McCarthy said. “We have talent throughout. Maybe at kicker and punter, we’re a little down. But that’s it.”

McCarthy believes that there are 500 or so high school football players in New Jersey who could play on the collegiate level.

“I think there are 220 or so who are solid college prospects who could receive scholarships,” McCarthy said. “But you never know for sure. I love this group we have this year. It’s a solid group.”

McCarthy seems to believe that New Jersey is just doing a better job of producing college football prospects.

“I think eight or 10 years ago, Don Bosco Prep helped to put New Jersey football on the national map,” McCarthy said. “Others have followed suit. It’s become a gusher. The advancement of our top programs into the national spotlight has really helped the whole group. You also have other factors like FieldTurf facilities, running tracks and lights. You have better weight training facilities. What a big difference that has made.”

McCarthy also believes that athletes taking the time to better themselves at sports training facilities and speed schools have also been beneficial.

“Our athletes have become advanced over the years,” McCarthy said. “The development of athletes has been tremendous. Anything that can aid a youngster to become more athletic is a plus.”

McCarthy said his job as a talent evaluator has changed over the years because of the advances in technology.

“I used to travel all over to videotape players,” McCarthy said. “Now, they all have highlight videos on the Internet, so I don’t have to film anymore. I don’t have to travel the long distances anymore. Ninety-nine of our 100 have film on the Internet. That’s big news for me. But I’m still able to get out and see kids. All of the kids in the state would love to see themselves get into position to play in the NFL. They all want that chance.”

McCarthy said that there are two real standouts among the local players.

“I like Nick Martin of North Arlington,” McCarthy said. “I think there’s scholarship money to be had for this kid. He has good grades and he’s a good football player. It depends on where he wants to go.”

McCarthy has high grades for Kevin Momnohin of Queen of Peace as well.

“What a player he is,” Mc- Carthy raved. “He would be rated among our next group (of 101 to 200).”

McCarthy is all set for his 24th full season as a college football talent evaluator.

“I love it,” McCarthy said. “I’m going to do this until I die. I love being with the kids. Each year, it’s a new group and that’s exciting. Sometimes, we do miss a kid. I’m going to make mistakes. But more often than not, we have the kid listed.”

And the Class of 2014’s No. 1 prospect?

Well, it’s none other than Jabril Peppers of Paramus Catholic, who has already declared his intentions to head to the University of Michigan. Some picks even Stevie Wonder could see.

However, the McCarthy Report is dead on target with the rest of its Top 100. And if all indications are right, then it should be an excellent fall of high school football in the state.

Lyndhurst promises a new grid squad look

Photo by Jim Hague The Lyndhurst football team opens Sept. 14 at Wood-Ridge. Front row, from l., are Jonathan Carbone, Brian Perez, Fred Rivers and Connor Clifford. Back from l., are Albert Saiti, Nick Antiorio, P.J. Urgola, head coach Joe Castagnetti, Denniz Akar and Tony Urgola.

Photo by Jim Hague
The Lyndhurst football team opens Sept. 14 at Wood-Ridge. Front row, from l., are Jonathan Carbone, Brian Perez, Fred Rivers and Connor Clifford. Back from l., are Albert Saiti, Nick Antiorio, P.J. Urgola, head coach Joe Castagnetti, Denniz Akar and Tony Urgola.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

In his second tenure as the head football coach at Lyndhurst High School, Joe Castagnetti guided the Golden Bears through a tumultuous time and a 4-6 overall record.

Now, in his ninth year overall as head coach and the second season since his return, Castagnettti knows his team will have a different look this season, now that standout starting quarterback Danny Kesack and most of his skilled players have graduated.

“I think it’s a retooling kind of year,” Castagnetti said. “We have so many seniors in the program (20 in all), so we’re not going back to the drawing board at all. We’re just going to use different things more, like the running game. We’ll get back to what I know best, namely running the ball. We definitely adapted to the personnel last year. This year, we’re going to run the ball.”

Castagnetti made a promise.

“It’s going to be good, old fashioned Lyndhurst football,” Castagnetti said.

Leading the way is senior Jonathan Hoff (6-foot-2, 210 pounds). Hoff got some playing time last year in relief of Kesack.

“We got Jonathan in the game in key spots, so we think he’s ready,” Castagnetti said. “He’s been under fire in some varsity games already. He doesn’t have to do everything like Danny did and we don’t want that. We want him to be under control.”

The running back contingent will be basically “by committee,” but senior Issam Hatahat (5-10, 170) will be the lead guy.

“Issam played a little last year, so we know what he can do,” Castagnetti said.

The others in the backfield include senior Jimmy Durkin (5-9, 175), juniors Derrick Dellafuerta (5-8, 170) and Rocco Russomano (5-9, 165) and promising sophomore Isiah Helmes (6-0, 185).

Seniors Jake Estevez (6-1, 175) and Kenny McMaster (6-2, 215) serve as excellent outside targets for Hoff to throw to.

Also in the wide receiver mix are seniors JoJo Morreale (5-7, 155) and Matt Wohlrab (5- 10, 180). Senior Frank Mezzina (6-1, 200) is the tight end.

The offensive line gained experience under fire last year, as three returning players were thrust into the lineup last year after injuries.

The tackle slots will be filled by seniors Tony Urgola (6-2, 250), Albert Saiti (6-3, 210) and Connor Clifford (6-4, 250). The guards are seniors Nick Antiorio (5-10, 210) and Denniz Akar (5-10, 215), both of whom saw action last year. The center is junior P.J. Urgola (5-9, 170), Tony’s cousin.

The Golden Bears will utilize a 4-3 defense, with Wohlrab and Kevin Castillo (6-1, 185) at defensive end.

Clifford and Saiti will both play defensive tackle slots.

Akar, who was a defensive lineman last season, has been moved to middle linebacker for this season. Hatahat and Durkin are the other two linebackers.

Chris Cosenza, a 5-9, 175-pound senior, will play one cornerback, while senior Eric Ferrara (5-7, 165) will be the other corner.

Estevez and McMaster will be the Golden Bears’ safeties.

The Golden Bears open the 2013 season Sept. 14 at Wood- Ridge, so they will be tested right away.

“We’re still learning the offense right now, but we’re showing signs every day,” Castagnetti said. “We have a good group of kids and they’re working very hard. They have a lot of motivation right now to earn playing time, so that has helped.”

Castagnetti likes the makeup of his team.

“I think so,” Castagnetti said. “I feel very confident with our progression. We want other teams to realize that they’ve faced Lyndhurst when we’re done playing. If we keep progressing, we should do fine.”

Local hoop enthusiasts get tips from Hall of Fame coach Hurley

Photo by Jim Hague The Mullins brothers, 7-year-old Matheus and 8-year-old William, of Kearny had a ball at the Hoopsville Cares basketball camp in Jersey City.

Photo by Jim Hague
The Mullins brothers, 7-year-old Matheus and 8-year-old William, of Kearny had a ball at the Hoopsville Cares basketball camp in Jersey City.

 

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

It all started three years ago, when Ron Lagman approached Kearny resident Julius David to see if he could run a basketball clinic with the Filipino community in mind.

“Filipinos love basketball,” David said.

It was the birth of Hoopsville Cares, a basketball teaching nonprofit organization, run solely on charitable contributions.

“Ron was able to get some sponsors, but whatever else we get, it comes from donations,” said David, a long-time youth basketball coach and currently the freshman coach at St. Anthony High School in Jersey City. “We started out with 10 or 15 kids.”

This year, more than 65 youngsters, ages 7 through 13, went to the METS Charter School in Jersey City every Saturday and Sunday from July 6 through last Sunday. They learned all aspects of the game of basketball while learning also about hard work, integrity, leadership, honesty, education, sportsmanship and dedication.

On Sunday, the youngsters were given a treat, as Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Hurley of St. Anthony High School gave a guest lecture. Hurley commanded the kids’ attention and by the end of the hour-long session, he had the kids eating out of his hands.

All summer long, Hurley has been traveling, coaching and organizing at camps and clinics. He had just returned from the Pennsylvania Poconos the night before, where he conducted a camp strictly for young girls, to make it back to his native Jersey City to give the lecture.

“I do six weeks of camp during the summer and I do maybe two or three lectures a week,” said Hurley, who was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010. “I guess I’ve been with about 7,500 kids throughout the course of the summer.”

Hurley was asked if it ever gets tiring.

“This is all I do now,” Hurley said. “My life is all basketball. I still love going into a gym and doing things off the top of my head. I have to remember the ages of the kids as I do it.”

Some of the youngsters didn’t know who Hurley was. One asked, “Who are you?”

“Who am I? I’m the guy whose picture is on the wall over there,” Hurley said, pointing to a giant banner honoring Hurley for winning the 1,000th game of his coaching career last year.

But there were others who were in awe of Hurley.

“It’s amazing to be with a Hall of Fame coach,” said Julius David Jr., the camp director’s 12-year-old son, who Hurley used in a lot of his demonstrations. “It’s fun to learn from him.”

David Jr. was asked if it was a little stressful being the center of the camp’s attention.

“Somewhat, because I was afraid that I might mess up,” he said, laughing.

Hurley tried to use references that his audience might understand, like mentioning boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, who is from the Philippines.

“The Filipino kids are terrific because they love basketball,” Hurley said. “It’s huge in the Philippines. There’s so much diversity in Jersey City these days. You never can expect to see one group.”

The Hoopsville Cares group featured kids from all races, creeds and backgrounds.

Mohamed Farih, the former Kearny High standout who remains on the St. Peter’s University roster after walking on to the team two years ago, was one of the camp’s counselors and instructors.

“It’s fun to give back to the game I love,” said Farih, who will be a junior on the Peacocks this season. “I want to teach the kids what I was taught. The potential is there for them to become good basketball players. I didn’t play until my freshman year at Kearny, so these kids are getting a head start. I see a whole lot of energy out there. These kids want to learn, from beginning to end. I see myself wanting to be like these kids.”

The elder David was excited to see just how much his camp has grown.

“It’s way better than I could have expected,” David said. “It was a good turnout. Instead of being on a beach or playing video games, these kids wanted to learn about basketball. They’re dribbling and shooting. I’m very excited. I don’t think it can get any better than this. Coach Hurley has a lot of drills to keep the kids interested.”

Hurley’s ball handling drills have been used at his camps for almost 40 years.

“When you have really young kids, you have to make an effort,” Hurley said. “It’s the challenge of teaching that keeps you sharp. I’m running camps all summer, so I’m able to do new things there. I’m not trying to re-invent myself. It was different and fun. You could feel the energy, the basketballs bouncing in the building. It’s all part of the learning and I really enjoyed doing it.”

Photo by Jim Hague Julius David Sr. and his 12-year-old son, Julius Jr. of Kearny were part of the Hoopsville Cares basketball camp that the David Sr. organized.

Photo by Jim Hague
Julius David Sr. and his 12-year-old son, Julius Jr. of Kearny were part of the Hoopsville Cares basketball camp that the David Sr. organized.

 

David was in awe of Hurley’s presence.

“He taught the kids things that they could do without having a hoop at home,” David said. “They can do the drills in their basements, in their backyard, in the driveway. The kids all had fun with it. It was awesome to see. When you have younger kids like this, they represent the future of the sport.”

William Mullins is eight years old. His father, Bill, is the former head boys’ coach at Kearny High who still coaches the volleyball team.

The younger Mullins said that he wants to learn more.

“I like to play basketball,” William Mullins said. “I like to learn about dribbling, but I like to shoot.”

His 7-year-old brother, Matheus, was also a participant.

“I want to play basketball because Dad was a coach,” Matheus said. “I liked the knockout part, because I won.”

Knockout is a shooting and dribbling drill.

“It was a lot of fun and I was glad to be here,” Matheus said.

Benjamin Minguito is an 8-year-old Kearny resident.

“I had a lot of fun and I feel like I’m a better shooter now,” Benjamin said. “This was cool.”

David was glad that his camp was a success.

“Seeing the little kids do the drills means a lot,” David said. “I think they retain more. It’s a misconception to think that the little ones can’t pick up things. Well, we had 60 basketballs bouncing at once and they were all doing it. It was great.”

And it was highlighted by an appearance from basketball royalty. Not a bad thing at all.

Riverside County Park will be home to both NA, QP this season

Photo by Jim Hague The new athletic facility at Riverside County Park is undergoing fi nishing touches and will be ready shortly, especially when Queen of Peace plays host to Manchester Regional Sept. 14.

Photo by Jim Hague
The new athletic facility at Riverside County Park is undergoing fi nishing touches and will be ready shortly, especially when Queen of Peace plays host to Manchester Regional Sept. 14.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

If you take a drive around the area’s high school playing facilities, you will basically find a local array of excellence– Fields of Dreams so to speak.

Most of the area’s high school fields have undergone major renovations and restorations over the last few years.

We’ve seen the construction of a brand new Harrison High School and its state of the art stadium. It’s an athletic facility that draws raves from people all over New Jersey and has been utilized as a home field for other local schools in need.

We’ve seen the major renovations made at Harvey Field in Kearny two years ago, complete with its FieldTurf surface. The same can be said for Franklin School Field, where Kearny plays baseball and practices soccer.

Belleville just recently had a major renovation to Belleville Stadium, complete with FieldTurf and a restoration of the long-standing concrete bleachers. The Nutley Oval had an overhaul a few years ago and remains one of the finest in the area.

Five years ago, Lyndhurst was fortunate to gain the new recreational facility that is used for baseball, softball as well as boys’ and girls’ soccer. The Lyndhurst High School main field was renovated with FieldTurf three years ago.

Now, there’s a new athletic facility in the area that will become the home of both Queen of Peace and North Arlington football and soccer teams this fall.

Both schools recently announced a deal with the Bergen County Parks Department to utilize the brand new state-of-the-art facility inside Riverside County Park South on the Lyndhurst/ North Arlington border.

It’s a blessing for both schools, considering that last fall, Hurricane Sandy turned all of the schools’ fall programs into vagabonds, searching for fields to practice and play on.

For example, Queen of Peace did not have a home field for football last fall. The Golden Griffins played three home games at Harrison and a fourth–ironically against neighboring rival North Arlington–at Belleville Stadium.

“We didn’t think Riverside County Park would be ready for us,” Queen of Peace athletic director Ed Abromaitis said. “Harrison was ready to accommodate us again. But we received word that it would be ready in time for the fall.”

Abromaitis said that a meeting was held last week between Ron Kistner, the executive director of Bergen County Parks, Dave Hutchinson, the athletic director at North Arlington and himself to discuss scheduling for the fall.

“We’re very excited,” said Abromaitis, whose football, boys’ and girls’ soccer teams will call the new facility home this fall. “We have five home football games scheduled and we’re pretty excited about it.”

The Golden Griffins begin the football season at home Sept. 14 against Manchester Regional at 1 p.m., christening the new facility.

“It’s a big blessing,” Abromaitis said. “It’s really huge for us and huge for our program. We were scrambling last year for places to play and practice. Now we have one of the best facilities around.”

The facility will have lights, a concession stand, bleachers to hold 600 spectators and a press box.

Hutchinson needed to find a suitable home facility, considering Rip Collins Field in North Arlington, severely damaged by the floods of the last two storms, would not be available this fall.

“We’re basically in transition,” Hutchinson said. “We weren’t sure what we were going to do and weren’t sure what the county would give us. It’s a great facility.”

The Vikings’ football team will open its home season at Riverside County Park on Sept. 20 against Wallington.

Last year, the North Arlington boys’ soccer team earned a berth in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoffs, but couldn’t play its scheduled home game in the states because there wasn’t a suitable home field available.

“We basically had to forfeit the home field and ended up playing our home game on the road,” Hutchinson said. “Now we have a place that can withstand some bad weather. We’re excited about it.”

To the borough’s credit, a referendum was passed to make the necessary improvements at Rip Collins, including new locker rooms and more importantly, a new FieldTurf surface.

“The project is slated to start in the fall,” Hutchinson said. “We will return to Rip Collins in 2014. We wanted to be at Rip and it was a tough decision not to play there. But the county reached out to us to come and play at Riverside County Park. It’s a no-brainer. It’s the right thing to do.”

Hutchinson said that he was able to agree on a schedule with Abromaitis for boys’ and girls’ soccer. Everything seems to be in place.

And on Nov. 1, the two football teams will meet at Riverside County Park. There’s no need to go to Belleville this year.

“We were offered a state-of-the- art field to use,” Hutchinson said. “It was hard to turn down.”

There’s more good news. A baseball and softball field will be finished in time for the spring, giving both schools the option to play those sports there.

Yes, it’s certainly a Field of Dreams for QP and NA. And it’s great news that the powers-that- be in Bergen County are allowing the two local schools to play there.

A battle of champions in Lyndhurst, for a good cause

Photo by Jim Hague The 2013 Lyndhurst state champions (l.) took on the 2008 Lyndhurst state champs (r.) in a charity baseball game last week, with coach Butch Servideo (c.) serving as an umpire. The 2008 team won, 10-2.

Photo by Jim Hague
The 2013 Lyndhurst state champions (l.) took on the 2008 Lyndhurst state champs (r.) in a charity baseball game last week, with coach Butch Servideo (c.) serving as an umpire. The 2008 team won, 10-2.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

It started out as a simple idea and blossomed into an impromptu reunion that people in Lyndhurst will remember for a very long time.

Lyndhurst athletic director and head baseball coach Frank “Butch” Servideo was trying to find a way to raise funds in order to buy his baseball team rings for winning the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II state championship last spring.

So Servideo called upon his last team to capture a state title, namely the 2008 Golden Bears who won the overall Group I state crown.

“We decided to have a reunion game, pitting the 2008 team against the 2013 team,” Servideo said.

Each member of the 2008 team had to donate a certain amount of money to participate. All of the money raised would go directly to buying championship rings for the 2013 squad. It seemed like a perfect setting.

And it was. Other than for a brief rain shower, it was a great night of baseball for a great cause last Thursday night at the Lyndhurst Recreation facility. The older guys donned blue shirts, while the younger ones were wearing gold. All shirts proclaimed their state championships inside a bat on the shirt.

Servideo wanted to be as impartial as he could, considering he coached both teams. So he decided to serve as one of the umpires for the game. Former Lyndhurst head girls’ basketball coach Perrin Mosca, who has now moved on to coach at his alma mater of Hackensack, was the plate umpire.

“I can’t root for one or the other, so I decided to umpire,” Servideo said. “No one can say anything about me showing partiality. We had a great turnout. It was great seeing all the guys again. I think the younger guys want to come out and prove something. I know both teams held practices to get ready.”

Added Servideo, “When I reached out to the 2008 team to help with buying the rings, they were more than willing. They wanted to help and I was happy about that.”

Glenn Flora, who pitched that 2008 squad to the state crown, earning First Team All-State honors for a second straight year, didn’t hesitate at all and took his familiar place on the mound.

“It’s fun to bring it back to our high school days,” said Flora, who still pitches at William Paterson University. “It was a good idea to do something like this. It gives us all the opportunity to remember what we did, which was something pretty special. When I heard about this, I jumped at the opportunity. I think we all did.”

Bubba Jasinski, who just completed a fine collegiate career at Misiercordia University, agreed.

“This is awesome,” Jasinski said. “We’re getting a chance to go up against another state championship team from Lyndhurst. I hadn’t seen a lot of these guys in five years. It’s great to be together again.”

Jasinski believed that his team had the upper hand.

“I think we have an advantage because some of us are coming off solid college seasons,” Jasinski said. “We didn’t think we could just show up here and play. We’re going for the win.”

Anthony Dorio, who went on to have a fine career at William Paterson, was also excited to be a part of the reunion.

“When I first received the letter, I was a little surprised,” Dorio said. “I didn’t think anything like this could ever take place. It was a great idea to come back and see everyone. I hadn’t seen some of them since our last game together.”

Dorio still plays actively for the South Bergen Bullets of the Metropolitan League as he tries to become a police officer.

Frank Pica showed up wearing dark-rimmed glasses, looking like Rick Vaughn (Charlie Sheen) in the movie, “Major League.” “

We’re like the family that never left Lyndhurst,” said Pica, who now works as a driver for the Jersey City Sanitation Authority. “I didn’t hesitate one bit to come back. This is amazing.”

Pica said that he has always loved the movie and loved Charlie Sheen, thus the reason for the get-up.

The 2013 state champions were also up for the challenge.

“I’m very excited about it,” said Max Hart, who was the starting pitcher for the 2013 team. “I said I always wanted to play against this team. It felt good to be here playing again. I’m going to remember this for the rest of my life. I loved the chance to face Flora. I wanted to see what he had left.”

Hart is headed to St. Thomas Aquinas University in Peekskill, N.Y., next month.

“I think we have an advantage because we have been playing all along,” Hart said. “They haven’t played together in a while.”

Catcher Austin Meeney was also thrilled to have the chance.

“I’ve been very excited about this game since it was organized,” Meeney said. “I always wondered what would happen if we got the chance to play them. It means a lot that they would come back and help us.”

Meeney is headed to Montclair State, but more than likely won’t play baseball there.

“This is the last organized game I’ll play with my close friends,” Meeney said. “I really want to win.”

Bobby DeMarco, who is headed to Drew University to join the swim team there, also jumped at the chance to participate.

“I never thought I’d get a chance to play those guys,” DeMarco said. “It was pretty nice that they came out to do this for us. I definitely feel a sense of Lyndhurst pride. They all showed they still care. It’s a lot of fun.”

That was true, until the game started for real. The 2008 team showed the younger guys just who were still boss, taking a 10-2 decision.

“It was a case of boys against men,” Servideo said.

It was also a case of baseball camaraderie between two champions from Lyndhurst.

Veteran Palek named new boys’ hoops at Lyndhurst

Photo by Jim Hague Lyndhurst has a new boys’ basketball coach in Paul Palek, the former head coach at Wayne Hills and Montville.

Photo by Jim Hague
Lyndhurst has a new boys’ basketball coach in Paul Palek, the former head coach at Wayne Hills and Montville.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Paul Palek was looking for a little change of pace. After coaching the boys’ basketball team at Wayne Hills for the last three seasons and Montville the two years prior to that, Palek wanted something just a little closer.

“I’ve been teaching at a middle school in Newark for the last nine years and the running around just got to be too much,” said Palek, a native of Cedar Grove who also spent time as an assistant coach at Rutgers-Newark. “The commute was getting to me. It got to the point where I wasn’t enjoying going to practices. It started to wear on me and then wear on the kids.”

So when Jeff Radigan stepped down as the head boys’ basketball coach at Lyndhurst High School, Palek saw his opportunity.

“I knew it was a good basketball program,” Palek said. “I knew it would be a lot easier to run to practice from Newark. Being able to be so close was a big factor. I knew there was only one way for me and it had to be in Lyndhurst.”

The 31-year-old Palek was officially appointed to the head boys’ basketball coaching position by the Lyndhurst Board of Education last week.

“Having the ability to be so close is so huge,” Palek said. “I know the last two years, my teams were pretty successful at Wayne Hills. Having a winning culture like the one in Lyndhurst is always good to walk into.”

Palek is not inheriting a program bereft of talent. The Golden Bears were 13-10 last season under Radigan.

“I know they have some younger players, some nonvarsity guys,” Palek said. “With the conversations I’ve had with the people in Lyndhurst, they seem very optimistic.”

Although Palek hasn’t met his team yet, he has been in contact with them over the phone.

“I called almost all of them and they all seem interested,” Palek said. “I’ve talked to a couple of the seniors and we’re getting together with everyone within the next week. After that, we plan on being in the gym as much as possible.”

Palek said that he has no preconceived notions about Lyndhurst.

“I have no idea,” Palek said. “I’m going in totally blind. Maybe that’s a good thing. I do know that Lyndhurst has always had well prepared teams. I’m sure it’s going to be a challenge playing teams like Dwight-Englewood and Secaucus. But I know we’re going to be competitive every night.”

Palek said that a lot of his coaching philosophy comes from the time he spent with Rutgers-Newark head coach Joe Loughran.

“Joe has been my mentor,” Palek said. “He’s someone I look up to. His teams always played hard and defended well. That’s the staple of my teams I’ve coached. We play a tough man-to-man defense. It’s up to me to get the kids to play hard. We’re definitely going to be defensive oriented. I always teach that as a culture.”

Palek said that offensively, the Golden Bears might become a little more precise.

“I think we’ll probably play a little slower and make sure we get a good shot every possession,” Palek said. “We want our kids to take great shots and not turn the ball over much. We also will definitely share the ball. That’s what I’ll be looking for offensively.”

Palek played both basketball and baseball at Cedar Grove High School, so he knows the challenges that a school like Lyndhurst has with athletes that play more than one sport.

“I look forward to working with the other coaches to see if the multi-sport athlete can continue,” Palek said.

Palek is also happy to be joining a district that has successful teams across the board. Losing is not a word in the Lyndhurst vocabulary.

“It’s a great culture to walk into,” Palek said. “I learned about a winning culture from coaching at Wayne Hills. (Former Wayne Hills football coach) Chris Olsen is a good friend of mine now and I loved having his football players play basketball for me. I like that kind of culture.”

Palek is excited about the new challenge.

“Any time you get a chance to start fresh, it’s exciting,” Palek said. “It was difficult to leave Wayne Hills, but I think I’ll be able to grow more as a coach, given the opportunity at Lyndhurst. We’re going to make the most of what we have and I’ll count down the days to Thanksgiving (the first day of practice). Until then, I’m going to work on developing solid relationships. I want guys who can trust me and believe in me. I have to build relationships.”

Palek said that some of his coaching staff at Wayne Hills will follow him to Lyndhurst, so he has a solid head start.

Kearny’s Adamek returns to ring victorious

Photo courtesy of Main Events Kearny’s Tomasz Adamek (l.) met with opponent Dominick Guinn at last Friday’s weigh-in. A day later, Adamek dominated Guinn in a 10-round decision, his first fight in over seven months.

Photo courtesy of Main Events
Kearny’s Tomasz Adamek (l.) met with opponent Dominick Guinn at last Friday’s weigh-in. A day later, Adamek dominated Guinn in a 10-round decision, his first fight in over seven months.

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

It had been seven long months since Tomasz Adamek climbed into the ring for a bout, but last Saturday night, Adamek showed no signs of rust whatsoever, as he totally dominated Dominick Guinn in a 10-round decision in a heavyweight bout at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn.

The 36-year-old Kearny resident fought for the first time in 2013, after going 4-0 in 2012. Some of those wins were questionable in the eyes of the boxing purists, so Adamek had a lot to prove Saturday night as part of the NBC Sports Network’s Fight Night series.

Adamek, who also endured an arrest for DUI earlier this year in Lake Placid, showed that he was a refreshed and invigorated boxer, even if Guinn was a last-minute replacement for scheduled opponent Tony Grano.

It was the best outing by Adamek since he lost to Vitaly Klitschko for the heavyweight championship of the world in September of 2011.

After a slow start, Adamek (now 49-2 with 28 knockouts), got going in the second round, much to the delight of the “Polish Nation” that traveled to the Connecticut casino to see their national hero in action.

With the crowd chanting “Adamek, Adamek,” and “Polska, Polska,” the Polish native, known as “a mountain boy,” strategically went to work on the slower and methodical Guinn (now 34-10-1 with 23 knockouts).

It was clearly a one-sided decision, with Adamek winning, 98-92 on one judge’s card and 99-91 on the other two cards.

After winning the first round, Guinn was in trouble and managed to hang on to get a decision.

Adamek was so much quicker than he showed in recent bouts, thanks to the efforts of trainer Roger Bloodworth, who spent 10 weeks getting Adamek ready for the fight.

Again, since Guinn took the fight with very little notice, he appeared to struggle physically after the fourth round and Adamek took advantage of that, scoring at will in the middle rounds.

The win was just another step in Adamek’s ultimate goal.

“I just want one more title shot,” Adamek said.

“That’s my goal. If I can win a couple more fights, that’s what I want.”

Bloodworth admitted that Adamek needed the seven-month respite.

“He had four tough fights last year,” Bloodworth said. “We really didn’t take any breaks. He would come to my house and train, then I would go to his house and train. We would do it for weeks at a time without much of a break. He was in camp for about 50 weeks last year. He was burned out. He has tremendous heart so he was able to push through it, but he needed the time off. I didn’t think he was at the end of his career. I just think he was getting a little stale. You can’t do this stuff every day. When you work too hard in the gym, you leave it all in the gym.

Added Bloodworth, “He seems quicker with his jab. It’s easy for him to get two or three jabs off. You can tell he’s sharp.”

“I’m healthy and fresh,” Adamek said. “I was too busy last year. It was time for a comeback. I am ready for tough fights.”

Adamek’s next foe could very well be someone within his own promotional team’s ranks.

Main Events is discussing the possibility of pairing their top two heavyweights, meaning Adamek against promising undefeated heavyweight Bryant Jennings on HBO sometime in November.

All parties seem interested in the fight.

BoxingScene.com reported after Adamek’s win Saturday that Main Events was “just talking” to both Adamek and Jennings about a possible fight. Jennings is 17-0 with nine knockouts.

The winner of the Adamek- Jennings fight could be in line to fight Wladimir Klitschko for the heavyweight title sometime in 2014.

It is a gamble for Main Events and president Kathy Duva to put both of her prized heavyweights in the ring against each other, but when HBO talks, people tend to listen.

It’s just a shame that all the time, effort and money NBC Sports Network has put into the Fight Night series that they would get shortchanged in a possible Adamek-Jennings showdown.

Stay tuned.

One thing is for sure. Adamek is back – and he proved it in a huge way Saturday.

North Arlington hires Corsetto as new boys’ hoops coach

Photo by Jim Hague The marquee outside North Arlington High School reads that it’s a great day to be a Viking and it’s a great day for new boys’ basketball coach Rich Corsetto, who was appointed last week

Photo by Jim Hague
The marquee outside North Arlington High School reads that it’s a great day to be a Viking and it’s a great day for new boys’ basketball coach Rich Corsetto, who was appointed last week

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

After spending nearly 50 years of his life in the sport of basketball, Rich Corsetto found himself missing the game a lot.

“I’ve been out of coaching for three years and I really missed it,” said Corsetto, a member of the National Junior Colleges of America Hall of Fame. “I missed working with the kids on a daily basis. Wins and honors are good. So are championships. But the kids I’ve coached and seen them move on to be successes in life, that’s the reason why I wanted to come back. I go to Paterson or Jersey City and I hear, ‘Coach, how are you?’ I like that. I missed it so much.”

So when Corsetto heard of the opening as the head boys’ basketball coach at North Arlington, he jumped at the chance.

“I’m a basketball lifer,” Corsetto said. “I’ve had a basketball in my hands since I was seven years old. I had to get back into it.”

Corsetto was appointed as the new coach of the Vikings last week. He replaces David Walsh, who resigned after last season after 10 years.

Corsetto was previously the head coach at Passaic County Tech for nine years when the school first opened, then went on to become an assistant coach at both Bloomfield College and NJIT.

Corsetto then made his mark as the head coach at Hudson County Community College from 1990 through 1996. When that school dropped basketball, he moved on to become the head coach at Passaic County Community College from 1996 through 2010.

Before he got into coaching, Corsetto was a standout athlete at the University of Southern Mississippi, where he eventually was drafted by two professional sports – the Pittsburgh Condors of the old American Basketball Association and the Philadelphia Phillies.

In 20 years as a college coach, Corsetto won 435 games. He also owns a gaudy 235-83 record on the high school level, so Corsetto has won a total of 670 games as a basketball coach over 33 years.

Now, he’s ready for the next challenge in his life.

“I don’t know anything about North Arlington,” Corsetto said. “I know that the people are nice. I’ve met the administration, the principal (Louis Manuppelli), the athletic director (Dave Hutchinson) and they are very nice people. I didn’t know anyone personally there. I just saw the job listed and gave it a shot.”

Corsetto has already met his new players and had some informal workouts.

“We got the kids together a couple of times,” Corsetto said. “I think they’re responding well.”

Corsetto said that he hired local coach Dominick Bellifimine to serve as one of his assistants.

“Dominick is a great guy and a hard worker,” Corsetto said. “He’s been working the kids out and likes what he sees.”

Corsetto is entering his new job totally blind.

“I know nothing at all,” Corsetto said. “I knew back in the day, North Arlington had some great tradition. I checked some things out before I went to the interview. North Arlington is a great place, a great school with a nice little group of kids. They seem to be hard workers. There are a couple of kids with experience, so that helps. We’re going to do the best we can.”

Corsetto has been impressed with the support he has already received.

“North Arlington has very nice people who care about the kids,” Corsetto said. “They are big into athletics and that helps that they have interest. They also care about academics as well. That’s a good start for me.”

As a coach, Corsetto was known for having fast break offenses in his days at Hudson and later Passaic.

“We’re not going to have the same kids that I had at the college level,” Corsetto said. “I know that. But we’re still going to try to get the ball up the court. My philosophy is to get the ball up the court and run a little, play a little up tempo.”

Corsetto knows that the only way the Vikings are going to be successful is the defensive end of the floor.

“We have to play defense,” Corsetto said. “Defense wins championships. We’re going to press a little on defense and stress defense with them. We’re going to throw a bunch of different defenses at the opponents. To be able to run, we have to get the ball, so if we get turnovers, we can try to push the ball a little.”

Needless to say, Corsetto is excited to be back in the game.

“I’m like a kid who gets his first lollipop,” Corsetto said. “I’m very excited. I’m looking forward to it, getting in the gym every day and working hard. I’m very motivated and anxious to get started. It’s good to be back.”

Against all odds

Nutley East All-Star Buscanan breaks gender barrier, overcomes illness

Photo by Jim Hague Natalia Buscanan of Nutley East Little League was the lone girl to compete in the New Jersey Little League state championships in Wallington last weekend

Photo by Jim Hague
Natalia Buscanan of Nutley East Little League was the lone girl to compete in the New Jersey Little League state championships in Wallington last weekend

 

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

Natalia Buscanan was a little more than a week old when she had to endure the first obstacle of her life.

“It was the most traumatizing moment of my life,” said Roe Buscanan, Natalia’s mother. “She had stopped breathing and was given last rites.”

Young Natalia was suffering from a critical coarctation of her aorta and hyplastic left heart syndrome, a condition that required open heart surgery, even at that age.

“I walked out of the emergency room and I heard the call for the device to bring her back,” said Chris Buscanan, Natalie’s father. “I just happened to be there. We had two choices, either bring her to New York or Philadelphia for surgery. With all the medical advances they had, we made sure she was in New York.”

Both Roe and Chris imagined the worst.

“We thought we were going to have to amputate her limbs to save her life,” Roe Buscanan said. “You name it. We went through every sort of emotion. It all ran right through me.”

“We were ready to let the professionals take over, but we were told that there was a possibility she wouldn’t make it,” Chris Buscanan said. “I was so positive that she was going to be fine. I just wanted to make it through this.”

Fast forward six years and young Natalia had to endure yet another heart surgery.

“She was doing gymnastics and started to complain about a shortage of breath,” Roe Buscanan said. “We took her to a cardiologist and they did a stress test.”

This time, Natalia suffered from a sub-aortic membrane which stopped the blood flow to her heart.

“We were driving to NYU Hospital and Natalia asked me, ‘Mommy, am I going to die?’” Roe said. “Inside, I was hysterical, but I told her she was going to be okay. She then asked for a puppy.”

Natalia made it through the second surgery with flying colors.

“It was such a relief,” Chris Buscanan said. “It was like a ton of bricks being taken off my chest. I had a feeling she would come out fine. I knew it. I just knew it wasn’t going to be a problem. I was pretty confident.”

Fast forward another six years and Natalia is now a healthy and happy 12-yearold. She can’t compete in a lot of sports that have contact, but she is able to play baseball – and play it well.

So well, in fact, that Natalia was selected to the Nutley East Little League All-Star team that competed last weekend in the New Jersey State Championships.

Yes, Natalia – a girl – playing on a boys’ 12-year-old All-Star team competing for a state championship, with a chance to perhaps go to Williamsport and the Little League World Series.

Natalia’s love for baseball started five years ago, when she used to watch her older brother Christian (headed for Seton Hall Prep in the fall) play.

“Honestly, it was all about Chris,” Natalia said. “I wanted to be like Chris. I watched him play and he was a good player. I started to like baseball better.”

Natalia wanted no part of playing girls’ softball. She wanted baseball and the chance to be like the boys.

“Baseball was more challenging to me,” Natalia said. “I felt more comfortable.”

Natalia is the lone girl to play Little League baseball in all of Nutley. She was also the lone girl at the state championships.

Unfortunately, Nutley East lost two games in the state tournament in Wallington, getting eliminated by perennial state power Toms River East American, 7-4, Saturday night. Both of Nutley’s losses were heartbreakers. Their win of 14-1 came over Wayne National on Friday.

Natalia said that she was somewhat apprehensive when she started playing with the boys at age 9.

“I was kind of afraid playing, especially the first year, because I wanted to be able to compete,” Natalia said. “I was afraid of what people might say. If I made a mistake, they’d say, `Ah, she’s a girl. She should be doing something else.’ I think that forced me to want to become a better player. I work harder to prove that I belong.”

When Natalia was selected to be on the Nutley East All- Star team, she was shocked.

“I didn’t know what to say,” Buscanan said. “People picked me and I was flattered. I thought the other kids were good and I wasn’t.”

Buscanan played second base and the outfield for the All-Stars. She contributed with two doubles against Bloomfield and a double and single against Newark in the District 8 tournament.

 

Photo by Jim Hague Survivor of two major open heart surgeries, Natalia Buscanan has contributed to the Nutley East Little League All-Star team that played in the New Jersey Little League state championships last weekend.

Photo by Jim Hague
Survivor of two major open heart surgeries, Natalia Buscanan has contributed to the Nutley East Little League All-Star team that played in the New Jersey Little League state championships last weekend.

“I felt like I was one of the boys,” Natalia Buscanan said.

“The other players are accepting of her,” said Chris Buscanan, who serves as one of the coaches for the Nutley East All-Stars. “The issue of her being a girl was never addressed. The other kids on the team call her ‘Tank.’”

Oh, sure. Every girl would want that name, right?

“I like the name,” Natalia Buscanan said. “I guess it’s because I have power and I’m tough.”

Tank, it is.

“Most of the time, people don’t realize she’s a girl,” Chris said.

So does Buscanan like the fact that she’s a trailblazer, a one-of-a-kind?

“I do like it,” Natalia said. “I have a little bit of pride. I’m still nervous a little.”

Buscanan hopes that she serves as a positive role model, for someone who overcame two open heart surgeries and still competes in Little League with and against the boys.

“I like that it might motivate other girls,” Buscanan said. “I feel very fortunate to have this chance. I’m very lucky that I’m alive and lucky that I can play sports. I know that there are others who can’t do it, so I’m lucky to be here.”

Natalia reluctantly realizes that her baseball playing days are probably over. She will more than likely have to move to softball next season.

“I think that’s in her best interest,” Chris said. “I think it makes the most sense moving forward. But I still can’t believe what she’s accomplished. She never stops. She gets up early on Sunday morning and goes to a baseball hitting clinic with the boys. She’s not tired and not afraid of the drills. She’s comfortable showing people what she’s all about. I always tell her and others, once they step onto the field, they’re All-Stars.”

Added Chris: “She’s overcome so many challenges in her life. But she always gives 100% in everything she does. She’s tough.”

Like a tank.

“I’m still nervous about anything she does, but I can’t believe all she’s capable of doing,” Roe said. “After all the surgeries and all the battles she’s been through, she’s able to play and that’s great.”

It’s actually a miracle that Natalia Buscanan is healthy and happy and playing Little League baseball with and against the best boys in New Jersey – a miracle that came true.