By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Dennis Jelcic did a fantastic job building the Lyndhurst-Paramus hockey cooperative program, so he believed he could weave some magic in turning the boys’ soccer around at Lyndhurst High School.
It certainly made Jelcic one of the most unique coaches in New Jersey. There aren’t many – if any others at all – that coach soccer in the fall and hockey in the winter. It’s definitely a different mix.
“I don’t know of any others,” Jelcic said.
Jelcic was eager to take on the challenge.
“I’m very excited,” Jelcic said before the start of the season last month. “We have a lot of young players who are doing whatever I ask of them. They’re staying late after practice.”
Jelcic also brought on veteran Ken Van Rye as an assistant coach.
“He’s been nothing short of excellent as an assistant,” Jelcic said. “I’m excited to have a young team that will be competitive for many years to come.”
Jelcic is also optimistic about the plethora of young players participating in soccer in town.
“We have a lot of young talented players coming up,” Jelcic said. “The program is looking up.”
So there’s no way that Jelcic will look at the Golden Bears’ current 3-7 record as a setback.
The Golden Bears showed some promise when they defeated Bergen Charter, 7-4, two weeks ago. But they have lost four of their last five games.
Jelcic has a lot of faith in his goalkeepers, namely senior Thomas Hooper and sophomore Milton Rua.
Hooper is a former cross country runner who decided to switch to play soccer this season. He has collected 41 saves in seven games. Rua has made 19 saves in three games.
“Hooper has been like a fish in water,” Jelcic said. “But he’s tall and athletic and learning as he goes along. Milton is a quality keeper.”
The Golden Bears will continue to use both net minders.
Junior Ryan Brown has returned to Lyndhrrst after a year away. He’s been an anchor to the Golden Bears’ defense and has collected a team-high six assists.
Junior Motana Thungason is a returning starter and is a member of the defender contingent.
Senior Edgar Bravo is another veteran member of the Lyndhurst defensive unit.
Junior Giovanni Arcentales is the key playmaker in the Golden Bears’ midfield. Arcentales scored 10 goals last year and has tallied three goals and added three assists thus far this season. He’s a dangerous offensive threat for the Golden Bears.
Sophomore Nick Pacheco and sophomore Doug DaSilva are also promising members in the midfield, along with returning senior starter Christian Formoso. DaSilva has collected three assists this season.
Sophomore Raymond Valenzuela is the Golden Bears’ leading goal scorer thus far, tallying four goals this season.
Notice the names and the respective years in school. The Golden Bears have a host of sophomores. One after another, they’re all young.
“We’re going through a lot of growing pains,” Jelcic said. “We’re a little inexperienced and rough to start.”
The forward line is also young, with Marildo Mera and Luis Yolinares as sophomores and Adrian Baronowski and Vincent DiTonto as freshmen.
So the Golden Bears’ record might be under .500, but the promise is there for a bright future.
“We’re going to be fine,” Jelcic said. “We definitely have a lot of kids who are interested in playing and who want to play. They practice hard all the time and play hard.”
That attitude will certainly lead to better results in the future. For now, the Golden Bears have to build on the wins they enjoyed against Bergen Charter, Ridgefield and local rival Queen of Peace.
“I like the direction of the program,” Jelcic said. “We’re moving forward.”