web analytics
Google+

Category: Sports

NA boys’ soccer: Life without Cordeiro

9-17View_web

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

It’s not every day that a high school soccer team gets a player who could move from forward to midfield with ease, then score 30 goals and add 19 assists in the process.

But that’s what Danny Cordeiro did for the North Arlington boys’ soccer team last fall, en route to becoming the 2013-14 Observer Male Athlete of the Year. Cordeiro is already weaving his magic for the New Jersey Institute of Technology soccer squad.

So when the 2014 boys’ soccer campaign kicked off recently, the Vikings had to learn about life without Cordeiro.

“It’s not easy,” said NA head coach Jesse Dembowski. “We do have a solid senior group this year, but no one who could do what Danny did. As a group, the team is very dedicated and determined.”

That’s already been proven, as the Vikings have marched out to a 4-0 start thus far, including big wins over Saddle Brook and Becton Regional last week.

“We have a lot of younger kids coming up who have a lot of talent,” Dembowski said.

Senior Matt Smykowski is the Vikings’ main man in net. Smykowski became the team starter with roughly 10 games remaining last season. The Vikings ended the year at 9-7-1.

“Matt is a tall kid who was our JV (junior varsity) goalie for two years,” Dembowski said. “He’s very confident in goal and not afraid to come out of the goal to make plays.”

The sweeper is senior Nick Awad.

“He’s a tall, physical player,” Dembowski said. “We used to have him in the midfield, but he naturally gravitated toward the defense.”

The stopper is senior Moises Polanco, who started last year at the position.

The rest of the back line will be made of seniors Ed Lozado and Frank Pace and junior C.J. Burbach.

Senior Vinnie Ribeiro is the top returning starter in the midfield. Ribiero scored eight goals last year.

Fellow senior Jose Ruiz is another returning player in the midfield. Dembowski likes Ruiz’s experience and leadership.

Sophomore Cristiano Neves is another fine player in the midfield. Neves had a goal and an assist in the solid 4-0 win over Becton last week.

Junior Marvin Caballero is another Viking who will give Dembowski stability in the midfield.

“Marvin was a starter last year, but then he got hurt and missed the season,” Caballero said. “He will be big this year.”

Sophomore Hudson Ribiero is a solid forward. The younger brother of Vinnie had two goals and an assist in the win over Becton.

Senior Joe Cappelluti will be the other force to be reckoned with at forward.

“He was a goalie at the beginning of last season, then we moved him to forward and he scored a few goals,” Dembowski said.

Cappelluti scored six goals in his limited time in the forward line for the Vikings last fall.

So the makings are there for a special season for the Vikings, even after the departure of a special player.

“I like our team,” Dembowski said. “I still have big expectations. A lot of them came in and knew that they needed to step up. They have moved up together and they’re getting strong together.”

The four wins to start the season is proof that they can move on with success.

Maroon Raiders loom as one of NJ’s best in girls’ soccer

Maroon_web

 

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

After finishing the 2013 season with an 18-2-1 record, the best in school’s history, Nutley High School girls’ soccer coach Mike DiPiano is looking for more of the same this year.

“We put a three-year plan into place and last year, we just sped up the process,” said DiPiano, who begins his third year as the head girls’ soccer coach at Nutley. “We beat four teams that played in a sectional final last year.”

The Maroon Raiders graduated 12 players and nine starters from last year’s team, including the 2013-14 Observer Co-Female Athlete of the Year Grace Montgomery.

“We worked on teaching the system to a new group of girls,” DiPiano said. “We have some seniors who have never played before. We have freshmen battling to play every day in practice. The competition has been good. We’re not taking the mentality that we’re rebuilding. We’re going after it again this year. Our goal is to play one more day than we did last year. That’s a reasonable goal with the team we have. We know what we have to do to get there.”

So far, the Maroon Raiders are living up to the challenge of being a state-ranked power.

The Maroon Raiders, ranked No. 20 in a New Jersey statewide poll, have won all four of their games so far, including a 7-0 whitewash of neighboring rival Belleville on Saturday.

“We want to be in the rankings and never come out,” DiPiano said. “It’s good for the entire athletic program at our school.”

The Maroon Raiders have one of the most potent scoring attacks in the state, thanks to returning standouts Victoria Kealy and Zoe Steck.

Kealy, a senior who has already given a verbal commitment to play at Rider University in the fall, scored 34 goals last year and is already on pace to top that number this season.

Kealy had three goals and added an assist in the win over Belleville.

Steck is a sophomore who scored 31 goals last year. She had two goals and two assists in the lopsided victory over Belleville.

“I don’t know of many teams to have that kind of luxury,” DiPiano said of his powerful scoring duo. “We just have to keep finding ways to get them the ball. It’s time for others to step up. It’s going to be a work in progress.”

The Maroon Raiders are utilizing two players in goal, namely senior Rachel Nichols and junior Sarah Roselli, who missed most of last season due to health issues.

The sweeper is freshman Lauren Holden, who has the potential to be a very good player.

“She’s going to have to learn on the fly,” DiPiano said. “She’s played already on some high level club teams, so she has experience. She is as tough as nails and doesn’t play like a freshman.”

The stopper is sophomore Darby Fischer, with senior Julie Fredericks, sophomore Angeli Bossbaly and freshman Jalae Small all seeing time along the back line.

Sophomore Jenny Callaghan is the team’s center midfielder. She’s a transfer who arrived at the school last year during the season, so Callaghan is basically a newcomer.

“She’s the real deal,” DiPiano said of Callaghan. “She has to be our playmaker in the middle of the field.”

Senior Kaitlyn Salisbury, junior Samantha Chimento and freshman Isabella Gonsiewski are also solid midfielders.

The Maroon Raiders will put their entire season on the shoulders of the two powerful scorers, namely Kealy and Steck, who are among the state’s very best.

As are the Maroon Raiders, who are proving that last year was no fluke.

Seniors Kiera Byrnes, Sarah Grueter and Samantha Moynihan will play roles on the team’s attack. Moynihan scored two goals in the win over Belleville.

Freshman Maise Jelley will be the Maroon Raiders’ resident jack-of-all-trades.

“She will play everywhere,” DiPiano said. “She’s done everything we’ve asked of her so far.”

DiPiano likes his team. He should. The Maroon Raiders are for real and will enjoy a great season into November. Whether that leads to a Super Essex Conference divisional title or an NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III crown remains to be seen. But either or both are not out of the question, thanks to having two returning 30-goal scorers.

Kearny girls poised for county, state title runs

Kgirls_web

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer 

Make no bones about it. The Kearny High School girls’ soccer team will be one of the finest contingents in New Jersey this fall.

The Kardinals have it all. They have experience, they have offensive scoring power, they have ball handlers and a rock solid defense.

“We have a nice, fast moving, exciting team,” said veteran head coach Vin Almeida. “We have to get the ball moving forward and the let them guide the offense.”

The Kardinals, winners of an incredible five straight Hudson County tournament championships, have all the ingredients of making a long run in the NJSIAA Group IV state tournament come November.

Leading the way is senior forward Barbara Paiva, who scored more than 20 goals a year ago.

“She’s a fantastic player with great ability,” Almeida said. “There are not too many girls who can strike the ball with both feet the way Barbara does. She’s one of the better ones. She’s so creative with the ball.”

Senior midfielder Kathleen Dos Reis returns. She was injured for most of last season with ankle problems, but she’s back and better than ever.

“She’s playing very well,” Almeida said. “We have to get her in the attack.”

Junior forward Amber Crispin is also back. She scored 16 goals last year.

“Amber is also one who can strike with both feet,” Almeida said. “She’s going to drop some balls into the net, because she can hit it hard.”

Almeida likes the offensive approach the Kards have.

“We’re coming back with a good amount of offensive firepower,” Almeida said. “We also have some young kids who can assist in that area. We have a nice rhythm offensively and we’re going to score a lot of goals.”

The lead goalkeeper will be junior Laura Vilar, who started in goal last year, but she will receive assistance in net by senior Amanda DeSousa.

“We should be solid with the experience we have coming back,” Almeida said.

The Kardinals return four starters along the defensive back line.

Senior Dana Green has tremendous size and skill to play a center back position. Senior Eliza Rodrigues is another solid experienced defender. Senior Salma Bouzidi has tremendous ball skills and speed for a defender. Sophomore Isabel Fernandez rounds out the contingent of strong defenders. All four earned accolades last season for their prowess in a 19-3 campaign.

“We have a lot of talent back there,” Almeida said. “Dana Green can be intimidating on the back line. Salma has great skill with the ball and we get her involved with the attack. It’s a good group.”

Dos Reis keys the midfielders, but the talent doesn’t stop there.

Senior Taylor Munro is a returning starter in the midfield. Senior Amanda Eustice returns strong after missing last season with a torn ACL in her knee.

The Kardinals would have had even more talent in the midfield if not for the injuries to Sydney Pace and Breanne Rodriguez. Both will not be able to play this season due to injuries.

“We have a nice competition going on for the last spot in the midfield,” Almeida said.

Junior Ryelle Seda and sophomore Merrin Keim are in the hunt, as well as freshman Natasha Magee.

Up front, the Kardinals have Paiva, Crispin and sophomore Lily Durning, who Almeida called “a good contributor.”

The Kardinals will also get assistance from sophomores Victoria Van Riper, Rachel Nieto and Sydney Viscuso on the back line, and seniors Cindy Guzman, Nicole Sanchez and twin juniors Ashley and Alexis Castaneda along the midfield.

“The challenge is to get them all some good playing time,” Almeida said.

The Kardinals have it all. “It should be a good one,” Almeida said. “We’ve looked good in the preseason. The girls just have to believe.” The Kearny girls’ soccer booster club is sponsoring the third annual beefsteak at the Scots-American Club at 40 Paterson St. in Kearny on Friday from 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $40.

But it should be an exciting season for the Kardinals.

“We’re due for a win on that side (penalty kicks in the state tournament),” Almeida said. “We’re hoping to finish it off in regular time. I think we can be a force to be reckoned with if we keep the right mind set.”

And as for a state championship? “There’s surely that possibility,” Almeida said.

Everyone in Kearny is hoping for that possibility to become a reality.

NA grid Vikings: Vow to improve in 2014

GoldGriffins_web

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

The North Arlington High School football team posted a 2-8 record in 2013.

“We had a pretty tough schedule and played well at times, but we couldn’t finish,” said North Arlington head coach Anthony Marck, who enters his ninth season as the head coach at his alma mater.”We just didn’t have depth to compete. We’ve talked about finishing all during the offseason. It’s become the main point of our program, to finish everything. In the weight room, every repetition, make sure you finish what we start.”

The Vikings will eventually have a new home to start the 2014 season as improvements to Rip Collins Field continue toward the scheduled opening in two weeks.

So it’s a new start for the Vikings all around this season.

“You can sense it completely,” Marck said. “That’s the best part about this team. They’re all in. They genuinely like each other and get along incredibly well. They buy into what the other guy is doing. They enjoy each other’s company, on and off the field. I have no worries about who’s getting credit for doing what.” So Saturday afternoon, when the Vikings head to the new athletic facility in Riverside County Park to take on neighboring rival Queen of Peace at 1 p.m., they will be ready as a unit, ready to move forward, ready to forget what took place last year.

“We have a group of unselfish football players,” Marck said.

Leading the way is junior quarterback Mike Paolello (5-9, 165), who Marck cannot stop raving about.

“I’ve watched him since he was little,” Marck said of Paolello. “He was on a team in eighth grade that went undefeated and he was the quarterback throughout his whole life. His football knowledge is through the roof. His athleticism is almost freakish. I truly believe he’s a special player. He can throw it, he can run it. He’s the fastest player on the team and he can throw it on a dime.”

To feature Paolello’s skills, the Vikings will be more of a spread team offensively this year.

“We’ll be in the spread, running and throwing,” Marck said. “With him there and the ball in his hands, we can be so much more dangerous.”

The running back is junior Joe Morales (5-10, 185), who Marck likes for his toughness. “He’s a downhill runner,” Marck said of Morales. “He’s a strong, physical runner.

He just loves the game of football.”

The Vikings feature a bunch of talented performers at wide receiver and slot receiver. One of them is junior Edgar Carranza (5-11, 175), who has been a standout in basketball and now takes his talents to the gridiron.

“He has excellent hands,” Marck said of Carranza. “He has a knack for the football. We talked him into playing and he’s shown me a lot.”

Junior Kevin Sequeira (5-9, 160) is another basketball player who is playing football.

“He is an outstanding route runner,” Marck said. “He’s shown a lot of ability.”

The slot receiver is Alex Samaan (5-10, 180), who has been moved to slot from running back.

“He’s a good athlete and super fast,” Marck said.

The second slot is being shared by senior Giuseppe Gugliuzza (6-0, 200) and junior Tim Ford (5-8, 165), who Marck said is “a lot like Wes Welker.”

The offensive line features three returning starters in senior Danny Goffredo (5-10, 190), who is a four-year starter at guard, senior Brandon Pipher (5-9, 205) at guard and senior Dominic Reo (6-2, 210), who Marck said is “an athletic lineman,” at center.

Junior Brandon Dickson (5-11, 235) and senior Cesar Ramos (6-1, 185) are the bookend tackles.

“It’s a little easier having that experience upfront,” Marck said. “They are athletic and tough.”

The Vikings’ 4-4 defense features a lot of the same personnel.

Reo is a returning starter at defensive end, along with senior Colin Clifford (5-8, 165).

Pipher and Goffredo are returning starters at defensive tackle.

Morales is at outside linebacker along with senior Michael Cammett (5-8, 180). Gugliuzza is at inside backer with junior Devon Lopes (5-10, 180).

Carranza and Ford are the cornerbacks with Samaan at safety.

It’s only fitting that North Arlington kicks off the season against the Golden Griffins. It’s a natural rivalry that has been instituted thanks to the new North Jersey Interscholastic Conference.

“I’m excited about the season,” Marck said. “I’m excited about the speed that we have. We have a new team, a new field, a new field house. I think we have a chance to make some noise.”

Golden Griffins gridiron group move on without Momnohin

GoldGriffins_web

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer

The Queen of Peace football team enjoyed a resurgent campaign in 2013, winning six games, including a first round NJSIAA Non-Public Group 1 state playoff game against St. Anthony.

“Without a doubt, it was a success,” said Bob Kearns, who returned to his coaching roots last year to take over the QP program once again. “Coming back for me with a team in turmoil and not knowing where we were going to go. We kept a lid on things and had a very successful season, going back to the state playoffs and winning a game.”

The Golden Griffins also had the state’s leading rusher in Kevin Momnohin, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards and scored 35 touchdowns last season.

“You never replace anything like that,” said Kearns, who guided the Golden Griffins to a 6-5 record last year. “He was a coach’s gift. The football gods were good to me, getting a kid like that. That’s for sure. But you can’t replace blue lightning. I can’t stop talking about him. I may never stop.”

Momnohin is now at Scottsdale Junior College in Arizona, hoping to hook on with an NCAA Division I program in the future.

In the meantime, the Golden Griffins have to move on without their franchise running back.

“I hope we can find another one like him,” Kearns said. “Maybe there’s another one. Who knows? He was just a coach’s dream, a special kid.”

Leading the Golden Griffins this season is sophomore quarterback Derick Suazo (6-1, 175), who Kearns said has the potential to be a good one.

“He’s a tough kid who has really picked up the offense quickly,” Kearns said. “He’s very composed at a very young age. He’s a leader. He’s very mature.”

Senior Brandon Cummings (5-9, 160) is one of the team’s running backs. He was Momnohin’s backup last year.

Senior Shaquan Chavis (5-7, 155) is a little scat back who adds speed. Muadh Abdus Salaam (5-7, 155) is another sophomore in the Griffin backfield.

Sophomore Javon Turner (6- 2, 175) is one of Suazo’s main targets at wide receiver.

“He has good hands and is a great route runner,” Kearns said. “He knows how to get open. He looks like he’s a winner on the field. He’s going to be a star. We have to get him the ball.”

Jasiah Provillon (6-0, 150) is another sophomore wide receiver.

“He has great hands and is a good possession receiver,” Kearns said. “When we need the tough yards, he’s the one we’re going to.”

The tight end duties are being shared by a pair of sophomores, namely Donte Small (5-11, 170) and Chad DiCastro (6-2, 170).

The offensive line features promising freshman Deshawn Brickhouse (6-2, 190) at tackle. Senior Peter Haas is the other tackle, with solid player Chima Dunga (6-2, 230) at guard. Joshua Fedd-Jackson, a 6-foot- 2, 310-pound sophomore, is the other guard.

Defensively, the Griffins fea ture a 4-4 formation, with freshman Kenyon Bowman (6- 1, 175) showing a lot of promise at defensive end, where Dunga also plays. Brickhouse will also get time at defensive end.

Jackson and freshman Rajohn Jones (5-8, 280) are the defensive tackles, giving the Griffins a lot of bulk along the defensive line.

Sophomore Ali Beh (5-10, 165) is a player to watch at linebacker.

Cummings and Chavis are also linebackers. The cornerbacks are junior Mike Scaravilli and freshman Michael Fields (5-10, 160), with Turner at safety.

Yes, the Golden Griffins kick off the 2014 season Saturday afternoon at Riverside County Park against neighboring rival North Arlington in what should be a barnburner of a contest to start the year.

“I love this team,” Kearns said. “They’re young and energetic and have a ton of speed. They want to learn.”

And all that talk about QP either dropping football or the school closing? It’s all hogwash, in the eyes of Kearns. “

We’re here to stay,” Kearns said. “We had to do something to keep going.”

So there is a relationship between a local Pop Warner coach in Newark and the QP grid program. Several of those players are now at QP this fall.

“We had to do something to survive,” Kearns said. “We had nothing. The young kids are going to get a baptism by fire this year right away.” Kearns also likes Suazo and what he brings to his program. “He’s a pleasure to coach,” Kearns said of his quarterback. “He carries himself well. Once you see him, you’ll see he can handle it. We just have to try to keep other teams off him.” Needless to say, the Golden Griffins will be a grid team to watch this fall.

Lyndhurst turns grid hopes to alum Tuero

9-3Lyndfootball_web

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

It’s been a few months since Rich Tuero officially took over as the head football coach at his alma mater Lyndhurst High School, so there’s no state of shock involved with anything Tuero does as head coach anymore.

“It’s been a great transition,” said Tuero, who took over for Joe Castagnetti as head coach, but Castagnetti remains on staff as an assistant coach. “I’m lucky to have a great coaching staff with great consistency. We’re all on the same page. I’ve been with these guys my whole life, so that helps.”

The Golden Bears finished 3-7 last season and graduated an astounding 22 seniors from that squad.

Needless to say, the Golden Bears will have a different look this season, with a new head coach and a new roster.

“We can say we’re young and inexperienced, but a lot of these kids were with me on the JV (junior varsity) level,” said Tuero, who was the head JV coach last year. “So it’s like we all just moved up to the varsity together. I told them that they were either all in or all out and so far, they’ve all bought in.”

Tuero has a simple goal in his first season. “We just have to continue to get better every day,” Tuero said. “We can never get satisfied.”

The Golden Bears have a battle right now at quarterback, with three players looking to earn the starting nod.

Senior Jonathan Wartel (5-8, 155) and a pair of juniors George Ryan (6-1, 170) and Pete Guerriero (5-9, 170) are all vying for the No. 1 quarterback slot.

“I still don’t know who the guy is,” Tuero said. “All three bring something different to the table.”

There’s no doubt who the Golden Bears’ top running back is. Junior Matt DeMarco (6-0, 180) returns to his starting running back slot in Lyndhurst’s spread offensive set.

“He’s grown a little and looks good so far,” Tuero said. “He has all the tools. He’s respected by his peers.”

How much so? Well, Tuero turned the idea of a team captaincy to a vote of the players.

“Matt was the top vote getter by far as a junior,” Tuero said. “He’s just a hard-nosed, tough football player. He can run over you or run past you. He’s just a hard working kid.”

Senior Joe Cosenza (5-9, 195) will also see some time at running back.

“He’s a hard-nosed bruiser,” Tuero said. “He’s a north and south runner.”

The Golden Bears utilize four wide receivers in their offense.

Junior Quinton St. Helaire (5- 7, 150), a standout in track and field, gives Lyndhurst a ton of speed on the perimeter. If he’s not the quarterback, Guerriero will move to wide receiver.

Senior Derrick Ruiz (5-9, 165) returns as a wide out. Another receiver is senior Marc Estevez (5-11, 175), the basketball standout who has joined the football team for the first time.

“He’s a good athlete and a good leader,” Tuero said of Estevez.

Senior Jordan Stuart (5-8, 175) is the Golden Bears’ tight end.

The Lyndhurst offensive line has some good size and experience. Sophomore Matt Schnoll (6-3, 310) is a returnee who started every game as a freshman last year.

“He’s a man-child,” Tuero said of the hulky Schnoll. “He has the potential to be a good one. He has great feet.”

Junior Ryan Smith (6-0, 240) is the other starting tackle.

Senior Pete Urgola (5-9, 190) returns as a starting guard and he’s joined by the Lyndhurst version of the eye doctor’s eye chart.

Junior newcomer Oluwayomi Olasehinde (6-0, 205) is a first-year football player who has earned a slot at guard.

“He’s a good football player,” Tuero said.

The center is junior Fred Rivers (5-9, 195). The Golden Bears will play a 3-4 defensive formation.

Schnoll and Smith are the defensive ends with senior George Feurtado (6-0, 260) at the nose guard.

The outside linebackers are Olasehinde (pronounced exactly as it is spelled) and Stuart.

DeMarco heads the inside linebackers, along with Rivers and Cosenza.

Ruiz and Wartel are the cornerbacks, with Guerriero and St. Helaire at safety.

The Golden Bears have to take their young roster into a very tough schedule, facing Waldwick to start the season next Friday.

“This is how it is,” Tuero said. “We have speed, but we’re small. We have to use the speed to our advantage. We need to keep people healthy. We’ve been working on that all throughout the offseason. We don’t have a lot of depth, so we have to keep our players healthy.”

Tuero said that he has been keeping his top personnel out of a lot of workouts to keep them fresh throughout the season.

“We’re doing fine right now,” Tuero said. “We have a lot of great kids who are buying into what we’re doing. They’re doing the right things.”

And has it hit home that Tuero is finally coaching his alma mater?

“I love it, because this is what I wanted,” Tuero said. “I love this team. They’re giving every last effort they have. If they just get a little better every day, that’s all I ask for. We have two mottos. We have to get better every day and we’re either all in or all out.”

Judging by the attitude of the Golden Bears, they’re all in for their new coach.

NA girls’ soccer: New coach Farinola leads the way

9-3View_web

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

North Arlington High School has a new girls’ soccer coach in Dan Farinola, who had previously been the bowling and golf coach at the school.

Farinola takes over the girls’ soccer coaching duties at North Arlington, where he teaches. For the last few seasons, Farinola was the head boys’ soccer coach at Secaucus, his alma mater.

But Farinola bleeds NA blue and white these days and was excited to take over the reins of coaching the Vikings this fall.

“The transition has been really smooth,” said Farinola, who replaces veteran Sharon O’Brien Romer. “We graduated 12 seniors from last year, so we’re still trying to get our numbers up. But I’m excited about the girls we have coming back. When we’re completely whole, we are going to be competitive. It’s just hard right now getting the numbers. We might end up being a little thin on the bench. When school starts, we hope to get a few more girls.”

Farinola said that he’s still trying to implement a system for the Vikings to follow.

“We’re trying to do things a little differently, but I think offensively we can be a threat,” Farinola said. “We have some talented girls.”

Leading the way for the Vikings is junior midfielder Joanna Seca, who scored 12 goals and had 14 assists last year, as North Arlington won eight games.

“Joanna has complete control of the game,” Farinola said. “She’s a great player. She has all the tools to be a topnotch player.”

Senior Sarah Palma is another talented midfielder.

“She played more of a stopper role in the past, but we’ve moved her up to get involved with the offense,” Farinola said. “Her ball handling will help with control of the game.”

Sophomore Callie Evanchick is another solid player in the North Arlington midfield.

“She has a lot of potential,” Farinola said. “She played a lot last year as a freshman. I still think she is a little raw, but she has made a lot of improvement in such a short time.”

Freshman Carlie Mullins is another midfielder with talent and potential.

“She’s very good for her age,” Farinola said of Mullins. “She fits right in with the rest. She’s technically sound for a freshman.”

No question, the strength of the Vikings will lie within the midfield. Senior Taylor Barth is another key returnee. Barth scored 10 goals last year at forward.

“I think she can have a huge year this year,” Farinola said. “She has a nose for the ball and can put the ball on net. She has the ability to get good shots off.”

Freshman Kaitlin Stajek is another forward.

“She’s a product of the (North Arlington) Rec (recreation) program and is an aggressive player,” Farinola said. “She’s going to help us. She can get shots on goal as well and complements Taylor well.”

The Vikings will have to play strong defensively and Farinola is asking a lot of the young group.

Freshman Makayla Cortes has inherited the role as the starting goalkeeper.

“She’s adapting very well,” Farinola said. “She is stopping the ones in front of her. She has to keep improving because she’s never played goalkeeper before.”

Junior Jessica Gilmour is the team’s starting sweeper. Farinola is still working with Gilmour with learning the intricacies of playing the position.

“She’s settling in,” Farinola said.

Junior Kayleigh Lavornia is the team’s stopper. Lavornia is a first-year soccer player, so she is also learning the position.

“She’s a tough girl who is willing to learn,” Farinola said.

Sophomore Melissa Torres is another defender who spent some time in goal last year. Junior Sam Magliori will also play a key role as a defender.

The Vikings are clearly a work in progress along the backline. They will need to develop and learn in a hurry.

The Vikings open their season on Thursday against St. Mary’s of Rutherford, so they will know soon enough how they stack up against the opposition.

The Vikings will eventually get the chance to play on the newly refurbished Rip Collins facility. Some of those games, including an Oct. 23 game against Weehawken, will be played at night.

“The girls are really looking forward to those night games,” Farinola said. “It’s really exciting.”

Maybe the idea of playing night games on a brand new state-of-the-art facility will entice more girls to want to play soccer at North Arlington. One thing’s for sure: It can’t hurt.

“We’re hoping things like that will encourage more to play,” Farinola said. “We want to be able get the program going in the right direction.”

For now, players like Seca, Palma and Barth have to be the beacons, the guiding lights, to lead the Vikings to respectability right away. After that, it remains up to the girls of North Arlington to get involved in a sport that so many girls in the town already participate in.

Blue Tide prepares for second season under coach Gallo

BlueTide_web

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

When Matt Gallo took over the head football coaching position at Harrison High School, the program was in the midst of an awful 21-game losing streak.

“It was big,” Gallo said. “They hadn’t won a game here in three years.”

But the Blue Tide won one game last season, snapping the streak, then won another. Although the 2-8 record wasn’t going to win any championships, it was good enough to get the ball rolling.

“It showed the kids that the system works,” said Gallo, who will begin his second season as the head man with the Blue Tide Sept. 12 against Park Ridge.

“It was good to see that the kids are buying into the system.”

The Blue Tide lost 10 seniors to graduation after last season, so it means that this year’s team will be filled with sophomores and even freshmen.

“We might have to go through some growing pains,” Gallo said. “But I’m excited about this underclass. Once they get rid of the growing pains, they’re going to be fine. It might be tough to compete this year with a team with 90% freshmen and sophomores, but we have some good talent in our underclass. They are tough kids who like to compete. If they continue to get better, we can do some good things.”

Leading the way will be sophomore quarterback Mike O’Donnell (5-9, 160), who comes from a long line of O’Donnell athletes who graced Harrison’s field of play.

O’Donnell has all the tools to be a very good signal caller for the Blue Tide.

“He’s extremely cerebral,” Gallo said. “He’s an honors student, so there was no problem with him learning the offense. He knows what I want him to run. It’s almost like having another coach on the field and that’s rare for a sophomore. But that’s the way he is. He’s solid there.”

The fullback is another sophomore in Jeff Cisneros (5-11, 170), who will see most of the carries out of the Blue Tide backfield.

“He’s a tough kid who runs hard,” Gallo said. “He does everything we ask of him and doesn’t complain about anything.”

The two halfbacks are both named Rodriguez, but are not related.

Sophomore Jerry Rodriguez (5-9, 165) and junior Rico Rodriguez (5-10, 170) will also get their fair share of carries, as the Delaware Wing-T offense predicates on sharing the football.

“There’s talent back there,” Gallo said. “I like what we have there.”

Senior Justin Castellano (5-11, 150) is the Harrison wide receiver, with sophomore Hector Rueda (5-11, 175) as the tight end. Castellano is one of the rare senior returnees on the Harrison roster.

The offensive line features some size and experience.

Senior Axel Carmona (5- 11, 210) is a returning starter at tackle, with sophomore Johanser Nunez (5-10, 205) at the other tackle. The guards are junior John Di- Costa (6-3, 230) and senior Brandon Perez (5-9, 200).  The center is junior Aaron Velasquez (5-11, 200).

“The strong point of this team is our offensive line,” Gallo said. “We have a lot of faith in them.”

The Blue Tide will utilize a 5-2 defensive formation. Perez and DiCosta are the defensive ends, with Nunez at the nose guard. Carmona and sophomore Adrian Sime (5-10, 190) are the defensive tackles.

Cisneros, Jerry Rodriguez and Rueda are the linebackers. Rueda started at linebacker last year and emerged as a top-notch defensive player.

“We expect a lot from him this season,” Gallo said. “I trust him to make the right calls for us defensively. He’s a tough football player.”

Castellano and sophomore Rafael Santana (5-10, 165) are the cornerbacks, with O’Donnell holding fort at safety.

On paper, it looks tough for a team to compete against others who have rosters comprised with much older players.

But the Blue Tide will try to persevere and hope to gain experience in a hurry.

“I love the makeup of this team,” Gallo said. “We have young kids, but they are competitors. They’re aggressive and want to play. You can’t coach that. You either have that aggressive approach or you don’t. A lot of what will happen this year depends on how these kids develop. I’m excited about that. It should be a good season for us.”

Maroon Raiders look to improve on gridiron

8-27 Nutley_web

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer 

The Nutley High School football team posted a 5-5 record in 2013. With any luck, that record could have been dramatically better.

“We lost three games where we had leads going into the fourth quarter,” said Nutley head coach Tom Basile, who enters his third season as the head coach of the Maroon Raiders. “We have to do a better job of finishing football games. That’s our goal this year. We have to finish better.”

Basile said that the Maroon Raiders’ season ending victory over Wayne Valley, a game where Nutley came from behind to win, has been a giant stepping stone into the 2014 season.

“We’re using that game as a springboard,” Basile said. “We have a lot of kids coming back from that team. It’s a different year, with a different schedule, but with a lot of the same kids, we feel good about our chances. The kids have really been receptive. I couldn’t be any happier.”

The Maroon Raiders will face different foes such as Caldwell, Weequahic and Irvington in 2014, shifting divisions in the Super Essex Conference.

“We have good senior leadership,” Basile said. “We have good impact players.”

One of the impact contributors will be senior quarterback Rob Melillo (6-2, 190). Melillo was the junior varsity quarterback for the last two seasons and gets his chance to finally start this fall.

“He did bide his time,” Basile said of Melillo. “He runs smart. He runs more like a fullback than a quarterback. He is smart with the ball and has a gun for an arm. His accuracy is good and manages the offense well.”

Senior Frank Malanga (5-9, 180) is the returning starter at fullback.

“He’s a hard-nosed runner who is also a good lead blocker,” Basile said. “He runs our Veer option and misdirection well.”

The key to the Raiders’ offense is junior running back Craig Merkle (6-0, 195).

“A year ago, we tried to bring him along slowly and he ended up being our leading rusher and tackler,” Basile said. “He did everything for us, running, catching passes, scoring touchdowns (11). We realized midway through last year that he was our best player. He’s everything and more.”

The other running back is junior Devin Merritt (5-9, 170), whose father, Dave, is the defensive backs coach for the New York Giants.

Senior Pete Russo (5-11, 175) is a sure-handed wide receiver who also serves as the backup quarterback. Junior receiver Anthony Condito (5-10, 170) is also a quarterback.

“All three are going to be on the field at the same time,” Basile said. “We feel pretty fortunate to have all three play quarterback.”

Senior Jason Hoffman (6-1, 230) is the starting tight end.

Senior Kevin Davis (6-3, 230) is a returning starter at offensive tackle, joined by junior August Mustardo (6-0, 195). Senior Jesse DeFuria (5-9, 215) returns to his starting slot at guard, joined by junior Devin White (5-10, 195).

The center is senior Joe Iorio (5-10, 190), who is a converted fullback.

“Joe started the season last year as our starting fullback,” Basile said. “We moved him back to center this year. He played center as a little kid, so he knows what he’s doing.”

The Maroon Raiders will utilize a 3-4 defensive set this season to better use their personnel.

“We felt that we had a lot of talent at linebacker, so we made the transition to 3-4 to get them all on the field,” Basile said.

Senior Austin Brendel (6-2, 190) joins Hoffman at defensive end, flanking DeFuria at nose guard.

Merkle is a standout at outside linebacker. He made 81 tackles to lead the team last fall. Merritt is the team’s other outside linebacker.

Malanga and Iorio return to their starting slots at inside linebacker, so the Maroon Raiders have three returning players at linebacker. Not many teams have that kind of experience at that position.

Seniors Kevin Goudie (5-9, 165) and Chris Ammiano (6-1, 170) are the cornerbacks.

Russo returns to the safety slot, where he earned All-SEC and All-Essex County honors a year ago, tying for the state lead in interceptions with eight. Incredibly, Russo made six of those interceptions in two late-season games.

Andrew Aiello (5-9, 170) is a senior who starts at the other safety slot.

The Maroon Raiders open the 2014 season against neighboring rival Belleville at Belleville on Sept. 12.

Basile really likes the makeup of his team.

“They have formed a little bit of a bond,” Basile said. “They really worked hard together in the offseason. We have a great group of leaders, a group of kids who do everything together. They hang out together off the field. They really are buddies. We profess that we’re not a team, that we’re the Nutley football family.

But that’s for real with these kids. They really are a family.” And if they can figure out a way to close out games this season, maybe they will return to the state playoffs.

“That’s what we’re hoping for,” Basile said. “We wanted to establish a tradition of contending for a state title every year.”

This could be the year that the Maroon Raiders make a return to glory.

Harrison boys’ soccer team looks to continue winning ways

8-27 View_web

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

The newest member of the First Family of West Hudson soccer arrived last Monday.

Christian Michael Rusek was born on Monday, Aug. 18, 2014, weighing in at eight pounds, six ounces. He’s the first child for Harrison High School head coach Mike Rusek, who had a reason to miss the Blue Tide practice session the next day, leaving the duties for the newborn’s grandfather and uncle to carry on.

Mike Rusek begins his 15th season as the head coach at Harrison, where he now coaches with not only his brother, John, but with his father, Mickey.

This year, things will be a little different for the head coach in the family, because of his new family obligations.

“I find myself running home after practice now,” Rusek said. “I tell everyone, ‘It’s time to go. I have to go home and be with my son.”

But in most aspects, things won’t change one iota with the Blue Tide’s immensely successful boys’ soccer program. The Blue Tide should once again contend for top honors in the Hudson County Tournament, which they won last year, and in the NJSIAA Group I ranks, where they lost in the overall state title to Newton last November.

In fact, the 2-1 loss in the state championship was the lone blemish in what had been a perfect 22-0-1 record up until that cold, dreary day at the College of New Jersey in Ewing. The Blue Tide won 19 of their 22 games via shutout last year. They featured the state player of the year in senior defender/ do-everything Modou Sowe. It was definitely a year to remember, culminating in county and state sectional titles.

But the Blue Tide graduated a lot of key members to last year’s 22-1-1 team, including the immensely talented Sowe, now at Ramapo College after amassing an astounding 19 goals as a defender last season.

“I was looking at our stats from last year and we lost a total of 75 goals to graduation,” Rusek said. “That’s a lot. You always believe and hope that the seniors who are left can carry on and hope that others now get the opportunity to play where they might have been held back.”

Rusek likes the makeup of his team.

“We do have a good number of seniors this year,” Rusek said. “We do have about half of last year’s team back. I just hope this is a group that can carry us a very long way.”

Leading the returning players is senior goalkeeper Nick Araujo, who was the one to record those 19 shutouts a year ago.

“I feel very good about that position,” Rusek said. “Nick is a solid keeper.”

The Blue Tide utilizes what Rusek dubbed “a flat back four,” instead of the traditional sweeper/stopper formation on defense.

The center defenders are seniors Rodrigo Esquivel and Ali Lathgar, both of whom are capable and experienced. The other two backs are senior Marcelo Esquivel (Rodrigo’s identical twin brother and good luck trying to determine which one is which) and senior Alexis Burga.

So the Blue Tide have some experience and strength along their back line.

One midfielder slot belongs to senior Jorge Castro, who compiled seven goals and had 10 assists last year.

“He’s a good distributor,” Rusek said. “He’s also a good defensive midfielder.”

The other midfielder is junior Cristian Marquez, who had six goals in limited action last year, but five of those scores came in the NJSIAA state tournament.

“He really came on at the end of the season,” Rusek said of Marquez.

The center midfielder is returning senior starter Leandro Gonzales, who is a three-year starter in the Harrison midfield. Gonzales had 10 goals and 10 assists last season.

“We’re hoping that Leandro can lead us if we’re going to get things done this year,” Rusek said. “If we’re scoring goals, he’s the one who will be behind a lot of it.”

Junior David Inahuazo is another key contributor in the midfield.

Up front, the Blue Tide welcomes back senior Ali Lakhrif, who had 12 goals last year, including the big lone goal in Harrison’s 1-0 victory over Kearny in the Hudson County Tournament semifinals.

“He’s definitely going to get his chance to score,” Rusek said of Lakhrif, whose family is originally from Morocco. “He has a good, strong leg.”

The other forward is senior Christian Restrepo, who gets a chance to crack the lineup this fall.

“He’s finally going to get a chance to play,” Rusek said of Restrepo.

The Blue Tide begins their season Monday, Sept. 8 against New Milford.

There is something else to be excited about. The Blue Tide will, indeed, face Kearny in the regular season at Red Bull Arena in Harrison on Saturday, Sept. 27 as part of a girls’-boys’ doubleheader on that day. No need for waiting and hoping for a county tourney showdown. The two will meet in a regular contest in late September in the state’s premier soccer palace.

“It should be a great day of soccer,” Rusek said. “I know our kids are very excited about it. As long as it’s a good day weather-wise, it should be a great crowd.”

Needless to say, the Blue Tide should be in the thick of county and state playoff runs as well – like they always are.

“I like to hope so,” Rusek said.

However, this time around, Rusek does it as a father. And there can’t be any more rewarding feeling than that.