By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
Matt Gallo, the new head football coach at Harrison High School, doesn’t want to even think about what has happened in the past with the Blue Tide grid squad.
“It’s a new regime, a new system, a new beginning,” said Gallo, a native of Hoboken and the proud football program there. “We don’t even refer to it anymore.”
The “it” Gallo is talking about is the current 18-game losing streak that the Blue Tide has had to endure.
“In the beginning, yes, it was talked about, but not now,” Gallo said. “We’ve gone past that. We don’t even want them to think about it. When you put on the helmet, we want zero negativity.”
So far, Gallo has received that.
“The transition has been great,” Gallo said. “I have great support from the administration. Everyone is interested in seeing the program turn around. It started when I got the job until now. Everyone wants to see us succeed.”
Gallo said that there is one initial internal war he must wage.
“The biggest psychological battle is to make these kids believe in winning,” Gallo said. “The kids are buying in. Their attitude has been great, through the roof. We do have some talented kids here.”
One of those is junior quarterback Jason Sheppard (6-0, 180), who has been given the responsibility of running the Blue Tide’s new Delaware Wing-T offense that Gallo learned while playing for Hall of Fame head coach Ed Stinson at Hoboken.
“Jason is my guy,” Gallo said. “He’s everything I want in a quarterback. He’s a hardworking kid who is detail oriented. He’s dedicated and intelligent. I think he’s going to do a great job.”
The fullback is senior Adam Huseinovic (5-11, 200), who is going to get the workman’s share of the carries.
“Adam has taken to the role very well and has that tough mentality you need there,” Gallo said.
The halfbacks are senior Alfredo Mendoza (5-6, 175) and freshman Cesar Hurtado (5-8, 165), who makes Gallo very excited.
“He has a ton of potential,” Gallo said of Hurtado. “He beat everyone out over the summer and deserves to be where he is.”
The wide receiver is senior Brian Carr (6-2, 200). Junior Brandon Perez (5-9, 190) returns to his starting slot at tight end.
The offensive line is a work in progress and they are still getting down the blocking mechanisms and schemes of the Wing-T.
Senior Ariel Martins (5-11, 190) and junior Axel Carmona (5-10, 200) are the tackles, with senior Rich Lopez (5-11, 200) and promising sophomore John DaCosta (6-3, 220) at guards and senior Anthony Williams (5-10, 185) at center.
If the offensive line can get the offensive formation down and know their roles as blockers, then they can become a good unit.
The Blue Tide will play a 3-4 defensive set. DaCosta and Perez are the defensive ends, with Martins at the nose guard.
The defensive tackles are senior Mark Isaac (6-0, 220) and Carmona.
Huseinovic, Carr and senior Justin Thomas (5-9, 190) are the linebackers, with Sheppard and Hurtado at cornerback and Mendoza and freshman Michael O’Donnell (5-7, 170) at safety.
The Blue Tide begins the Gallo era on Friday, Sept. 13, at Wallington.
“I’m just looking for notable improvement,” Gallo said.
“That’s both mentally and physically. We’re setting the foundation here, something that will be here for years to come. So the first goal is being competitive. Based on what I’ve seen all summer, I think we’ll be at the very least competitive.”
It has to start some place.