By Jim Hague
Observer Sports Writer
It had been quite some time since the Harrison High School football team enjoyed a victory.
In fact, the last time the Blue Tide won a game prior to last week was Nov. 12, 2010, when they defeated Weehawken, 33-26.
Although Adam Huseinovic was on the varsity that year as a freshman, he was injured and didn’t play against Weehawken.
“I’ve been waiting for a win for a really long time,” Huseinovic said.
So that was the inspiration the senior running back had before the Blue Tide opened its season against Wallington. It was a driving force, a burning desire, through 18 long and excruciating losses, through two full seasons.
“All I can say is that it was pretty bad,” Huseinovic said. “No one likes losing. It made me hungry to get a win. I tried to bring everyone together to win that game. I worked very hard in the offseason to get ready for the first game.”
Huseinovic is no foreigner to hard work. It’s actually in his blood. His father, Al, is a custodian at Harrison High. His mother is a legal secretary.
“They were positive examples,” Huseinovic said. “Working hard rubbed off on me and I took it to football.”
Huseinovic was determined to lead the Blue Tide to a win in their season opener. There wasn’t going to be an alternative.
Especially after Matt Gallo stepped in and became the program’s new head coach. Gallo revamped the offense, installing the traditional Delaware Wing-T offense he learned during his days as part of the famed program at Hoboken High School.
The first thing Gallo did when he was mapping out his offensive strategy was to turn Huseinovic into a fullback.
“In the Delaware Wing-T, the fullback is the centerpiece of the offense,” Gallo said. “Adam was going to be our fullback. Everything we did was going through him.”
Gallo said that Huseinovic took to the responsibility of being the focal point of the offense right away.
“He was very positive from the get-go,” Gallo said. “I explained the role to him and told him that playing fullback in this offense is not the traditional fullback role. The fullback is the one who gets the call a lot. The halfbacks do most of the blocking. He bought into the offense right away.”
“I was for the idea the whole time,” Huseinovic said. “I wanted that role. I wanted the ball. I studied the offense and the players who did it before. I worked hard. I got ready to play, because I knew this was what I wanted. I felt comfortable in the role, like everything was geared towards me.”
In the week prior to the Wallington opener, Gallo said his team was very prepared. None more than Huseinovic.
“We were all practicing at a fever pitch,” Gallo said. “We had a great week. It was like nothing I ever saw before as a coach. The tempo and intensity was sky high, as intense as I’ve ever had as a coach, from top to bottom. I got a good sense out of Adam. I could see he was starving for relevancy. They hadn’t won in a long time and he was going after it. They had to go get one.”
Sure enough, led by the new fullback, the Blue Tide went and got one. They defeated Wallington, 27-20, to snap the brutal 18-game losing streak.
Huseinovic was a major factor in the win, rushing for 196 yards on 19 carries and scoring two touchdowns.
For his efforts, Huseinovic has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week. Huseinovic is the first recipient of the weekly honor for the 2013- 14 scholastic sports season and it will culminate in June, 2014, with the presentations of the Observer Male and Female Athletes of the Year.
Gallo knew it was going to be a special night for his team and for Huseinovic.
“On the first play from scrimmage, Adam broke out and ran 45 yards for a touchdown,” Gallo said. “But the bulk of the yards, Adam got the hard way. He got his share of tough yards in the game. He was the workhorse and epitomized the role of a fullback. He had the breakaway run and he got those tough yards.”
“I didn’t mind it,” Huseinovic said. “Getting hit doesn’t bother me.”
Especially when you’re winning.
“It was the best feeling I had in a long time,” Huseinovic said. “Everything finally paid off. But obviously, one win isn’t enough. Without a doubt, we went right back to work. One is definitely not enough.”
The Blue Tide played hard against a good Elmwood Park squad last Friday night, but fell short, 35-21. In the game, Huseinovic just missed getting 100 yards for a second straight game, collecting 92 yards and a touchdown. But he’s well on his way. So are his teammates.
Gallo is pleased with what he’s received from the fledgling fullback.
“He’s exceeded our expectations and my expectations of him were pretty high,” Gallo said. “Adam is a throwback kind of football player, the tough kid who puts his head down and gets the big yards. He gets the job done.”
Gallo likes Huseinovic’s approach to the game.
“He’s a quiet kid, but he has quiet confidence,” Gallo said. “He’s not much of a ‘rah-rah’ kind of kid. He sets an example by how he comes out and gives his all every day. The others seem to follow that.
Added Gallo, “I put a ton of faith in him and that faith has been backed up. His work ethic is second to none.” Huseinovic is also the center-fielder for the Blue Tide baseball team, but he would much rather play football in college. He’s a member of the honor roll at the school, so college is definitely a solid option.
“I definitely want to play, but I haven’t really decided yet,” Huseinovic said.
Maybe winning some games, collecting a bunch of yards and scoring a host of touchdowns will help that cause.
“I hope so,” Huseinovic said. “That would be awesome.”
Almost as awesome as his opening night performance, one that will be remembered in Harrison for a very long time to come.