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Still probing how body ended up in river

By Karen Zautyk

Observer Correspondent 


The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Belleville Police Department are continuing to investigate the death of a Newark man whose body was found last Wednesday morning in the Second River off Mill St. His car was also in the water, reportedly some 150-200 feet away from the body.

The victim was identified as Roosevelt Padilla-Correa, 67, but, as of press time, there was no information available on the specific cause and manner of his death.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, it appeared that Padilla-Correa’s vehicle crashed into the water near the intersection of Franklin Ave. and Mill St. the previous night, Tuesday, March 10.

The Second River is the stream that parallels Mill St., crosses beneath Franklin Ave. and runs through the Belleville portion of Branch Brook Park.

Sources told The Observer that the auto apparently went into the river in the vicinity of the DAV Post, near the northwest corner of Franklin and Mill. The body reportedly was found in the water behind Nanina’s in The Park, on the other side of Franklin.

On the night of March 10, there had been heavy rain, and a dense fog blanketed the area. There is speculation that these may have been factors in the car apparently driving into the water.

The sources said the doors on the vehicle were open when it was found mid-morning Wednesday.

The investigation is being conducted by the prosecutor’s Major Crimes Task Force and the Belleville Police Department, under the direction of Chief Joseph Rotonda.

Results of an autopsy by the county Medical Examiner are pending.

Local government left in the dark


The roll had been called, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited and the Kearny governing body was about to tackle its agenda when, suddenly, its members were left in the dark.

It was the Town Hall Power Outage of 2015.

Emergency battery-powered exit lights provided limited illumination and a backup generator kicked in to feed police and fire communications systems.

Several Town Council members powered on their cellular phones for the light, gamely hoping at the time that they could carry on somehow.

But those hopes dimmed after town officials noticed that some apartments and shops on Kearny Ave. had also gone dark as light rain fell outside.

And, after learning from PSE&G that the situation was not going to be remedied anytime soon, Mayor Alberto Santos – speaking in virtual darkness – made a command decision.

The council would adjourn its meeting, he said, to 6 p.m. Monday, March 16, and conduct its business then.

But when it was pointed out by town CFO Shuaib Firozvi that Kearny faced a Monday deadline to submit its application for $2,125,000 in state transitional aid, along with its introduction of the 2015 municipal budget, the mayor said that the town would ask Trenton if it could get a one-day extension.

If not doable, Santos said, then the council would convene Friday, March 13, in special session to consider both matters.

As it turned out, Trenton – and its fiscal monitor assigned to Kearny – granted the town the extra day to complete the process, Santos said last week, so the council was expected to meet on the 16th to deal with those financial issues, along with other agenda items, including the appointment of six new police officers.

During the early stages of the blackout, police personnel relied on portable radios and firefighters used a backup radio console at the Maple St. dispatch center for communication until a power supply could be run from a transmitter to a phone line at Town Hall, according to Fire Chief Steven Dyl.

Soon after darkness descended on the Municipal Building and a five-block stretch of Kearny Ave. — (for safety reasons, the Avenue was blocked off to local traffic between Oakwood Ave. and Liberty St.) – Dyl said the Fire Department was alerted to smoke seen coming from a manhole at the intersection of Kearny and Quincy Aves.

And there were reports of other underground burning at nearby corners, the chief said.

“We suspect that had something to do with the power going out,” Dyl said.

Interestingly, exploding manholes were reported at around 5:30 p.m. last Tuesday on Bloomfield and Claremont Aves. in Montclair, according to The Patch website. The Montclair fire chief was quoted as saying that the bursts were likely triggered by a short in an electrical vault. PSE&G had no explanation for the incidents.

Still, PSE&G spokeswoman Erica Jordan said Tuesday night that, “The Kearny outage was not a result of the manhole pops. It is related to an issue with a network circuit and our crews are working to restore power.”

Early Wednesday, PSE&G spokeswoman Lindsey Puliti reported that, “A contractor was digging in the street and damaged an underground cable near Frank E. Rodgers Blvd. and Scott-Mobus Place in Harrison. PSE&G crews are on site making repairs today.”

Puliti said the area in Kearny that experienced the outage “is tied to the same circuit network as Harrison. When the cable in Harrison failed, it also affected customers in Kearny.

“There were approximately 26 customers without power in the vicinity of Kearny Ave. The outage occurred around 8 p.m. and all customers were restored by 2 a.m.”

Images from the 2015 West Hudson St. Patrick’s Day Parade

All Photos By Karen Zautyk

KPD blotter: Cars stolen & recovered

At 4 a.m. last Wednesday, March 11, Officer Kevin Arnesman was on patrol when he spotted three cars, two parked illegally and all with their engines running, on Brighton Ave. near Rutland Ave. As the patrol car approached, “all three quickly departed,” KPD Chief John Dowie reported.

Arnesman engaged in a short pursuit, north on Belgrove Drive. He ended it for safety reasons, but not before getting the license plate of one of the vehicles, a ‘99 Volkswagen.

That car turned out to have been stolen, and it was found several hours later by Officer T.J. Hernandez at Dukes and Chestnut Sts.

Later that day, police received a report from a Brighton Ave. resident that his 2002 Jeep Liberty had been stolen. It was recovered in Newark by the Newark PD.

Police believe three individuals were involved and that they had driven to Kearny together with the intention of taking two cars. The investigaton is continuing.

• • •

Other recent reports from the Kearny police blotter included the following:

 March 1 

Officer Peter Jahera responded to a Passaic Ave. business at 7 p.m. on a report from a female employee that she had been threatened with a knife by a co-worker. Det. Michael Gonzalez conducted the follow-up investigation and developed as a suspect Savannah Santiago, 25, of Kearny, who was arrested at her home March 12. She was charged with aggravated assault, possession of a weapon and possession of a weapon for illegal purposes.

March 7 

Officers Jordenson Jean and Frank West arrested Quianah Arrington, 26, of Newark, on a charge of disorderly conduct in connection with a 9:30 a.m. dispute in the parking lot at Kmart. Police said she also had intentionally knocked over a display in a nearby dollar store.

March 10 

At 4 p.m., detectives were conducting an ABC inspection at a tavern on the 300 block of Kearny Ave. when they detected the “pungent odor of pot” emanating from a trio of individuals standing outside the rear door. They took into custody Roderick Macdonald, 54, of Kearny, who allegedly was holding a hand-rolled cigarette. He was charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia and on a $250 outstanding Kearny warrant.

• • •

Officer Jay Ward responded to Walmart at 7:30 p.m. on the report of three women attempting to abscond with more than $1,000 worth of clothing and baby products. The suspects — Laika Abincha, 35, Trunell Stubbs, 19, and Kershaere Stubbs, 22, all of Newark — were charged with shoplifting and conspiracy.

March 11 

Officers Ward and Malinda Esposito were called to Kmart at 8 p.m. and arrested Newark residents Marques Speed, 28, and Carthell Speed, 32, on shoplifting charges for allegedly attempting to steal two sets of headphones from the store. In a search incident to arrest, Marques was reportedly found to be in possession of methamphetamine and was also charged with that offense. Police said Carthell was found to have four outstanding warrants, including three from Newark: a $5,000 warrant for assault; a $2,500 one for criminal mischief, and a $200 one for trespass. Irvington wanted him on a $98 warrant for being an unlicensed driver.

– Karen Zautyk 

Admitted bank robber faces June sentencing

An East Orange man has pleaded guilty to robbing a PNC Bank in Bloomfield last June, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman reported.

Kenneth Grant, 47, entered the plea March 9 before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas in Newark Federal Court.

Authorities said Grant had entered the bank on Broad St. on the morning of June 13, 2014, and handed a teller a note, written on the back of a deposit slip, which read: HAVE GUN 100, 20, 50 NO DIE PACKS. The robber reportedly also told the teller not to trigger an alarm or he would shoot her. She handed over approximately $1,300, and he fled.

According to published reports, another customer — an off-duty corrections officer — followed Grant from the bank, stopped him a short distance away and held him at bay until Bloomfield police arrived.

Grant faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced June 15.

Fishman credited officers of the Bloomfield Police Department, under the direction of Chief Randy Foster, and special agents of the FBI with the investigation leading to the guilty plea.

– Karen Zautyk 

Business Review: Vito’s Hotdogs brings Sabretts to Harrison & so much more






Photos Courtesy Vito Casale

By Kevin Canessa Jr. 

Observer Correspondent 


Most hotdog lovers enjoy a good Sabrett. Or two. Or three or more. But there’s always something even better about eating a Sabrett when it comes from a hot dog truck. Enter Vito’s Hotdogs. Sure, they deliver the Sabretts. But it’s what they put on top of the hotdogs that make them so much more — and better — than just a basic Sabrett.

Owner Vito Casale says there’s a reason why his hotdogs should be rated better than anyone else’s in the area — the freshness of the ingredients. Too often, he says, hotdog venders used canned ingredients. Not him, though. Not by any means.

“Everything I use is top of the line,” Casale said. “I use the best Sabretts, the best buns, the best everything. When you use canned stuff, people know it. When you taste my dogs, you know the difference and a lot of it is because of the freshness of the ingredients that I use.”

And it’s more than just the freshness of the ingredients, too. It’s the little things people don’t often think of when it comes to hotdogs.

“When I was deciding what kind of mustard to use, I tried 13 different brands before I chose one,” Casale said. “We settled on a deli-style mustard, and yes, sometimes, this means people will pay a little more for my hotdogs, but in return, they’re getting better quality. I serve my customers like I’m serving my friends and family — just the best.”

Going into business 

Casale and a business partner of his, prior to opening the truck, tried their hand at a deli business in Newark. When it didn’t work out — Casale says he didn’t pick the right location — he decided he wanted something new and outside the box.

With help from his brother, he decided on buying a truck for the hotdog business. So he got one at a great price out on Long Island. And in August, after three months of work with his uncle, Jimmy, the former potato chip truck was now ready for business. It never would have been possible without his uncle.

“I can’t even begin to tell you how much my uncle Jimmy had to do with my success,” Casale said. “I owe that man everything. And my fiancée, Nicole, who has stood by me the entire way.”

Of all the styles he sells, he says his pride and joy is the Shore Dog.

“They’re all great, but the Shore Dog [see below] is what we’re most proud of,” Casale said. “We really believe when people come to us for the first time, no matter what they order, they’re going to want more — and they’ll be coming back.”

Vito’s Hotdog truck is parked weekdays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the intersection of Frank E. Rodgers Boulevard and Guyon Drive in Harrison. Find out more by visiting www.VitosHotDogs.com or by calling 732-773-9713. Like them on Facebook at www. Facebook.com/vitoshotdogs.

Vito’s Hotdogs menu: 

Basic hotdogs with mustard and/or ketchup: $1.75.

Additional toppings for 50¢ each, including: relish, fire onions, sweet or raw onions, kraut, homemade chili, potatoes, cheese, sweet peppers, long-hot peppers, coleslaw.

Specialty dogs: 

The Ol’ Salty: sweet relish, crispy bacon, sea salt.

The Dom Dog: Chicago style.

The Dragon Dog: Asian mustard, fire onions, longhot pepper, habanero sauce, seeds.

The Shore Dog: Coleslaw, sriracha and Jersey tomato.

The Junk Yard Dog: Ask for details.

around town


Belleville Public Library, 221 Washington Ave., is holding registration, beginning March 23, for a Teddy Bear Tea Party set for Saturday, May 9, at 2 p.m. The library also hosts a puppet show on Saturday, March 28, at 3 p.m.

For more information, call the library at 973-450-3434.


Holy Cross Church sponsors a trip to Las Vegas, April 29 to May 5. The group departs from Newark Airport Wednesday, April 29, at 7:15 a.m., for a non-stop flight via United Airlines and returns Thursday, May 5, at 6:15 a.m. The group will stay at Harrah’s Hotel and Casino. The $771 per-person cost covers air, hotel and taxes. A $250 per-person deposit is required to guarantee reservations. Call Gina at European Travel, 973-484- 4023, or Joan at 973-481-2434.

Harrison Recreation Department is registering for Little League, Minor League and Tee-Ball at the Community Center, 401 Warren St., through March 20. All children who are age 5 and will not turn 13 before May 1 are eligible. Children must be age 9 or older to be placed on a Little League team. All returning Little League players must also register. A registration fee is required when the child picks up his or her uniform. For more information, contact the Recreation Department at 973-268-2469.

Harrison’s fifth annual Volleyball Tournament to benefit Project Graduation is set for Thursday, March 19, at 6 p.m., in the gym at Harrison High School. Admission is $5 for adults; $3 for children, ages 5 through 18. Alumni of all ages and teams of teachers, police and firefighters, from Harrison and East Newark will play for the grand trophy and for the ultimate goal of raising money for Project Graduation. Now in its 24th year, Project Graduation will provide an all-night, safe and substance-free extravaganza for the Class of 2015. Call Joan McNichol at 973- 482-5050, ext. 1519, for more information.


St. Stephen’s Church, 141 Washington Ave., is selling tickets for a raffle set for Friday, March 20. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Admission is $15. For tickets, email cyndie1522@verizon.net or call St. Stephen’s rectory at 201-998-3314.

Kearny Public Library, 318 Kearny Ave., announces:

  • Celebrate “Cinderella” with screenings of Disney’s classic animated version of the film (G / 74 minutes) Friday, March 20, at 4 p.m., and “Ever After,” (PG-13 / 121 minutes) starring Drew Barrymore and Angelica Huston, Saturday, March 21, at 11 a.m.
  • See a screening of “The Theory of Everything” (PG- 13 / 123 minutes) at 1 p.m. on Friday, March 27. Eddie Redmayne took home the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of famous physicist Stephen Hawking.

For more information on any of the library’s programs, call the library at 201-998-2666 or visit www.kearnylibrary.org.

Fraternal Order of Eagles Lodge 2214, 166 Midland Ave., announces a fish fry fundraiser to benefit The Wounded Warriors on Saturday, March 21, 6 to 8 p.m. Dinner includes fish and chips, clam chowder and soda. Cost is $15 in advance and $17 at the door. For more information, call 201-991- 9865. No refunds.

West Hudson Christian Center, 557 Kearny Ave., hosts a Rock n’ Roll Easter Egg Hunt, open to ages 2 to 10, on March 28 at 1 p.m. For more information, call 201- 997-7762.

Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1302, 300 Belgrove Drive, sponsors a Veterans Benefits Day on Saturday, March 21, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., with speakers covering V.A. home loans, county benefits, state benefits, estate planning and eldercare.


A benefit dinner for Jennie Gossweiler-Renna, now in her fifth year with ovarian cancer, will be held March 28, 5 to 9 p.m., at the Amvets post hall, 323 New York Ave. The $45 admission includes dinner, dancing and support for a wonderful person. For tickets, more information, or to make a donation, call Melissa Alfano at 201-736- 1584 or visit www.jenniebenefit.myevent.com.

Lyndhurst Girls’ Association hosts a pancake breakfast Sunday, March 22, 8 a.m. to noon, at the Senior Center, 250 Cleveland Ave. Proceeds go towards maintaining and operating Libbie Lindsay House, a meeting place for Girl Scouts and scout leaders in Lyndhurst. Admission is $5 and tickets may be purchased at the door.

Woman’s Club of Lyndhurst sponsors a children’s Tricky Tray for grades pre-k to 5 Saturday, March 28, at the Senior Citizens building on Cleveland Ave. Admission is $5. Doors open at noon and the raffle begins at 1 p.m. Lunch items will be sold. No outside food is permitted. For tickets or more information, call Janet at 201-935-1208.

Lyndhurst Health Department announces:

  • The department’s biannual Women’s Health Clinic is set for Wednesday, April 1, at 9 a.m. This free event, made possible through a partnership with Clara Maass Medical Center, includes education on breast self-examination, a PAP test and a pelvic exam. The clinic is open to all female Lyndhurst residents age 18 and over.
  • A free eye screening is scheduled for Wednesday, April 15, at 1 p.m. This exam will include a check for glaucoma. This screening is open to all Lyndhurst residents age 18 and older.

For an appointment for these programs, call 201-804- 2500.

VFW Post 3549, 527 Valley Brook Ave., hosts a karaoke party Friday, March 20, at 7:30 p.m. The hall is available for rental for all occasions. Call the post for more information at 201-939-3080.

Mary Lou Mullins monthly bus trip to Atlantic City to Resorts Casino is set for Sunday, March 29. Cost is $30. Cash return is $30. For reservations and more information, call Mary Lou at 201-939-2186.

Kingsland Lyndhurst AARP Chapter 4866 sponsors its annual entertainment night, Tricky Tray and raffles Thursday, April 16. Doors open at 6 p.m. The show features music of the ‘50s and ‘60s. No alcohol is permitted. Admission is $20. For tickets and more information, call Jo Oleske at 201-438-2118 or Kay Roberts at 201-438-3611.

Lyndhurst Public Library, 355 Valley Brook Ave., announces:

  • An exhibit by local artist Carol Joy Vérité is on display through April 6.
  • “We’re Talking Baseball,” a slide and lecture program on the golden age of New York baseball, presented by Dr. James P. Kane, is set for Wednesday, April 1, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Learn about the N.Y. Giants, the ‘61 Yankees and more. Space is limited and registration is necessary. Call the library at 201-804- 2478, ext. 7, or email romeo@lyndhurst.bccls.org.

North Arlington 

North Arlington Seniors, Inc. (Tuesday Club) sponsors a trip to Sands Casino in Pennsylvania on April 9. The group leaves from Borough Hall at 9 a.m. Nonmembers are welcome. Call Rose Florio at 201-991-2423.

North Arlington Public Library, 210 Ridge Road, announces:

  • Basics of Computing Class meets Mondays, March 23, 30 and April 6, at 6 p.m. each day.
  • A screening of the documentary “American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs” is set for Friday, March 20, at 11 a.m.
  • On Saturday, March 21, the library hosts two sessions with BlocksCOOL, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)- oriented education company that provides LEGO based enrichment programs for school-aged children. The first session, open to grades K to 2, will run from 10:30 to 11:45 a.m., and registration is now closed. The second session, for which registration is still open, is offered for grades 3 to 6, and will be held from noon to 1:15 p.m. Links for registration can be found at: http://northarlington. bccls.org /children.html. Registration is required.

For more information, call the library at 201-955-5640.


The Women’s Initiative of Nutley presents the Art Exhibit of Women’s History Month at the Nutley Public Library, 93 Booth Drive, throughout March and April. Works in oil, watercolor, pastel, pencil, and photography are featured in both the gallery and showcase. The exhibit spotlights the artwork of local artists Susan Farr, Jackie Hanlon, Margot Parker, Teresa Ruffo, Edith Sirmons and Dianne Louise Wilson. All have won awards in local, regional and national competitions.

Commissioner Steven Rogers and the Department of Public Affairs are sponsoring a Food Allergy Support Group for Nutley parents with food-allergic children Tuesday, March 31, at 7:30 p.m., at the department offices, 149 Chestnut St. A township public health nurse, a school nurse and a parent advocate are the group’s co- facilitators. Call 973-284-4976 for more information.

How the feds saw the crime

Here, contained in a March 9 press release, is how the U.S. Attorney’s Office described John Leadbeater’s role in a $13 million mortgage fraud conspiracy that occurred between 2006 and 2008:

“Leadbeater and the conspirators located for purchase condominiums overbuilt by financially distressed developers in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest …. [and that they] recruited ‘straw buyers’ from New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Arkansas, and California, to purchase those properties.

“The straw buyers had good credit scores, but lacked the financial resources to qualify for the mortgage loans. The conspirators created false documents such as loan applications that contained fraudulent financial and employment information, to make the straw buyers appear more credit-worthy than they actually were in order the induce the lenders to make the loans.

“To prepare the straw buyers’ false loan applications, Leadbeater and his conspirators caused fraudulent loan applications in the name of the straw buyers to be submitted to mortgage brokers that the brokers knew were false, attributing to the straw buyers inflated income and assets. Once the loans were approved, Leadbeater and his conspirators created and signed fraudulent closing documents in order to induce the mortgage lenders to send the loan proceeds in connection with real estate closings on the properties. Once the mortgage lenders sent the loan proceeds, Leadbeater and his conspirators took a portion of the proceeds, having funds wired or checks deposited into various accounts they controlled. They also distributed a portion of the proceeds to the other members of the conspiracy for their respective roles.

“Leadbeater admitted to personally participating in fraudulent activity related to nine properties in Wildwood and Wildwood Crest. He admitted to causing mortgage lenders to fund $4,711,557 worth of mortgages based on false and fraudulent loan applications and closing documents prepared by him and his conspirators. As part of his guilty plea to the wire fraud conspiracy, prosecutors agreed to dismiss a charge of money laundering conspiracy.”

Thus far, 12 others of the alleged conspirators who, during 2013, pleaded guilty to roles in the scheme are awaiting sentencing. They are: Deborah Hanson, 52, of Sewell; Michele Martinez, 50, of Brick; Ernesto Rodriguez, 46, of Brick; Paul Watterson, 54, of Maplewood; Joel Tirado, 51, of Woodbridge; and Sweet Briar Development Corp. of New Jersey; John Bingaman, 45, of Benton, Ark.; Diana Wisniewski, 45, of Kings Park, N.Y.; Angela Celli, 42, of Somerset, Mass.; Robert Horton, 40, of Nashport, Ohio; Dana Rummerfield, 48, of Los Angeles, Calif.; and Justin Spradley, 37, of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Daniel Cardillo, 49, of Wildwood, who was charged in 2013 with Leadbeater with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, is scheduled to go to trial June 8.



Nutley wins NJSIAA North 2, Group III title as No. 13 seed

By Jim Hague 

Observer Sports Writer 

Pardon Sara Grueter if she’s not familiar with the popular and inspiring movie “Hoosiers.”

One just assumes that everyone and their mother has seen the Gene Hackman flick, about an underdog basketball team from a small town in Indiana going on to miraculously win the state championship.

Grueter, the Nutley High School senior, is one of the perhaps 11 people in America that hasn’t seen the 1986 classic about Norman Dale, Jimmy Chitwood, assistant coach Shooter, diminutive Ollie and the Hickory basketball team.

All’s forgiven with Grueter, because she didn’t need to see the movie. She just happened to live it.

Grueter and her Maroon Raider teammates defied the odds last week when the No. 13-seeded squad traveled once again to western New Jersey and knocked off a higher seeded team on their home floor.

Led by the sensational junior forward Blair Watson, who scored 29 points and grabbed 16 rebounds, the Maroon Raiders did the unthinkable, defeating Voorhees, 57-53, last Monday night to capture the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group III championship.

The Maroon Raiders, the lowest seeded girls’ basketball team to win a state sectional title in 20 years, became the first Nutley squad to win a state championship since 1976.

That’s almost 40 years since a Nutley girls’ basketball team had a chance to hang a banner on the gym walls. Grueter, who added 18 points in the sectional title game, will hold onto that memory for a lifetime.

“If my kids go here, they can look up at the wall and say that I had a part of that,” Grueter said. “That banner will be there forever and I was a part of that team. It’s really a speechless feeling. It’s so hard to put it into words. No one believed that we could go this far. I’m just so glad to be a part of the experience.”

Try this on for size. Just a little over a month ago, the Maroon Raiders were 7-12 and appeared headed to miss out on the postseason altogether.

“We barely made the playoffs in the first place,” Grueter said. “I couldn’t even imagine about winning the whole thing.”

Being the 13th seed meant that the Maroon Raiders had to load up the bus and play every game on the road. So it meant traveling to places like West Morris and Mendham in western Morris County and even Orange before heading to the remote spot called Glen Gardner in Hunterdon County.

“We knew we were going to be on the road and playing in some hostile environments,” said Nutley head coach Larry Mitschow. “It’s just not expected to happen.”

But the Maroon Raiders climbed aboard the shoulders of Watson, who should have secured her spot as an All- State player with her playoff explosion. Watson, only a junior, but already committed to the University of Maryland, was just sensational in the state playoffs, averaging close to 30 points per game.

“She’s not one of the best players in the state,” Mitschow said of Watson. “She’s one of the best in the country. Maryland is one of the best women’s basketball programs in the country. They’re not recruiting players unless they are great.”

Mitschow was still trying to process the idea that this team was indeed a state champion.

“It’s beyond our wildest dreams,” Mitschow said. “We had so many injuries and illnesses that we had to cancel our JV (junior varsity) team this year. At times, we had to practice with just seven or eight girls. We had to have our assistant coaches practice. We had to be creative with our practices.”

Mitschow truly believed that his team could be competitive come playoff time.

“When we sat down and tried to construct our schedule, we knew that there was a chance we would be under .500 come playoff time,” Mitschow said. “We play in one of the toughest leagues (the Super Essex Conference) in the state. So if we got in, we knew that we would have a lower seed. The No. 13 seed wasn’t too much of a shock. But being a low seed and winning? That’s just not expected. It doesn’t happen. That’s why this hasn’t even sunk in yet. They’ve definitely outplayed expectations.”

That’s why the loss to Old Tappan in the overall Group III semifinals two days later really didn’t sting that much. No one could take away the state trophy and the banner that will come with it or quite possibly the rings that will come later on.

“We finally accomplished our goals,” said senior Carly Anderson, who can now begin to focus on being a pitcher on the great Nutley softball team. “I have so much pride in my team. It was very exciting to be a part of this. It was a great feeling.”

Grueter said that she loved playing with Watson.

“I can’t even explain what it’s like to get her the ball and watch her go,” Grueter said. “Just giving her an assist is a great feeling. Looking back, I can say that I was part of her career, having the ball go through my hands to hers. It’s just amazing.”

That’s Watson’s take on the whole situation as well.

“It’s honestly amazing,” Watson said. “I’m really speechless. I didn’t expect this. I couldn’t be more proud of my team. In my heart, I knew that we had a chance if we got there. All the time we spent on the bus, taking those long drives, really brought us together. We also had an unbelievable fan base that followed us to those games. It was insane how they came all the way out there. I think everyone in Nutley wanted to see how far we could go.”

If the Maroon Raiders were a recreation of the Hickory team from “Hoosiers,” then Watson was clearly the Raiders’ version of star Jimmy Chitwood.

Mitschow said that Anderson was the one who served as the calming figure.

“She looked at me during the game when we were losing and said, ‘Coach, don’t worry, we got this,’” Mitschow said of Anderson. “She made me calm down quickly.”

Mitschow said that he had nothing but pride for his team and their miraculous run.

“The kids who stuck this out and made it through the tough times,” Mitschow said. “It’s a testament to them. I tried not to tell them that they achieved more than I believed, but deep down, they did. It’s something we’re all going to remember for a very long time.”

Kearny suffers huge loss with grid coach Edwards’ resignation

3-18 Sports View_web

By Jim Hague

Observer Sports Writer

It was only two years ago when there was a sense of joy and pride coming from the Kearny High School football program.

In May 2013, the Kearny Board of Education made perhaps one of the best personnel moves when it hired Nick Edwards as the new head football coach.

Edwards seemed to be perfect for the position. He was a longtime assistant in the program. He was already a teacher in the district. He was young, energetic, a familiar face to the community.

Plain and simple, Nick Edwards was going to restore some pride in the Kearny football program. He was going to work with the youth program to serve as a feeder system. He conducted free clinics to get kids interested and involved in the game.

Edwards was going to break the long-standing stigma that Kearny is a soccer town and nothing more. Hell, it has the nickname of “Soccertown, USA” already in place. How could football dare to compete with that?

But Edwards was definitely the man and sure sounded that way when he took the job two years ago.

Try these words on for size.

“I know what I’m getting into,” Edwards said in May 2013. “I want to be here. I’m well aware of what has happened in the past. I plan on being here for a long time.”

Athletic director John Millar felt the same way.

“At this time in his life, Nick is well prepared,” Millar said when Edwards was hired. “He’s ready. He’s desired to be a head coach all his life. Hopefully, he achieves all of his goals. We’ve had a lot of good guys who have tried to turn this thing around and make us a successful football program. Down the road, we will be successful. Nick is going to make this successful, not just for the school, but the whole community. I hope that Nick is a long-term guy and he’s here for a very long time turned out to be only two years, because Edwards submitted his letter of resignation last week.

“I’ve told everyone that I’m leaving for personal reasons,” Edwards said last week. “I sat down with my family and my girlfriend and talked about it for quite some time. I knew it was time for me to walk away and do what’s best for me. I’m just tired. Right now, I want to take some time and take care of me. It’s not about getting another job. It’s about taking some time for myself. It’s a difficult position to be a head coach. It takes a lot of hours and a lot of time. There are more issues than just football and that took its toll.”

Edwards did not elaborate as to what those issues were. He did not comment when asked. Instead, Edwards took the high road.

“I was fighting with the decision for a while,” Edwards said. “The only thing that was telling me to stay was the kids. I’m definitely disappointed, especially for the kids, because they have to go through another coach again and not having that stability.”

It is true that the position of head coach with the Kardinals has been a revolving door. There was Rich Howell, Matt Occhipinti, then the program was shut down, brought back once again with Howell, then Oscar Guerrero, then Pete Llaneza and now Edwards. All of that change has taken place within the last decade.

Edwards made some inroads this past season, as the Kardinals posted a 4-6 record and flirted with qualifying for the NJSIAA state playoffs for the very first time.

Just that fact alone tells you something. Kearny has never made the state playoffs in the 40-plus year history of the NJSIAA state playoffs. They are the only Hudson County program to never make a state playoff appearance and one of only a handful throughout the state.

Edwards said that he felt like he was making some progress during his brief stint.

“I think I’ve done a lot,” Edwards said. “I put a lot of time and a lot of effort into it. We went from 30 kids in the program to 70 kids. We brought back the freshman program. The kids’ academics were in place. We had only one kid to go to summer school last year. I thought I helped to bring some excitement back to Kearny football.”

Then why leave?

“Who knows if I could have stayed one more year or 10 more years?” Edwards asked. “I know I leave with my head held high.”

Edwards would not budge when pressed about his reasons for resigning. It appeared as if he had a bright future as the Kearny grid coach.

“The reasons are personal and I’ll stick with that,” Edwards said.

Edwards won’t get into it – but we will.

It’s been written here several times over the last decade or so that a complete commitment is necessary to make football work in Kearny. And if the powers-that-be, namely the Board of Education and the school’s administration, aren’t willing to go the full nine yards, then they should just fold up shop and not have a football program.

You can’t go half way – or in Kearny’s case, one-quarter of the way – and think that a program is going to succeed.

Kearny is in desperate need of an overhaul with its weight training and locker room facilities. In fact, the conditions there are disgraceful. There have not been improvements made to the facilities at Davis Field in 70 years.

Sure, FieldTurf was put down about a decade ago, but even now that surface is in dire need of reconditioning. The weight room never has heat. During the winter months, the players were subjected to sub-freezing conditions in the weight room, forcing the coaching staff to regularly close the doors and send the kids home.

Those two decrepit buildings that flank the football field are hideous. They should be totally knocked down and have a nice state-of-the-art facility constructed.

Can it be done? All you need to do is look a little to the north and see what they now have in Lyndhurst and North Arlington. Those schools now have beautiful facilities.

Even Queen of Peace has a better weight room than Kearny. You can’t even call what Kearny has as a weight room. It’s just a room.

The time has come to tear down those wretched buildings and get a brand new one. And if the Board of Education did it the right way and built a new training facility, they could probably sell memberships to the residents to defray some of the cost.

Put a referendum on the ballot and see if the voters wouldn’t float a million or two to build a new weight training complex.

That would be the first step. Then, there would have to be better support from the administration, parents, residents, you name it. Everyone should rally together and back the Kardinals’ football program, not go at it like it’s a weak ugly stepsister to soccer.

If not, then just scrap it. Forget about football and be what you already are, a soccer town.

Losing Nick Edwards was a major blow to the entire Kearny athletic program, not just football. He’s only 34. He should have been a treasure to embrace and enjoy for many years, not tossed aside like so many other football coaches over the years.

It’s either you do it the right way or don’t do it at all. It sounds like a broken record, because I’ve written it more practically than my own name over the last decade. This is shameful. Maybe Edwards’ departure might open some eyes and get things done the right way. It’s doubtful, but one never knows.