NA football team coping with damage done by Irene


Photo by Jim Hague/ The North Arlington football team looks to get some positive carryover from last year’s fine 7-3 season. From left are Nick Martin, Ian Camean, Brandon Navarro, head coach Anthony Marck, Jesse Groom, Gerry Galvan and Mike Baloga.


By Jim Hague

Anthony Marck hadn’t seen the damage himself Sunday night, but he certainly received the news. The North Arlington High School head football coach got a call telling him that Rip Collins Field was totally under water after the Passaic River overflowed its  banks during Hurricane Irene, flooding the entire complex in the process.
Hurricane Irene left the field on River Road under a half-foot of water, going all the way up to the street. Marck had no idea how much damage was done to the field house, to his offices and locker rooms, to the Vikings’ equipment.
“I don’t know where we go from here,” Marck said. “I guess we have to wait and see and assess the damage. Hopefully, we’ll get it rectified soon.”
But practices for the Vikings have been suspended for the time being, because no one can determine the lasting damage that was done to the Vikings’ home base.
“We may have to get an equipment conditioning company in and see if they can take care of us right away,” Marck said. “We’ll know more in the next couple of days.”
In the meantime, the affable head coach enters his seventh season as the head coach of his alma mater with an upbeat approach, considering that the Vikings had a fine 2010 season, posting a 7-3 record and winning their last four games of the campaign.
“Certainly, there’s a positive feeling, a good carryover,” Marck said. “The kids watched and learned and understood what it takes to win.”
However, there is a bit of a downside. The Vikings lost 20 seniors to graduation, a staggering total for a school with a Group I enrollment.
“There’s an old saying that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone,” Marck said. “We’re going to find out soon enough. We had such a good group. It was enjoyable to watch them go through what they did. But we’re now basically starting over. I’m still learning to get to know them better as young men, as well as what they can do on a football field.”
It means that Marck has done a lot of teaching once again in the preseason.
“Last year, we got together in June and we had 11 players who knew where to go,” Marck said. “We don’t have that now. We’re spending a lot of time mixing and matching. It’s still a little difficult, but I love the teaching aspect. I love working on the fundamentals. When you see a 14-or-15-year-old kid’s eyes fly wide open because they finally get something, it’s a thrill.”
If there’s one position that Marck doesn’t have to worry about, it’s quarterback, where junior A.J. Nocciolo (6-3, 220) returns. Nocciolo is a proven commodity, having been calling the shots for the last two years and doing it well. He’s a big-time player.
“He’s a proven winner and we expect so much from him, in terms of leadership more than anything else,” Marck said. “When A.J. walks into a room, he has that persona that commands attention and respect. You know he’s there. He’s the complete physical package.”
Nocciolo has all the potential to be the best North Arlington quarterback since Eddie Campbell left for UMass in 1996.
“Eddie was a great player and A.J. has a chance to be a great player,” Marck said. “We’re expecting that.”
Nocciolo will also play linebacker this season.
“When you lost 20 seniors, you have to play everyone,” Marck said. “I’m expecting big things from A.J. at linebacker as well. He’s the whole package.”
The fullback will be senior Jonathan Bueno (5-10, 215), a transfer from Queen of Peace, where he played as a freshman, but struggled through two injury-plagued years.
“He had two shoulder surgeries, but he’s back at it and looks great,” Marck said.
The halfback duties will be shared by juniors Dennis Song (5-11, 170) and Jeremy Melendez (5-8, 160). Neither saw much varsity time last season.
The wide receivers are senior Travis Orovio (5-9, 155), who could very well be the most athletic member of the team, along with senior Mike Clifford (6-0, 170) and junior Anthony Paparelli (5-8, 160).
The tight end is sophomore Nick Martin (6-1, 215), whose brother Glenn was a standout center for the Vikings a few years ago.
“He’s a pass catching machine,” Marck said of Martin. “He doesn’t drop a ball. He has a lot of potential.”
The tackles are senior Ian Cameon (5-10, 210) and junior Mike Baloga (5-9, 175). Junior Brandon Navarro (5-10, 190) and a pair of sophomores in DeShawn Wright (6-0, 230) and Anthony Muriale (5-10, 180) are sharing the guard duties. Senior Jesse Groom (6-0, 280) is the lone returning starter up front at center.
“Jesse is a three-year starter and I expect big things from him anchoring the line,” Marck said.
The Vikings will use a 4-3 defensive set, with Baloga and Bueno at defensive end and Groom and sophomore Gerry Galvan (6-0, 240) at defensive tackle.
Martin, Nocciolo and senior Joe Ford (5-9, 170) comprise a promising linebacker corps, while Papparelli and Clifford are at cornerback and Orovio and sophomore Kenny Kuzmuc (5-8, 160) are at safety.
The Vikings open their season Sept. 9 against Lyndhurst, a team that is hell bent on revenge after last year’s 32-15 North Arlington victory.
“We know that they’ve been waiting for us,” Marck said of Lyndhurst. “That’s Group I football. They’re in the same position this year that we were in last year.”
Marck can’t predict what lies ahead. He doesn’t have a home field right now. It’s not known when he will.
“It’s a little difficult right now,” Marck said. “We have to see what happens with this team. It all depends on how fast we grow up. Hopefully, we’re still playing for something four or five weeks into the season.”

Learn more about the writer ...