Blue Tide looks to turn tide with new coach Glover Jr.

Photo by Jim Hague The Harrison High School football team begins a new era with Rich Glover Jr. (c.) as the new head coach. From l., are Saul Santana, Johanser Nunez, Glover Jr., Adrian Sime, John DeCosta and Aaron Velasquez.
Photo by Jim Hague
The Harrison High School football team begins a new era with Rich Glover Jr. (c.) as the new head coach. From l., are Saul Santana, Johanser Nunez, Glover Jr., Adrian Sime, John DeCosta and Aaron Velasquez.

Pardon Rich Glover Jr.’s enthusiasm as he takes over the moribund Harrison High School football program. Sure, Glover Jr., the son of the former Outland Trophy winner and College Football Hall of Famer from Nebraska, knows that there hasn’t been a winning football season in quite some time. That idea doesn’t frighten him at all.

“It’s a very big challenge, but I’m looking forward to it,” Glover Jr. said. “I think I’m my own biggest critic, so I’m going to hold myself to a standard. I’m ready to do something here that’s never been done. With that said, that’s all the motivation I need.”

The Blue Tide is coming off consecutive 2-8 campaigns. The last time the Blue Tide sniffed a winning season was 2003, when they went 5-5. There has been a lot of losing since, including an 18-game losing streak in 2011 and 2012.

Turning this program around is perhaps the biggest challenge around, but Glover Jr. will try to do so – and with the help of his famous father, a former member of the New York Giants who was a head coach at Dickinson and Ferris high schools in his native Jersey City.

The elder Glover will serve as an assistant coach to his son this season.

“No doubt about it, my dad will be a big help,” Glover Jr. said. “My dad is my best friend. If anyone is going to tell me the truth, it’s going to be him. Good or bad, he’s going to tell me.”

Glover Jr. has been in charge for a few months now, so the players are familiar with him and he’s very knowledgeable of them.

“I think I’ve set the standard of what I expect from them,” Glover Jr. said. “At this point, we have guys who have been here consistently, who have given the commitment. They know what I want and what I expect. There are some that haven’t gotten it yet and haven’t fully bought in, but that’s all part of the process.

Added Glover Jr., “I like the kids and I like the talent they have. They are very respectful. They come and work hard. If I have to get on them a little, they turn it up.”

Leading the offense is junior quarterback Michael O’Donnell (5-9, 170), who returns for another season. O’Donnell made major strides last season as the starter and should be an improved player with a year’s experience under his belt.

“He’s one of the biggest competitors we have out there,” Glover Jr. said. “He’s able to push the others. He’s so competitive that I sometimes have to calm him down a little, but he’s doing a good job leading the team.” Glover Jr. said that they have put some plays into their offensive package to feature O’Donnell.

“We’re going to do some sprint out passing,” Glover Jr. said. “We’re going to try to get out there and run the ball.”

If that’s the case, then junior Jeffrey Cisneros (5-9, 175) plays a major role. Cisernos will be the main back in the Blue Tide’s spread offense.

“He’s more of a downhill power runner,” Glover Jr. said. “He’s a physical back.”

Junior Rafael Santana (5-7, 165) will be one of O’Donnell’s main targets, as well sophomore Dustin Huseinovic (5-10, 170). Senior Craig Ruff (5-10, 190) will line up at either tight end or as a slot receiver.

The offensive line features returning starting senior John DeCosta (6-2, 230) at tackle. Senior Aaron Velasquez (5-10, 210) is the other tackle. A pair of juniors, Johanser Nunez (5-10, 220) and Adrian Sime (6-0, 210), will see time along the offensive line.

“We’re more of a junior-heavy team,” Glover Jr. said. Sophomore Saul Santana (6-2, 205) is the center.

The Blue Tide will feature a 4-3 defensive alignment. Velasquez is at one defensive end and the other is senior Piotr Namiotko (6-5, 210), the All-State volleyball standout who led Harrison to a state sectional title in volleyball last spring.

Glover Jr. thinks that Namiotko’s volleyball athleticism will carry over to the gridiron.

“It is so different of a sport, but he’s an athlete with good speed and size,” Glover Jr. said. “He has shown he can get off the ball.”

The defensive tackles are DeCosta and Nunez.

Ruff returns at outside linebacker, where he should have a solid season. Hector Rueda (5-9, 170) is another solid outside linebacker, with Cisneros in the middle.

The cornerbacks are Rafael Santana and senior Angel Guerriero (5-7, 160), with O’Donnell and junior Jerry Rodriguez (5-8, 165) at the safeties.

The Blue Tide kicks off the Glover Jr. era on Friday, Sept. 11 at home.

“I think we’re ready to do some good things this season,” Glover Jr. said. “We’ve been working hard with the kids to get them ready. They have already shown me that they want to win.”

That might be the first hurdle that the program has to clear as a whole. Glover Jr. is ready for the challenge that swallowed others before him. It’s a tough task, but with his famous father at his side, Glover Jr. is ready to take on that challenge.

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Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer
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Sports Writer Jim Hague was with The Observer for 20+ years — and his name is one of the most recognizable in all of sports journalism. The St. Peter’s Prep and Marquette alum kicked off his journalism career post Marquette at the Daily Record, where he remained until 1985. Following shorts stints at two other newspapers, in September 1986, he joined the now-closed Hudson Dispatch, where he remained until 1991, when its doors were finally shut.

It was during his tenure at The Dispatch that Hague’s name and reputation as one of country’s hardest-working sports reporters grew. He won several New Jersey Press Association and North Jersey Press Club Awards in that timeframe.

In 1991, he became a columnist for The Hudson Reporter chain of newspapers — and he remains with them to this day.

In addition to his work at The Observer and The Hudson Reporter, Hague is also an Associated Press stringer, where he covers Seton Hall University men’s basketball, New York Red Bulls soccer and occasionally, New Jersey Devils hockey.

He’s also doing work at The Morristown Daily Record, the very newspaper where his journalism career began.

During his career, he also worked for Dorf Feature Services, which provided material for the Star-Ledger. While there, he covered the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets.

Hague is also known for his announcing work — and he’s done PA work for Rutgers Newark and NJIT.

Hague is the author of the book “Braddock: The Rise of the Cinderella Man.”