Golden Bears will look to improve on gridiron

Photo by Jim Hague The Lyndhurst football team looks to be vastly improved this season, thanks to a solid offensive line. From l., are Ryan Smith, Oluwayomi Olasehinde, Michael Fata, head coach Rich Tuero, Joshua Pascual, Matt Schnoll and Michael Cooper.
Photo by Jim Hague
The Lyndhurst football team looks to be vastly improved this season, thanks to a solid offensive line. From l., are Ryan Smith, Oluwayomi Olasehinde, Michael Fata, head coach Rich Tuero, Joshua Pascual, Matt Schnoll and Michael Cooper.

It was a tough first season in 2014 for Lyndhurst head football coach Rich Tuero. The longtime assistant took over as the head coach at his alma mater and had to endure a 1-9 campaign that was filled with transitions galore.

“No one can come in and become a head coach right away and know what they’re doing,” Tuero said. “There’s so much to learn as a head coach. I wasn’t perfect and I don’t think I’ll be perfect any time soon. But it’s an entirely different environment this year. I’m happy where we’re at.”

Tuero is confident with the potent 1-2 punch he has offensively in senior quarterback Peter Guerriero and senior running back Matt DeMarco. Both are among the very best players in the North Jersey Interscholastic Conference- Liberty Division and if they remain healthy, they should be among the top players to watch in all of Bergen County.

“Having Matt healthy is the key,” Tuero said of his senior leader, who missed most of the 2014 campaign due to injuries to his wrist and thumb that required surgery. “Having those two together makes us very dangerous. I feel good about them.”

Guerriero (5-10, 180 pounds) quietly rushed for 1,500-plus yards last year from his quarterback position. Guerriero is one of the top sprinters in Bergen County during the track season in the spring.

“He doesn’t run,” Tuero said. “He flies. He might be the fastest player in Lyndhurst football history. He’s improved throwing the ball. (Danny) Kesack (the former Lyndhurst QB now at Wesley College) worked with Petey a lot over the summer with his throwing. No doubt, he’s ready to go. I’m excited about him.”

DeMarco (6-1, 210) is fully healthy and chomping at the bit.

“He’s been waiting for this season since last Oct. 3,” said Tuero, the 49-21 win over Harrison that was DeMarco’s final game of the year – and ironically, the Golden Bears’ last last win. “He looks good so far. He’s our clear cut leader.”

Junior Mike Carrino (6-0, 195) is another running back.

“He’s the strongest kid on the team, pound for pound,” Tuero said. “I’m so impressed with him. He’s a beast.”

Senior Saad Najeeb (5-10, 170) heads a solid receiving corps, which features a pair of sophomores in Jonathan Karlok (6-0, 170) and Jordan Deabreu (5-9, 160).

Tuero is very high on Karlok.

“The kid has guts,” said Tuero of Karlok, who is also the team’s placekicker. “He has good hands. He shows me a lot of things that he’s good at.”

The tight end is junior Akin Akar (5-10, 200), who was a lineman last year but has been moved to the tight end slot.

“He showed me that he could catch the ball a little, so we moved him,” Tuero said.

The Golden Bears have some decent size along the line, especially at guard with junior Matt Schnoll (6-1, 320), who was a starter last year.

“He has good foot work,” Tuero said. “He has a chance to be a very good one.”

Senior Oluwayomi Olasehinde (6-0, 205) is the other guard. His name is pronounced exactly as it looks and his name is found at the bottom of every eye chart in every local optician’s office. Only kidding, the Nigerian native never played football before coming to the United States a few years ago, but has turned himself into a fine performer on the gridiron.

“He’s one of the greatest kids around,” Tuero said. “He’s so coachable.”

The tackles are seniors Ryan Smith (6-3, 220) and Michael Cooper (6-3, 230) with senior Michael Fata (5-10, 190) at center.

The Golden Bears will use a 4-4 defensive alignment, with Smith and Cooper at defensive end and Schnoll and senior Joel Caceras (5-11, 230) at defensive tackle. Schnoll will be tough to deal with along that line with his size.

“He just has to stay low,” Tuero said.

Carrino and Guerriero are the outside linebackers. Tuero was a little hesitant to use his starting quarterback at linebacker.

“But he’s so good that he has to play,” Tuero said.

The inside linebackers are Olasehinde and DeMarco, who is getting some looks from excellent schools such as Cornell for his defensive prowess.

“He’s much more valuable as a linebacker,” Tuero said.

Sophomore Chris Fuertado (5-8, 140) and Leo Gonzalez (5- 8, 140) are the Bears’ tough-asnails cornerbacks, with Karlok holding fort at safety.

The Golden Bears have a tough opener, facing Waldwick- Midland Park Sept. 11 on the road.

But Tuero likes the makeup of his team as he begins his second season in charge.

“No doubt, I feel better about this team than I did last year,” Tuero said. “We’re going to be better. It’s my team now. I’m very excited about it. I’m much more comfortable. It’s a completely different feeling this year.”

Learn more about the writer ...

Jim Hague | Observer Sports Writer

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.”