Amid turmoil, QP’s grid team trudges on

Photo by Jim Hague The Queen of Peace football program looks to stay afl oat with the help of an offensive line. From l. are Desean Brickhouse, Chris Cody, Harry Moon, Ismael Alvarado, Adrian Klein, Dominic Guinto and Keyon Means-Bowman.
Photo by Jim Hague
The Queen of Peace football program looks to stay afl oat with the help of an offensive line. From l. are Desean Brickhouse,
Chris Cody, Harry Moon, Ismael Alvarado, Adrian Klein, Dominic Guinto and Keyon Means-Bowman.

It has not been an easy offseason for the Queen of Peace football program.

First, former head coach Bob Kearns, an alumnus of the school, was told that his services were no longer required.

Then, several players (rumored to be as many as 12) that Kearns and his staff brought in from a youth football program in Newark decided not to return to the school. Many of those departing players left due to a confusion over tuition payments.

The school brought in an excellent football coach with impeccable credentials to take over for Kearns, namely Jim Kelly, who turned around losing programs at both Clifton and nearby Nutley, and turned both programs into winners.

It was definitely a move in the right direction, getting a respected head coach like Kelly.

Then, another obstacle hit, when Kelly fell ill during preseason practices, requiring surgery that has kept him away from coaching his team full-time as he recuperates.

Make no bones about it. Kelly plans on coaching this season and plans on coaching the Golden Griffins, even if there is a piecemeal lineup.

“I’m going to coach,” Kelly said last week. “I’m improving every day. I’m not 100% yet with my strength, but I’m getting there.”

Kelly has been watching practices from his car, perched on the hill high above Ralph Borgess Field, as his dutiful assistant, Angelo Intile, runs the show on the field.

The players that remain are highly spirited and energetic. They’re also pretty quick.

“I like a lot of the speed these kids have,” Kelly said. “They’re capable of making the big play. I don’t think there’s a coach alive who wouldn’t say that speed helps.”

Kelly addressed the transfers of some key personnel.

“We obviously have a transition going on,” Kelly said. “Those kids left for various reasons. They’re all part of the past now. We’re moving forward with the kids we have. I’m trying to make this program the best that I can.”

Junior Derick Suazo (6-1, 190) is the starting quarterback. Suazo played a lot for the Golden Griffins last year as a sophomore.

“He has a live arm, a strong arm,” Kelly said of Suazo. “He has the ability to get the ball all over the field. He has good pocket presence.”

The Golden Griffins will use a pro formation, but will also deploy a multitude of offshoots from the initial offense.

The tailback slot is being shared currently by three underclassmen, namely juniors Tahki Smith (5-7, 165) and Nasier James (5-10, 165) and sophomore Fayeson Carney (5-10, 165).

“All three are battling and all three bring different things,” Kelly said. “They can also play different positions other than tailback.” It means that Kelly may line up some of them as wide receivers.

“They all have breakaway speed,” Kelly said. “They can make things happen.”

The fullback slot is being shared by sophomore Yasin Peppers (5-9, 190), the cousin of the University of Michigan dynamic player Jabrill Peppers, and junior Dominic Mainiero (5-10, 190).

Junior Gregory Barnes (6-1, 155) is an exciting player at wide receiver.

“He has good hands and good speed,” Kelly said.

Sophomore Robert Snead (6-1, 165) has a ton of potential. Snead is a player to watch.

The tight end will be sophomore Keyon Means- Bowman (6-0, 185) or senior Marino Roa (6-2, 205).

The offensive line has some good size and athleticism. Sophomore Desean Brickhouse (6-3, 225) is at one tackle and junior Dominic Guinto (5-11, 265) is at the other. Junior Ismael Alvarado (5-10, 250) and junior Adrian Klein (6-1, 235) are the guards. Freshman Jusaad Shiggs (5-9, 190) is the center. Junior Harry Moon (6-2, 250) is the jack-of-all-trades who can play anywhere on the line.

The defense features a lot of the same personnel as the offense. Such is life when numbers are down and your team took an unexpected hit in the offseason.

Brickhouse and Roa are the defensive ends, with Alvarado and massive junior Chris Cody (6-6, 330) at defensive tackle. Cody will also see time on the offensive line.

The linebackers are Peppers, Bowman and Mainiero, with Snead getting time there.

The cornerbacks are James and Carney, with freshman Amere Alexander (5-6, 155) and sophomore Jy’ell Higgins (5-11, 160) at safety.

Kelly had been away from being a head coach for 12 years. Maybe he’s wondering if he made the right decision to come back. The Griffins are expected to play rival North Arlington Friday night at Rip Collins Field.

“It has to be the closest rivalry in the state in terms of proximity,” Kelly said of the two schools that practically touch each other. Maybe this game could be called the Dunkin’ Donuts Bowl, because the donut shop separates the two campuses, as does North Arlington Borough Hall and the library.

“We’re just trying to make a difference in their lives,” Kelly said. “We’re trying to develop the product that we have.”

Kelly doesn’t want to speculate about the rumors that the program is on its last legs. After all, the Golden Griffins went 1-9 last year and most of those players have now left. Makes one wonder: What’s left? One thing is for sure. The Griffins have a good head coach and excellent coaching staff in place. All that’s missing now are players.

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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.”