Vikings hope to stay healthy, more competitive this season

Photo by Jim Hague North Arlington looks to a solid offensive line to lead the way. From l. are Steven Velez, David Beltran, Stephen Carey, head coach Anthony Marck, Chris Giaquinto and Vinnie Crawford.
Photo by Jim Hague
North Arlington looks to a solid offensive line to lead the way. From l. are Steven Velez, David Beltran, Stephen Carey,
head coach Anthony Marck, Chris Giaquinto and Vinnie Crawford.

The 2014 high school football season was rolling along for the Vikings of North Arlington. They had just won their first two games, including an emotional win over neighboring rival Queen of Peace.

Then, the walls started to cave in. The starting quarterback went down with a torn ACL. So did the left tackle. Then the backup quarterback was injured, forcing veteran head coach Anthony Marck to take a tight end and immediately convert him into a quarterback.

With that, the season went right into the toilet. The Vikings won once more for the rest of the season.

“We were snake bitten, that’s the word to use,” said Marck, who begins his 10th year as the head coach at his alma mater, where he once played. “We were so set to have a good year. I never saw anything like it, losing two quarterbacks in a week. We went from a spread, no-huddle offense to a double tight end with three back sets. Had everyone stayed healthy, I think we could have flipped the record.”

Marck means that the Vikings could have easily owned a 7-3 record instead of the 3-7 ledger they ended with.

“I’m not one to make excuses,” Marck said. “But that was ridiculous.”

Needless to say, the returning Vikings are prepared for the upcoming season.

“They’re extremely hungry,” said Marck, whose team is scheduled to kick off the 2015 season Friday night against rival Queen of Peace at Rip Collins Field at 7 p.m.

Perhaps the hungriest of the Vikings is senior quarterback Michael Manzo-Lewis (5-10, 175), who was the one who suffered the torn knee ligament last year.

“He lost his entire season,” Marck said. “When we lost him, we lost his temperament as well. He’s bringing back a lot of energy. But he’s doing 100% of what he did before he got hurt. He had a personal trainer over the winter. He’s back to full speed, perhaps even better.”

Ready for this? Marck said that Manzo-Lewis was clocked at 4.51 seconds in the 40-yard dash.

“Watching him play is like watching a video game,” Marck said. “You really can’t believe the things he can do.”

The top running back Joe Morales (5-10, 185) is also back.

The senior collected more than 450 yards on the ground last year. Junior Nick Gugliuzza (5-10, 210) is the fullback when the Vikings go with a power offensive formation.

The wide receivers in the Vikings’ spread offense are also experienced.

Senior Edgar Carranza (6-0, 180) had 33 receptions last year playing in basically a running offense.

“He has speed to burn,” Marck said of Carranza, who is also a basketball standout in the winter months. “It’s like he floats in the air. He’s shown a lot of growth in a lot of areas.”

Senior Kevin Cerqueira (5-9, 170) did not play football last year, but he has returned to join the mix at receiver.

“He is very athletic and has good hands,” Marck said.  Senior Tim Ford (5-10, 180) is another quality receiver who will get his share of catches. “He also has good hands and he’s a tough kid,” Marck said of Ford.

The fourth receiver is senior Devin Lopes (5-10, 185).

“The kids love that we’re playing the spread,” Marck said. “It’s great that we’re spreading it out. Michael scrambles and the other kids get open. It’s a lot of fun.”

The tight end is senior Antonio Monahan (6-1, 190), who filled in admirably at quarterback when Manzo-Lewis and Marc Cunningham both went down with injuries.

The offensive line features three returning starters from a year ago in senior tackle Brandon Dickinson (6-1, 245), junior tackle Vinnie Crawford (6-0, 260) and senior guard Chris Giaquinto (5-9, 215). The other starters are senior guard David Beltran (5-7, 205) and senior center Stephen Carey (6-0, 180).

The Vikings utilize a 4-4 defensive formation, with Beltran and Monahan at defensive end. Monahan started there a year ago.

Gianquinto and Crawford are the defensive tackles. Gugliuzza and Morales are the outside linebackers. Marck likes watching Morales play defense.

“He’s a big-time defensive player,” Marck said. “He’s a hitter.”

The inside linebackers are Lopes, where he started last year, and senior Christian Castro (5-9, 210).

Cerqueira and Carranza are the cornerbacks and Ford is the safety.

“We feel like we have good players in the secondary,” Marck said. “You win games with seniors. Last year was really tough. But these kids have a little moxie to them. They count on each other and have been together for a long time. They believe in each other and you can see it in their confidence level.”

Marck likes the fact that the Vikings open the season against Queen of Peace.

“A lot of the kids know each other and see quite a bit of each other, considering the two schools are so close,” Marck said. “It’s a good opener to have. The kids don’t need to get ready.”

As long as they stay healthy, then all is good in the Land of the Vikings.

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.”