Vikings headed to playoffs Friday

Photo by Jim Hague Senior quarterback Michael Manzo- Lewis broke the North Arlington single season rushing record by eclipsing the 1,400-yard mark over the weekend. Manzo-Lewis had 330 yards and four touchdowns in the Vikings’ win over Emerson Borough, as the Vikings now prepare for the NJSIAA state playoffs for the first time in 19 years.
Photo by Jim Hague
Senior quarterback Michael Manzo-
Lewis broke the North Arlington
single season rushing record by
eclipsing the 1,400-yard mark over
the weekend. Manzo-Lewis had 330
yards and four touchdowns in the
Vikings’ win over Emerson Borough,
as the Vikings now prepare for the
NJSIAA state playoffs for the first time
in 19 years.

Sometimes, it pays being a math teacher as well as a football coach. Despite having a 2-5 record at the time, North Arlington High School head football coach Anthony Marck, who full-time teaches math at the school, knew that his team had an outside chance of qualifying for the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoffs.

“We first knew that we had to beat Becton,” Marck said. “Being a math teacher, I was crunching (NJSIAA power point) numbers all week. So I knew if we beat Becton, it was a 22-point win for us. Then we needed a loss from Bound Brook and a loss from Weehawken. I never let on to anyone that we needed help.”

Sure enough, all of those things occurred. Last week, in the final week of qualifying for the playoffs, the Vikings defeated Becton, 20-7. Both Bound Brook and Weehawken lost, so despite their 3-5 record, the Vikings catapulted the final two teams in the North 2, Group I bracket to earn the eighth and final seed in the section.

The Vikings, now 4-5 after defeating Emerson Borough Saturday, will travel to face undefeated 9-0 Brearley Regional on Friday night in Kenilworth.

North Arlington will make its first NJSIAA playoffs appearance since 1996, when the Vikings lost to Secaucus in the opening round, a time when only four teams qualified in each section.

The Vikings also made the state playoffs in 1994, when they lost to Hasbrouck Heights in the North 1, Group I title game, and 1984, when the Vikings fell to Cresskill in the title game.

The Vikings are one of three local teams who will see action in the state playoffs this weekend.

Nutley is the No. 2 seed in the North 2, Group III bracket and will play host to West Essex at the Nutley Oval on Friday night. The Maroon Raiders’ bid for an undefeated season ended last Saturday with a 34-29 loss to Caldwell.

Lyndhurst is the No. 7 seed in the North 2, Group II bracket and will face rival Rutherford for the second straight week in Rutherford.

The two teams met last Friday night, with Rutherford winning, 35-0, but Lyndhurst head coach Rich Tuero decided to rest many of his key players, including standout quarterback Petey Guerriero and standout running back Matt DeMarco, to insure that they would be healthy for the state playoff game.

However, the two rivals have to face each other again in the playoffs this weekend, like they did in 2011, when Lyndhurst upended their rivals, 38-13, en route to an 8-3-1 campaign.

Needless to say, everyone in North Arlington is excited about heading to the postseason parade for the first time in almost two full decades.

“It’s really like we’ve had two different seasons,” said Marck, who is in his 10th season as head coach of the Vikings. “We won the first two games of the season, then dumped five in a row. But I kept watching the power points and I knew we had a shot because of the strength in our schedule. We needed the Becton win and went from there. We played a complete football game against Becton.”

For good measure, the Vikings defeated Emerson Borough, 36-8, last Friday night, as Marck handled a wide range of emotions, dealing with the loss of his friend and mentor Nick Mazzolla and coaching against his son, who plays for Emerson Borough.

“We’re going into the playoffs on a two-game win streak and that’s important,” Marck said.

What was also important was the performance of senior quarterback Michael Manzo-Lewis, who rushed for an amazing 330 yards on just nine carries and scored four touchdowns. Manzo-Lewis broke the single season school rushing record, surpassing the 1,393 that Jeff Di- Costanza accumulated in 1993. Manzo-Lewis now has 1,549 yards this season.

Marck does not care that the Vikings enter the playoffs with a losing record.

“It’s a three-game tournament now,” Marck said. “Sure, Brearley is very good and they’re undefeated. But we’re throwing records out now. It’s a tall tale, but we didn’t come this far to play just one game. The kids are super excited. They have been getting together in groups since the game Friday, having lunch, talking about their special opportunity.”

Marck said that for his first nine years as head coach, the Vikings had to play in the NJSIAA consolation games, or what the NJSIAA now calls “regional crossover games,” because even the sound of consolation games didn’t give much consolation for a losing season.

“I always treated the consolation games like a bowl game,” Marck said. “We did pretty well in most. I thought it was always important to finish strong. But after nine consolation games, this is tremendous. There’s a huge bounce in our steps. We can’t wait to get to work to prepare for Brearley.”

You got to be in it to win it – and after nearly 20 years, North Arlington is definitely in it.

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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.”