Petey Guerriero had just completed his sophomore year at St. Mary’s of Rutherford, but the Lyndhurst teenager was not happy.
“I really didn’t feel comfortable there,” Guerriero said. “That was it.”
Plus, Guerriero’s closest friends all attended Lyndhurst High School.
“I played baseball with those kids,” Guerriero said. “I thought I’d come here and just play baseball with my friends.”
Guerriero did indeed transfer to Lyndhurst and planned to join the Lyndhurst baseball team. But a lot of things happened along the way.
Guerriero joined the Lyndhurst football team.
“I thought I’d come here and maybe play slot receiver, maybe a little tailback,” Guerriero said.
Lyndhurst head coach Rich Tuero had something else in mind. Tuero was set to turn his entire offense over to the newcomer.
“I never saw anyone with that kind of speed,” Tuero said. “He was going to take it over and let’s go. We knew how dangerous he could be at quarterback. At any time, he could break it and make something happen. We knew he was a once-in-a-lifetime player.”
In the winter, Guerriero became a member of the basketball team and used that incredible speed to his advantage as a top-flight point guard.
In the spring, when it was thought Guerriero would be an infielder for the baseball team, he turned out to be a blazing sprinter on the track instead.
“I always thought when I came here that I would play baseball first,” Guerriero said. “I loved baseball. I thought I had a good future in baseball. It was my favorite sport and I thought it was my best sport.”
Instead, somehow, Guerriero made his way to the track _ and the rest, as they say, was history.
“I thought I had a better future in track,” Guerriero said. “I thought it would keep me in better shape for football. I decided to do it and fell in love with it right away. I also knew that track was going to be fun right away.”
So Guerriero competed and did well in all three sports at Lyndhurst.
In his senior year, the three sports turned into Guerriero’s personal playground, dominating in football, basketball and track like no other Lyndhurst athlete ever.
- In football, Guerriero led the Golden Bears to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II playoffs, rushing for an astounding 2,161 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. He averaged 11.1 yards every time he carried the ball and averaged 240 yards per game. He also completed 29 passes for 362 yards and a touchdown. Defensively, Guerriero collected 67 tackles and made an interception.
- In basketball, Guerriero averaged 17 points and five assists per game, becoming an all-around leader on the hardwood.
- In track and field, Guerriero competed regularly in four events _ the 100 and 200-meter dashes, the long jump and the triple jump.
- Guerriero went on to win gold medals in both the 100-meter dash (10.79) and the 200-meter dash (22.02) at the Lou Lanzolotto Bergen County Meet of Champions, won gold in the 100 and 200, finished second in the long jump and fourth in the triple jump at the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II meet, was second in both the 100 and 200 at the Group II championships and finished fourth in the 200 and seventh in the 100 in the overall state Meet of Champions.
Needless to say, that’s an impressive resume.
And for his efforts, Guerriero has been selected as The Observer Male Athlete of the Year for the 2015-2016 scholastic sports campaign. He received his award recently in a presentation outside Lyndhurst High School.
Guerriero becomes the third male athlete from Lyndhurst in the 15-year history of The Observer presenting the year-end award, given to the top athlete who competes in more than one varsity sport.
Guerriero joins Brian Kapp (2004-2005) and Patrick Rono (2010-2011) as recipients of the Observer Male Athlete of the Year award.
“It definitely means a lot to me,” Guerriero said. “Everyone dreams of getting awards like this. It’s an honor to be listed with all these greats, especially Kapp and Rono from Lyndhurst High. It’s a great group, especially Patrick, who I admire a lot. It’s amazing to be up there with those two. It’s definitely pretty crazy when you think of it. I never thought it would all lead to this.
Added Guerriero: “It’s definitely a big accomplishment. It was definitely a dream of mine, but it comes with a lot of hard work. It didn’t come easy.”
His coaches all recognize the work Guerriero put in.
“There are no words to describe it,” Lyndhurst football coach Tuero said. “I now realize how special of a player, how special of an athlete Petey was. He always made things happen.”
Tuero remembered a third-and-34 play against Pompton Lakes, where he considered punting on third down.
“But I called the draw play for Petey and just gave it to him,” Tuero said. “He got the first down. He’s one of the most electrifying and exciting players of all time. I love how the old-timers all say the same thing. There was no one better than Petey. I never saw anything like him and probably won’t again.”
Head basketball coach Tom McGuire only coached Guerriero for one year, but that was enough for Guerriero to leave a lasting memory.
“He’s just a superior athlete,” McGuire said. “You don’t come across kids like him. He was a one-man fast break. He would beat you dribbling up the court. He was a great shooter. He would go inside and out, stop and pop in transition. I kind of knew he was good, but I never thought he would turn out to be as good as he was. He’s the model athlete. He’s what every kid should be. You want your kids to look up to someone like Petey.”
Head track and field coach Tom Shoebridge developed a close relationship with Guerriero.
“I knew in the back of my mind that he was a baseball player,” Shoebridge said. “I’ve had a lot of fast kids in the past, but I could tell right away that this kid was something special. Now, he’s the greatest sprinter and jumper in Lyndhurst High School history. There’s no question about that. It’s all recorded statistically.
Added Shoebridge, “I’ve been in Lyndhurst my entire life and I’ve watched all the greatest athletes like Tom Longo, my brother Ted, Brian Kapp, Bobby Jankowski. Petey Guerriero is in the same class with those guys. He’s going to leave a void as an athlete and as a person. Everything he did, he did with humility and class. I’m so proud to have been associated with him as a coach.”
Guerriero now moves on to the next chapter of his life _ namely Monmouth University. Just three weeks ago, Guerriero signed his scholarship letter to attend the West Long Branch, N.J. school in a few weeks and run for the Hawks’ track team.
“It’s definitely wild how everything turned out,” Guerriero said. “I really like track now. Once I got the hang of it, I realized how much I liked it.”
And as it turned out, the move to come to Lyndhurst to play baseball somehow paid off _ without Guerriero ever stepping on the diamond.
“I made the right decision, no question,” Guerriero said.
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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.”