The Queen of Peace alumni wanted to be heard by the Archdiocese of Newark and let out a roar worth more than $1 million that will keep the beloved and beleaguered high school open for at least for another two years.
With that enormous show of generosity from donors, QP remains open and with that, the school’s administration is full steam ahead for the 2016-2017 athletic campaign.
The school has enlisted the services of Chris Brock, who becomes the full-time athletic director this week.
And the school’s fall sports will take the field this season.
The most important of which is football. And the football team took the field for early practices Monday under the tutelage of new head football coach and old wrestling coach Scot Weaver.
The 55-year-old Weaver, who was an assistant grid coach last year under former coach Jim Kelly, has decided to take on the head football coaching duties in addition to his role as the school’s powerful wrestling coach.
“My objective in taking the football job is to insure that the program remains in place,” Weaver said. “I developed a great relationship with the football athletes last year and at the end of the season last year, they made a statement by stating there would be a mass exodus if I wasn’t the head coach. If that happened, then the program would die.”
With that, Weaver sat down with principal John Tonero.
“We had a meeting and I just put it right out there,” Weaver said. “I told him that the kids wanted me to be the head coach. I really wasn’t interested in the position, but I had to do this. If there was not going to be a program, then my son (Damian) wouldn’t have a place to play high school football. He’s the deep reason why I’m coaching football. I talked to my wife and we all agreed that it would be a good thing.”
So Weaver will coach his nephew Matt Chimento this season and his son Damian in two years. Older son Ethan is a phenomenal wrestler who is in eighth-grade.
But as the prominent fall sport is football and Weaver is the coach, so it means that there is an incredible amount of pressure falling on Weaver’s shoulders to make sure that the program remains afloat.
“There’s definitely more pressure than I thought it was going to be,” Weaver said. “The school was closing. People were getting antsy not knowing. Players were wondering if they should transfer out, who’s staying, who’s going. I’ve been talking to parents to tell them of the vision the school has.”
Weaver said that he met with “two of the most popular alumni” to talk about his plans for the football program.
“They wanted to meet with me, wanted to pick my brain over where things are going,” Weaver said. “The alumni wanted to know that if they were going to jump into it, then they wanted to make sure that I was going to be there. I told them that I wasn’t just being self serving as a wrestling coach. I wanted to be able to develop a good future for my sons. I also want to know what they’re doing with girls’ soccer, because my daughter Madison (Damian’s twin) plays soccer.”
Weaver said that the Golden Griffins have had a solid average of 22 athletes at practice.
“We could jump to 24-to-28 including freshmen,” Weaver said. “We’ve had a very good turnout. We’ve scheduled at least one sub-varsity game. We have some talented kids.”
One of those talented players is junior Yasin Peppers, the cousin of NFL and Playstation superstar Jabril Peppers.
“We have some talented kids in the program, like Yasin Peppers, who will be touching the ball a lot more this year,” Weaver said. “He’s one hecka of a player. We have some big kids, some good size. We just have to get the ball in the skilled positions arms.”
Weaver said that the sport of football has always been a part of him. He’s just better known for wrestling, but he’s been a football player and coach since 1979.
“I played at Kutztown University,” Weaver said. “I grew up as an assistant coach and coordinator for (Jim) `Chizzie’ Vuono at Lyndhurst and Mike Sheridan at St. Mary’s (of Rutherford). I just needed to show that I could be a head coach again for my sons. I love the game of football. I open up with Lyndhurst and I live in Lyndhurst, so it’s going to be a strange scenario being on the sidelines there. If we pull off the first one, then we can put a competitive team on the field and if that’s the case, then we’ve hit a home run.”
Weaver had some medical issues at the end of wrestling season, but those are behind him.
“I’m back on my feet,” Weaver said. “My wife and I just spent some time in South Carolina, so we’re ready for the start of the football season.”
Weaver knows how big he has to coach this season. It’s far more than coaching a football team. He has the entire school on his broad shoulders.
“I know that I’m under pressure,” Weaver said. “Why not take it on? I feel pretty healthy. My kids keep me active. I love the game and have learned with some of the best. It’s a great learning experience, learning from Chizzie, Sheridan, the late Jack Jones. Now, I have the reins of the entire program. It’s actually overwhelming.”
But Weaver has never backed down to a challenge. He was told that QP’s wrestling program was a no-win situation and he’s proved those skeptics wrong with championship seasons on the mat.
“As long as my wife and kids support it, I’m fine,” Weaver said. “If we do well in football and compete, then the school will be fine. I understand the pressure.”
And the administration knows the pressure they have placed upon Weaver. It’s now up to Weaver to thrive.
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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.”