Vikings enjoying second life in Bergen tourney


The North Arlington High School boys’ soccer team has survived a season thus far that can best be described as a roller coaster ride.

The Vikings have endured more ups and downs than the Cyclone at Coney Island.

Before the season started, veteran head coach Jesse Dembowski knew that it was going to be a tough go, after graduating 13 seniors and bringing back only three starters.

“We’re young,” Dembowski said. “We’re working on team chemistry and always trying things out. We’re going to go through some bumps and bruises.”

Bingo. The Vikings won a match, lost a match, then won one and lost one.

“We’ve definitely changed up our defense,” Dembowski said. “It’s a whole new defense with putting pressure up top to try to take some of the pressure off our defense. We’re trying. It’s going to help us by having a younger team. You can try it and adapt with a young team. Then you work on the chemistry.”

The Vikings owned a 6-6 record last week before entering this last fateful week.

Then Hudson Ribeiro scored a goal seven minutes into the second overtime, leading the Vikings to a 3-2 win over Park Ridge in the semifinals of the Northern Jersey Interscholastic Conference tournament.

Alex Lago scored two goals and Joshua Gonzales had an assist in that huge victory. Standout net minder Ali Timur had five saves.

Earlier in the week, the Vikings defeated Wood-Ridge, 4-1, with Eric McKenna and Ribeiro scoring a goal and adding an assist in the win. Gonzales and Dylan Jurado had goals and Lago added an assist.

So the Vikings now own an 8-6 record, but it comes after a 1-0 loss to Wallington.

“We’ve never been under .500,” Dembowski said. “So we expect to be competitive.”

A year ago, the Vikings were 15-6 and went all the way to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I title game, where they lost to Brearley Regional of Kenilworth.

With this team, who knows?

Senior Ribeiro has become the main go-to guy for the Vikings. He’s scored 17 goals and has six assists, much improved on his nine-goal performance last year. Ribeiro started his season with a five-goal game against Weehawken and three times scored three times in a game, again against Weehawken, then also St. Mary’s of Rutherford and Wood-Ridge.

Ribeiro currently ranks third in Bergen County in goal scoring.

Sophomore McKenna has eight goals and four assists and fellow sophomore Jurado has seven goals, so the Vikings are showing solid scoring balance.

“We moved Jurado up to the midfield and he showed a lot of progress and a lot of passion,” Dembowski said.

Lago, a junior, has four goals and seven assists, second on the team to senior Joshua Gonzales, who has four goals and 12 assists.

“Gonzales was a JV (junior varsity) player last year,” Dembowski said. “He’s really stepped up.”

Junior Brandon Montescinos has been a steady force in the midfield for the Vikings.

“Our young guys are very talented,” Dembowski said. “We have a lot of underclassmen who can play. This is basically a whole new team.”

It helps having a guy like Timur in the nets.

“He’s one of the best goalies I’ve ever seen in my life,” Dembowski said. “He’s come out aggressively this season and has been someone to watch. He’s very confident right now. I don’t know if he has a weakness in his game. Honestly, he’s the best goalie around.”

The Vikings are using a “four-across” on the backline instead of the traditional sweeper and stopper formation.

Junior Brian Wilson is the leader of the defensive corps, playing center back.

“He’s an aggressive player,” Dembowski said. “It helps us out. We’re counting on them a bit to lead the team, to distribute the ball and get us going. We need them to play well.”

Anthony DiPopolo and Adam Boudissa are senior defenders who make the plays along the back line.

So the Vikings are playing well right now, the best soccer of their season. With the NJIC Tournament title game coming up, then the NJSIAA state playoffs, it’s about time that the Vikings play up to expectations.

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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.”