NA’s Ribeiro lifts team to NJIC championship game

Most of the North Arlington High School soccer team that went to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I semifinals a year ago had graduated, so returning starter Hudson Ribeiro knew he would have to be the one to lead the Vikings this year.

“I had to step up and lead the team,” Ribeiro said. “I never thought that would happen, but it did. As a senior, I knew I had to do it, but I didn’t know how to be a leader. I never saw myself as being a leader. But when it happened, I just decided I had to do it.”

Ribeiro is a native of Brazil whose family migrated to the United States, settling in North Arlington, five years ago.

“It was tough coming here,” Ribeiro said. “I didn’t know English. I had to learn everything. Everything here is different. I started to get used to it here through eighth grade.”

Soccer apparently helped.

“When I started to play soccer here, everyone welcomed me,” Ribeiro said. “Everyone was so friendly. It made it easier for me. I got used to the community through soccer.”

Ribeiro entered North Arlington High a little more than three years ago and head boys’ soccer coach Jesse Dembowski knew that he had a winner.

“He’s just naturally talented,” Dembowski said. “You can put him anywhere and he would excel.”

So for most of his career, Ribeiro was placed as a wing, a midfielder with defensive responsibilities.

“I was really comfortable with being a wing,” Ribeiro said. “I knew what I had to do there.”

However, with all of his offensive firepower gone with the Class of 2015, Dembowski had to make a move, shifting Ribeiro to striker.

“I knew that he had the ability to put the ball in the net,” Dembowski said of Ribeiro, who scored nine goals and added nine assists last year. “He had the talent. He just couldn’t get frustrated like he might have in the past. He had to change his game a little to play up front, from being a passer to a shooter. It was really important for us, because basically, he’s the only one who scored goals last year who was back this year.”

Ribeiro didn’t mind the position change.

“It’s helped me to score more,” Ribeiro said. “That was the reason for the change, for me to score more goals. I knew that I had to come hard on offense and provide some scoring, that I should concentrate more on scoring.”

The change has helped tremendously, as Ribeiro has emerged as one of the top goal scorers in all of Bergen County.

Ribeiro now has 19 goals this season, which is a far cry from the nine he tallied last year. He also has nine assists, topping last year’s total.

Last week, the talented senior forward scored the Vikings’ second goal in a 3-2 loss to Hasbrouck Heights, had one goal and one assist in the Vikings’ opening round 3-1 win over Elmwood Park in the inaugural North Jersey Interscholastic Conference first round, then added a sudden death overtime goal in a 3-2 win over Park Ridge that lifted the Vikings to the title game of the tournament, which will be held at Riverside County Park in Lyndhurst Saturday at noon.

And for his efforts, Ribeiro has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.

The Vikings (9-8) will face Becton Regional in the finals. The Vikings won the regular season match by a 4-0 margin.

“We have the advantage over Becton since we beat them once already,” Dembowski said.

Ribeiro will be ready, that’s for sure, with a championship on the line.

“It inspires me,” Ribeiro said. “Whenever I have a chance to do something like I did (the game-winning goal against Park Ridge), I think it inspires everyone. It’s given me a lot of confidence.”

He’s had confidence since scoring five goals in one game against Weehawken earlier this year.

“That gave me confidence I could score goals playing a different position than last year,” Ribeiro said.

Dembowski loves Ribeiro’s energy.

“He doesn’t give up,” Dembowski said. “He runs from sideline to sideline non-stop. He doesn’t back down from any challenge. He’s just been phenomenal all season. He’s a big part of every single game and now he gets the chance to play in the (NJIC) final/”

Ribeiro said that he would love to play soccer in college, but he also has another passion _ crew.

He’s excellent on the water, proven last spring when he placed second nationally in the two-man junior varsity at the SRAA Nationals in Ohio with teammate Mike Szklarzewski.

“I love crew,” Ribeiro said. “I have a lot on my plate to choose between crew and soccer. I don’t know yet. I love both sports so much. But soccer is definitely an option.”

So who knows? Maybe Hudson will go rowing on the Hudson River.

He doesn’t know how he got his unique first name.

“I never asked my parents,” Ribeiro said. “I know it’s like the river, but I don’t think it was that. Dad named me, but I never asked him why.”

As long as the kid with the name like the river keeps scoring goals, no one in North Arlington will care where Hudson Ribeiro’s name came from.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

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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.”