It’s been 14 years since North Arlington High School had a championship to celebrate in boys’ soccer.
In three straight years from 2000 through 2002, the Vikings were the champs of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group I sectional.
Last year, the Vikings won the divisional title in the NJIC Meadowlands Division, but that was in a three-way tie and the crown was not won on the field.
But this year, the Vikings have something to celebrate and it’s time to add another banner to the walls of the school gym.
The Vikings got two goals from Adam Boudissa and a goal and an assist from Joshua Gonzales, as North Arlington defeated Becton Regional, 5-0, at Riverside County Park to win the first-ever NJIC Tournament championship.
“We went to the state sectional semifinals last year, but this is really big, because it gives them confidence that they can win a tournament,” North Arlington boys’ soccer head coach Jesse Dembowski said. “That’s big going into the state tournament.”
What makes the Vikings’ one-sided victory more remarkable is that the Vikings actually lost to Becton, 3-2, last Monday in a regular season matchup.
But Dembowski said that the Monday loss got the Vikings ready to play Saturday.
“They played the offside trap against us (Monday),” Dembowski said. “We practiced it all day Wednesday and got through it fine. We just did some things differently and it worked, getting more one-on-one opportunities against their goalie.”
But Dembowski never expected a 5-0 result.
“No, I know they’re a very competitive team,” Dembowski said. “I didn’t expect that at all. I was just hoping for the best. My guys played very hard. I’m proud of them. I hope that it carries through the state tournament.”
Dembowski knows that it has been an up-and-down season for the Vikings, now 11-8.
“I’m hoping that the roller coaster ride stops here,” Dembowski said. “I hope that we become more stable. We have been up and down all year.”
Other than Boudissa and Gonzales, who was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament, which pitted divisional champions in the league against each other, the Vikings received goals from Hudson Ribeiro (last week’s Observer Athlete of the Week) and Dylan Jurado.
Dembowski said that Boudissa really stepped up in the title game.
“He’s been playing a defensive center midfield,” Dembowski said. “We pushed him up a little to give us a little extra fire power. He started the season with the back line and kept moving up. We needed him to score goals and that’s what he did.”
Dembowski was also impressed with Gonzales.
“He can play everywhere,” Dembowski said. “He’s our workhorse. He controlled the midfield.”
Dembowski said that he likes having a postseason tournament in the league.
“I think it’s phenomenal,” Dembowski said. “I think it’s the best thing for our league. We also got to play on our home field, which was tremendous.”
The Vikings were scheduled to play host to Palisades Park in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoffs Monday afternoon at Rip Collins Field.
“It feels good to come into the playoffs with a win like this,” Dembowski said. “It says a lot about our team. I knew that they could be a special team. We had our bumps and bruises along the way, but I knew they could come together.
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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.”