Even though he was part of the Lyndhurst Recreation youth football growing up, Piotr Partyla first decided he was heading to Queen of Peace High School.
“I heard that they needed a quarterback and I wanted to be a quarterback at first,” Partyla said. “I was going to be their starting quarterback.”
Sure enough, Partyla was the Golden Griffins’ starting signal caller as a freshman in 2016.
But after two months and six losses at QP, Partyla had enough.
“It was alright, but it just wasn’t for me,” Partyla said. “It wasn’t meant for me.”
So Partyla transferred immediately back to his home district _ Lyndhurst High School. Because he played six games for QP, Partyla wasn’t able to play right away for the Golden Bears. He had to sit out due to the NJSIAA transfer rules.
“I felt like it was better for me at Lyndhurst,” Partyla said. “It’s where I belong.”
When Partyla arrived at Lyndhurst, head coach Rich Tuero knew right away that Partyla’s days as a quarterback were over.
“He’s a tailback,” Tuero said. “He’s not a real quarterback. He’s been a running back his whole life.”
Partyla sat out the last three games of the 2016 season and had to remain on the sidelines for the first game of the 2017 campaign.
“But we knew he was going to play for us,” Tuero said.
The projected starter at tailback, Chris Feurtado, never recovered fully from a serious injury he suffered last season.
“We didn’t expect Piotr to come in right away and take over for Chris,” Tuero said. “We were thinking we had Feurtado. We wanted to see what this kid could do. We expected him to be a part of the backfield.”
However, Partyla showed a lot during the preseason and scrimmages.
“He comes to practice every day and works hard,” Tuero said. “He works and works. He has great vision as a running back. He’s a cutter and a slasher. He makes cuts so quickly and reads blocks well. He’s just an all around good running back. He’s also tough and can run right through you.”
Partyla said that he prepared extensively for the 2017 season _ even if he had to sit out the first game.
“I love football,” Partyla said. “I wanted to play so badly, but I had to sit and wait. It was painful not to play in those games. I felt terrible not being able to play. When I got the chance, I felt like I had to prove myself. I had to play hard and run hard. That’s why I’m here. I thought I had a good chance to play right away, so I busted my tail to get a chance to play.”
Partyla made the most of his opportunity last week against local rival North Arlington.
As the premier running back, Partyla carried the ball 14 times for 194 yards and scored four touchdowns, leading the Golden Bears to a 41-0 victory.
And for his efforts, Partyla has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Partyla is happy that he’s now a running back, probably for life.
“It means so much to me to be a running back,” Partyla said. “I love playing running back. That’s my position. I feel I’m better as a running back. I felt like this was my game to show everyone what I can do and how I can play. This is what I was working for. I knew I could do it.”
Partyla is seeing his hard work in the offseason paying off _ as he aspires to be like his idol.
“I did a lot of cutting drills over the summer,” Partyla said. “It helped me out. You know, I wanted to be like my idol, Le’Veon Bell (of the Pittsburgh Steelers). He’s my favorite player. I look up to him and try to run like him.”
Bell has been known to use a hesitation move when he runs so he can follow blocks better. It has become Bell’s trademark move.
“I can do that as well,” Partyla said.
Since he’s only a sophomore, the future looks very bright for Partyla.
“In the game against North Arlington, he ran through three kids and dove into the end zone,” Tuero said. “He’s a real tough kid. He’s a great kid. He doesn’t talk too much. He comes to work and practices hard.”
And he’s part of the Lyndhurst program for the next two-plus seasons.
“He came home,” Tuero said. “He’s a Golden Bear and loves the program. The kid’s happy and we’re excited to have him. We’re excited about his future and what’s going on here.”
The Golden Bears are 3-2 and could possibly be headed for an NJSIAA state playoff berth.
In any case, Partyla is happy that he’s a Golden Bear. His former school has since closed, so he would have needed to head to another school anyway. Partyla just made the move before the doors were shut.
“This is only the start for me,” Partyla said. “I’m going to do even better in the future.”
Could the future mean a return to quarterback?
“If the team needs me to do that, sure,” Partyla said. “But for now, I’m sticking with being a running back.”
And that’s music to Tuero’s ears.
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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.”