Lyndhurst football 2018: In Partyla we trust

The Lyndhurst High School football team posted a 5-4 record a year ago, earning a berth in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II state playoffs, falling in the first round to eventual state sectional champ Rutherford.

As he begins his fifth season as head coach of the Golden Bears, Rich Tuero believes that his team gained a lot of experience last year due to a rash of injuries the team endured during the course of the season.

“We had a lot of kids that we were mixing in, so they got a lot of experience on the fly,” said Tuero, who became a father for the second time this month when his wife, Koriann, gave birth to their second daughter Camila Rose.

“Those kids got to learn fast,” Tuero said. “We’re refining them now. The kids have been working their tails off getting ready for this season. We got a little taste of the state playoffs last year and it made them all want it again. Now, we want to win in the state playoffs.”

Leading the way is senior quarterback Brian Podolski (6-2, 185), who started for the Golden Bears a year ago.

“He’s coming into this season knowing he’s the man,” Tuero said of Podolski. “He’s more of a pocket passer. I think we know what to expect from him and he knows what to expect from us. He’s pretty comfortable back there.”

Podolski will also benefit from having Danny Kesack as an assistant coach. The former Golden Bear standout has graduated from Wesley College in Delaware and has joined Tuero’s coaching staff.

“It’s great that I coached Danny and now I can coach Brian with the help of Danny,” Tuero said. “He’s comfortable with Brian Without a doubt, they can relate with each other really well. It’s incredible.”

The top running back is junior Piotr Partyla (5-11, 180), who earned Observer Athlete of the Week honors last October with a 194-yard, four touchdown performance against North Arlington. Partyla missed three games due to injury or he would have eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau. As it was, the fantastic Partyla motored for more than 800 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“He’s been chomping at the bit, because he wants to get back out there,” Tuero said of Partyla. “No one outworks that kid. He lives, breathes, eats and sleeps football. He’s really something else.”

The Golden Bears also feature a pair of sophomores at running back in Anthony DeMarco (5-8, 165) and Jarett Weber (5-8, 150). DeMarco is the younger brother of Matthew DeMarco, who is currently playing college football at Montclair State.

The fullback is senior Jeff Grasso (5-9, 205), who started at fullback last year.

The receiving corps is very deep and talented. Senior Benny Franchino (5-9, 165) is a four-year starter who is also a talented member of the Lyndhurst famed track and field program in the spring.

“He’s a speedster,” Tuero said. “He runs really well and has great hands. We call him ‘Benny the Jet.’”

The receiving corps also features senior Emanuel LaLuz (5-11, 165) and junior John Rodriguez (6-2, 175), who scored a school-record 51 points in a basketball game against Harrison last February.

The tight end is senior Paul Cimicata (6-2, 220), who looms as one of the best two-way football players in the area.

“He’s a big weapon,” Tuero said.

The offensive line has some decent size, featuring juniors James Blake (6-0, 265) and Thomas Ryan (5-11, 200) at tackle. Ryan is a transfer from DePaul Catholic.

The guards are senior returning starter Shane D’Andrea (6-1, 200) and junior Joseph Cutola (5-11, 185). Cutola is the younger brother of the recently graduated Nick Cutola, who played football and baseball for the Golden Bears last year and hopes to play baseball at Richard Stockton in the spring.

The center is senior Michael Perri (6-0, 260).

The Golden Bears feature a 3-5 defensive front, with returning starter Jeremy Rivera (5-10, 200) at nose tackle. Cimicata is a fixture at defensive end, where he’s more of a force. Blake is the other defensive end.

The linebacker group features returning starter Grasso, along with junior Chris McGlaughlin (5-10, 185), junior Aaron Alvarez (5-7, 165) and sophomore Adam Venezia (5-11, 185), the baseball standout.

The cornerbacks are juniors Michael Failace (5-8, 165) and Anthony Lembo (5-10, 175), with senior Jay Lauria (5-10, 165) and Franchino at safety.

Franchino is also a solid weapon as a placekicker, having already nailed a 43-yard field goal in a preseason scrimmage. With a 3.8 grade point average, some Ivy League schools are looking at Franchino as a possible kicker.

“He does all the right things,” Tuero said.

The Golden Bears open the 2018 season against Hawthorne at home Thursday, Aug. 30 at 6 p.m.

Tuero likes the makeup of his team.

“If we can stay healthy, these kids can make some noise,” Tuero said. “These kids believe in this program and believe in themselves.”

And that’s the first step.


The Lyndhurst High School football team should contend this year thanks to the work of their diligent offensive line. From left are Jeremy Guevara, Shane D’Andrea, Joseph Cutola, head coach Rich Tuero, Thomas Ryan, James Blake and Paul Cimicata. Photo by Jim Hague

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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.”