Quarterback brilliance: Harrison’s DeSosa, Lyndhurst’s Podolski enjoy week to remember

Before the 2018 high school football season kicked off last week, local rivals Harrison and Lyndhurst were hopeful to have successful seasons, as long as the two teams received solid leadership from their respective quarterbacks.

Senior Brian Podolski was poised to lead the Golden Bears of Lyndhurst while junior Mateo DeSosa was returning as the starting signal caller for the Blue Tide of Harrison.

But neither program could have ever imagined what transpired in the first week of the season.

As it turned out, DeSosa and Podolski were the two top productive quarterbacks in the entire state.

DeSosa rushed for 221 yards on 16 carries and scored two touchdowns while completing 20-of-30 passes for 177 yards and two more touchdowns in the Blue Tide’s 30-28 victory over Bogota.

At the same time, Podolski completed 15-of-21 passes for 305 yards and five touchdowns in the Golden Bears’ thrilling 35-32 win over Hawthorne.

The two locals ranked No. 1 (DeSosa) and No. 2 (Podolski) in total offense in the entire state of New Jersey for the first week of the season.

It’s quite remarkable considering that the two schools are rivals who both reside in the NJIC-Liberty Division and the two will face each other Oct. 5 in Lyndhurst.

Podolski was looking forward to the season opener, considering that it was against Hawthorne, a team that defeated the Golden Bears a year ago.

“Hawthorne is usually one of the biggest games of the season, so we knew we needed to win if we wanted to have a chance to make the playoffs,” Podolski said. “Coming into the game, I knew that our plan was to run the ball, but they packed the box against us, so I knew I could be throwing the entire game.”

DeSosa was hopeful to take on the same type of running and passing threat that former starter Mike O’Donnell was during the 2016 season, when O’Donnell, the 2016-2017 Observer Male Athlete of the Year, was leading the Blue Tide to the Central Jersey Group II state playoffs.

“Since my Pop Warner days, Mikey was always someone I looked up to,” DeSosa said. “He was always the big guy, making the big play. He was always so good with his running and passing. I hoped to be as good as him someday.”

The Blue Tide won only one game last year, so DeSosa wanted to make sure that the 2018 season was totally different.

“We knew we had to bounce back from such a tough year last year,” DeSosa said. “We wanted to have a good year and it starts from the first game. It was good to bounce back after having such a bad year last year.”

DeSosa knew that he had to take on a leadership role with the Blue Tide after the graduation of Dustin Huseinovic, the 2017-2018 Observer Male Athlete of the Year.

“After Dustin left, I knew I had to step it up,” DeSosa said. “Dustin definitely showed me what it was like to be a leader and take control of the team.”

Neither local performer could believe their offensive explosions in Week One.

“I knew that I had five touchdown passes, but I didn’t know my yardage,” Podolski said. “It definitely gives me a lot of confidence going forward. I have a lot of good receivers that are hard to cover.”

Podolski has been aided by the addition of former Lyndhurst standout signal caller Danny Kesack, who has joined the coaching staff after graduating from Wesley College. But even Kesack, the disciple of former Giants great Phil Simms, never had a passing day in his high school career like the one Podolski enjoyed.

“Hopefully, a game like this helps to put Lyndhurst on the map,” said Podolski, who led the Golden Bears to a 31-6 victory over Secaucus last weekend to improve to 2-0 on the young season. “We’ve been doubted by a lot of people. I hope this goes to prove people we can play.”

Both quarterbacks, who met for a photo shoot last week, agreed that it was so incredible that the top two quarterback performances in the state came from rivals separated by only six miles.

“I think it’s really wild,” Podolski said. “We have a lot of talent in this league. This is proof.”

“I think it’s phenomenal,” DeSosa said. “I’ve watched him (Podolski) play and he’s a really good quarterback. I think we’ll both have more games like this.”

“It’s a great feeling,” Podolski said. “I never had a game like this before. Having a 300-yard passing game is just awesome. I can’t describe it.”

Podolski hopes that the big game leads to some attention from college recruiters.

“I would love to play on the next level,” Podolski said. “I hope I get a lot more recognition from this.”

DeSosa is only a junior, so he has some time to get noticed.

“I think it’s all so amazing,” DeSosa said before his team fell to New Milford, 37-6, last Friday to fall to 1-1 on the young season. “I had a lot on my shoulders to start the season. Now, I have the confidence that I can do it.”

Lyndhurst head coach Rich Tuero said that he was not surprised at all by Podolski’s big game.

“I’ve been waiting for a game like this to come from him,” Tuero said. “It was just a matter of time. I always thought he could do it. I was just waiting for it to happen.”

Tuero likes the idea that both the Golden Bears and Blue Tide are doing something positive on the gridiron.

“The NJIC schedule is a killer,” Tuero said. “We just want to prove that we’re not the same old Lyndhurst and hopefully they’re not the same old Harrison.”

First-year Harrison head coach Danny Hicks said that he wasn’t aware of DeSosa’s statistical achievement until after the game.

“Because of how chaotic the game was, I had no idea what the stats were,” said Hicks, who was victorious in his head coaching debut. “After it was over, it was incredible. I couldn’t have been more proud of him.”

Hicks said that there is a lot of O’Donnell in DeSosa.

“I think there is a lot of similarity in their approach,” Hicks said. “I think they’re both blue-collar workers. I think they’re both very poised under pressure. They both had the ability to take control of the game and be good leaders on and off the field. Mateo is a very explosive runner and thrower. His decision making is very good. I just hope that Mateo is just scratching the surface. He’s still learning to make reads.”

Hicks knows what the victory meant to his program.

“Not just the team and the school, but the whole community,” Hicks said. “There was a lot of bounce in everyone’s steps in the community. People are noticing what’s happening in Harrison.”

Thanks to the quarterback with the top offensive production day in the state.

“I think that’s just incredible,” Hicks said. “I can’t put another word to it. It’s just incredible. There are a lot of good football players in our league and Mateo and Brian are just examples of what our league can do.”




From left, Harrison’s Mateo DeSosa and Lyndhurst’s Brian Podolski enjoyed the best games any quarterbacks had in the entire state of New Jersey. Photo by Jim Hague


Letting it fly, Harrison quarterback Mateo DeSosa (left) and Lyndhurst’s Brian Podolski (right) had the 1-2 offensive production games in all of New Jersey during the first week of the high school football season. Photo courtesy of Rich Tuero



Learn more about the writer ...

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.”