Harrison’s DeSosa riding the wave with the Blue Tide grid team

Mateo DeSosa started the 2018 high school football season with a game to remember, a performance for the history books.

The Harrison High School quarterback rushed for 221 yards and scored two touchdowns while passing for 171 yards and two more scores in a thrilling 30-28 win over Bogota.

DeSosa’s 392 yards of total offense was the best performance of any quarterback in the state for the first weekend of the season.

It’s almost like people had to say about DeSosa, “Where do you go from here?” No one could do much better than what the talented Blue Tide junior signal caller provided for the first game of the season and the first game of new head coach Danny Hicks’ career.

“I just had to keep moving forward,” DeSosa said. “It was all just understanding the offense and working hard. I couldn’t worry about making one bad play. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I had a good line blocking for me and good receivers catching the passes.”

DeSosa didn’t experience the same kind of success that he enjoyed the first week of the season. There were some bumps in the road, some obstacles to overcome. Sometimes, the opposing defenses stifled DeSosa and the Blue Tide. Sometimes, the results weren’t favorable.

“To be honest, it was really hard,” DeSosa said. “After the first game, I knew it wasn’t going to be easier.”
Hicks knew that he had to rely a lot upon DeSosa.

“I said all along that we were going to go as far as he took us,” Hicks said. “Whenever he’s able to put up a great stat line, we’re going to win. Some of our games, he was basically non-existent and he took those games very personal.”

But when the Blue Tide faced Palisades Park last Friday night, DeSosa was poised for a big game.

“The energy was there all week before the game,” DeSosa said. “I knew that we all wanted to get to .500. We all definitely wanted this one.”

“Before the game, we gave the kids a little bit of a Harrison history lesson,” Hicks said. “We told them that there were only a few teams that won four or more games. We still had a chance to make some noise and finish at 5-5. And that would be a hell of a lot better than 1-8.”
The Blue Tide posted a 1-8 mark last season.

“I think they took it very seriously,” Hicks said. “And Mateo took it very personal.”

So with the Blue Tide needing two wins to finish the season with five victories, DeSosa was determined to make the ninth game of the season a lot like the first one.

DeSosa completed 22-of-26 passes for 248 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 63 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Blue Tide to a solid 28-14 win over Palisades Park, enabling the Blue Tide to improve to 4-5 on the season.

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

Hicks was impressed with the way DeSosa played in every facet of the game.

“He’s truly another coach on the field,” Hicks said. “It may sound a little over confident, but Mateo really does a lot of work. He watches just as much film as the coaches. He spends a lot of time with (assistant coach) John Fannan breaking down film and he’s done a great job there. He truly gets what we want from him. He knows what plays he wants to run. He has all the ability he needs to take over. It’s beginning to be the expectations for him. We expect him to do well. He sets the tone and the tempo.”

And Hicks knows that he has placed a lot on DeSosa’s shoulders.

“He understands that he’s the guy,” Hicks said. “He takes it all very well. I’m blown away by his maturity.”

It was always expected that DeSosa would be the quarterback of the Blue Tide. He was the starting signal caller for the Harrison Pop Warner youth team that went undefeated and captured the Bergen County League Super Bowl when DeSosa was in eighth grade. Then DeSosa arrived at Harrison High and he was expected right away to be the second coming of players like former Blue Tide greats Mickey Rowe, Ray Lucas or former Observer Male Athlete of the Year Mike O’Donnell.

“The pressure on him was immediate,” said Hicks, who was not the head coach when DeSosa arrived. “But he started right away and handled it well. There was a lot of hype around him.”

Needless to say, DeSosa has lived up to the expectations/

“We’re not surprised at all,” Hicks said. “He’s started to become the expectations. We expected him to do a lot and he’s doing it.”

For the season, DeSosa has compiled 1,435 yards passing and 567 yards rushing with a combined 19 touchdowns. That’s production.

Although he’s only a junior, college recruiters have already taken notice.

“Some schools are already calling, but of course, it’s early,” Hicks said. “He had a perfect example to follow.”
Former Blue Tide great Dustin Huseinovic, the 2017-2018 Observer Male Athlete of the Year, didn’t receive a lot of attention from college scouts until late in his junior year. But then the colleges caught notice of Huseinovic’s vast talents and he eventually signed on with Pace University.

The relationship between Huseinovic and DeSosa is a solid one.

“I definitely look up to him,” DeSosa said. “He’s always giving me pointers and telling me what to do. I trust him. I think he can help me out. I know what he says boosts my confidence.”

“He just has to stay level headed and focused and good things will happen for him,” Hicks said of DeSosa. “We’re taking baby steps with his recruiting process.”

DeSosa is an excellent student, owning a 3.65 grade point average, so schools will not shy away from him, worrying about his grades. The grades are there.

“I always wanted to play college football my whole life,” DeSosa said. “It’s my goal. I just have to keep going and see what schools are interested in me later on. But since I was a little boy, playing college football has been a big goal.”
If there’s an aspect to DeSosa’s lifestyle that Hicks would like to see some improvement, it would be his nutritional intake.

“First and foremost, he has to develop his body,” Hicks said. “He has to be cautiously concerned with his caloric intake. He needs to find the time to develop his body, going to the weight room. That’s going to be his biggest challenge.”

“I’ll definitely come back bigger and stronger,” DeSosa said. “I definitely understand the offense and I know I can make the plays. I’m definitely doing better than I did last year. I didn’t get off to a good start last year and that hurt me a little. But this year, I’m definitely stronger and I’m a better player.”

DeSosa loves the relationship he has with his head coach.

“He definitely watches me every day in school,” DeSosa said of Hicks. “He’s always calling me, checking up on me and making sure that I’m doing the right thing. It definitely helps me. He has a lot of confidence in me. He has a lot of faith in me and I appreciate that. He’s like a father figure for me. He has been a big help to me.”

Hicks wanted to credit the defensive play of senior defensive end Christian Montillo, who had a momentously gigantic game in the win over Palisades Park. Montillo had an earth shattering performance in the contest, registering 14 tackles, eight of which went for a loss of yardage and an astounding five sacks.

“Christian wanted to go out with a bang,” said Hicks of Montillo’s performance on Senior Night. He made his final home game extremely memorable. As did his friend DeSosa.

After the Blue Tide close out their season next week with a game that’s called a “consolation game” against an opponent still yet to be determined, DeSosa will prepare for the basketball season.

“Give me a week and I’ll be ready,” DeSosa said.

You can count on DeSosa. He’s proven it.




Harrison junior quarterback Mateo DeSosa. 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.”