Having taken over the McCarthy Report full-time after the passing of his father Dennis three years ago, David McCarthy has done his best to maintain the tradition of being the top high school football recruiting service in New Jersey.
But the 52-year-old long-time Lyndhurst resident never had to endure anything like he’s faced this year – namely the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic that has thrust everything into pandemonium.
“It’s certainly been the most challenging year,” McCarthy said. “We had a very abnormal offseason. We’re doing the best we can.”
Not knowing whether there will be a high school football season this fall or not has also been somewhat of an obstacle for McCarthy and his crack staff of scouts, which includes his brother Ryan and fellow local grid gadfly Mike Voza, who does a bang-up job coordinating activities at the Lyndhurst American Legion Post 139.
“Right now, we’re going through the 2019 season’s tapes to see if we’ve missed anyone,” McCarthy said. “Social media has become a great tool for us to get updated player information.”
McCarthy said that he already had the top players in the Garden State ranked and listed. It’s the others who might have slipped through the cracks and went through last season unnoticed.
“It’s basically all secondary kids and the underclassmen,” McCarthy said. “The upper tier kids were done by mid-March. That was before the pandemic hit.”
David McCarthy has done his best in carrying the torch that was ignited by his father more than 25 years ago.
The late Dennis McCarthy was a long-time resident of North Arlington who compiled his list of top players and first made that list available to the general public, as well as college coaches who were looking for a leg-up in terms of recruitment.
The McCarthy Report was touting high school football players for colleges long before the advent of the Internet, long before scouting services popped up online all over the place.
If a college recruiter wanted to know the details about any top-flight high school player in the state, then they got their hands on the McCarthy Report. It was thorough, complete with heights, weights, 40-yard dash times, weight lifting prowess – even providing a little report about the player’s individual skill level. It was a must-see for college coaches.
However, Dennis McCarthy passed away in May of 2017, leaving a huge void in high school football in New Jersey. McCarthy was one of the most respected men involved in high school and college football. His service, his knowledge of the game, was downright legendary.
Over the years, David McCarthy assisted his father in a huge way in putting out the McCarthy Report. The two would pour over tons of videotape and DVDs to determine the best college prospects in the state.
When the elder McCarthy passed away, it only made sense that David would continue in the father’s footsteps.
“I’m fortunate to have a great network of coaches who help me by providing information,” McCarthy said. “I’m constantly on the phone, talking to the coaches, hitting them up for info to the point ad nauseum. I have my nose to the grindstone, scouring the rosters. Even with the Internet now, a lot of what we do comes from good old fashioned work. It’s spending hundreds of hours watching games on tape.”
McCarthy’s work has become a lot easier with the invention of the website Hudl, which puts a ton of high school (as well as college) games online from videotape.
“Hudl has been a big help to us,” McCarthy said. “It makes it easier for us to contact kids.”
The pandemic put a huge crimp into what the McCarthy Report does, considering that there were no scouting combines and no summer camps to attend and evaluate talent.
“Most of the offseason circuit was cancelled,” McCarthy said. “So we’re trying to do the best we can, seeing how well the kids stack up against each other. It’s just the case of working a little harder.”
Part of what makes McCarthy’s job more difficult these days is the amount of prospective college football prospects that transfer from one high school to another.
“The high school kids are transferring like they do in college,” McCarthy said. “It’s just exploded in recent times. And I expect it even more now with the pandemic. A lot of these kids haven’t been in school since March. I can actually see the scenario where kids from New York are going to come to New Jersey to play high school football.”
McCarthy has some ideas that will make the McCarthy Report more viable in the coming years, like a website.
“Mike Voza does a lot for me and helps me with scouting and evaluating,” McCarthy said. “He’s like the managing general partner of the organization. We plan on branching out within the next year or so, starting with a website. My father would have loved it. I feel that there are a lot of things that we can improve upon.”
The McCarthy Report also gets assistance from former Hackensack High School and Rutgers University linebacker/fullback Cedric Brown, but the organization suffered a major loss last year when former Hackensack and Penn State running back Joe Dawkins suddenly passed away.
“That was bad,” McCarthy said of Dawkins’ untimely passing. “He was a good friend of ours. He helped us a lot.”
McCarthy said that the next few weeks are vital to his operations, considering that the prospective football players will return to the practice fields within the next month – if the season is going to move forward according to plan.
“We have a lot of information to gather, a lot of schools and players to look at,” McCarthy said. “We have 348 schools in New Jersey. So we have a lot of long nights ahead of us. We don’t want to miss any kids. I’m going to drive myself crazy. But I think it’s a credit to us that our report and our methods have stood the test of time.”
However, the 2021 McCarthy Report might be a telling one.
“We have to see what happens,” David McCarthy said. “It will be a big year for us. It’s a situation we’re all in. But we’re going to do our best.”
The McCarthy Report does not list any players from the Observer circulation area among its top 100.
“Lyndhurst lost a lot of talented players,” McCarthy said. “They had a lot of losses to graduation, including Piotr (Partyla, the state’s leading rusher in 2019 who is currently trying to walk on to the Rutgers’ roster). They have some reloading to do.”
St. Peter’s Prep is the closest school with a handful among the top 100, including Tajhamell Bullock, the top quarterback in the state who has given a verbal commitment to Virginia Tech. Prep also has the No. 2 player overall in the state in two-way lineman George Rooks.
If there’s a high school football season, then chances are that David McCarthy will be at the top games with his video camera and his relentless approach to the game he loves.
Lyndhurst’s David McCarthy, the author/proprietor of the McCarthy Report, the No. 1 college football recruiting tool in New Jersey, is trying to overcome the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic in order to produce his report once again. Photo courtesy of David McCarthy
All in all, McCarthy likes the talent level in New Jersey. It’s probably the main reason why the McCarthy Report is still going strong after all these years.
“I still spend many nights in front of my computer, going over tapes,” McCarthy said. “Especially when I need to get the Report out. I spend a lot of time on the phone with coaches, texting a lot, communicating. Without a doubt, I pride myself on finding the sleeper kids. Everyone can spot the big name kids from the big powerhouse schools. I like finding the ones that no one knows about.”
With that, McCarthy went back to the grind, with another coach to call and more information to compile. Somewhere, the old man is very proud.
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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.”