Despite loss of Sowe, Blue Tide boys’ soccer ready to roll

Mike Rusek received the horrible news about a month ago, that high-scoring forward Mustapha Sowe was not going to return to the Harrison High School soccer team.

“We tried to talk to him,” said Rusek, who is beginning his 21st season as the head coach of the perennially powerful Blue Tide soccer team. “I would never force anyone to play. I tried to talk to him one last time and he just didn’t want to play.”

Sowe, who was the team’s captain last year and scored an astounding 31 goals, decided that his chances to attain a college scholarship were better playing club soccer as opposed to high school.

“He was our main offensive threat,” Rusek said “We go back with him to when he was seven years old and was one of our ball boys. We have a strong relationship with Mustapha. He felt it was necessary for him to play club.”

With that, the era of the Sowe brothers – Modou and Omar before Mustapha – ended at Harrison. Omar Sowe is currently playing for the New York Red Bulls II team in the United Soccer League and recently tallied a hat trick for the Red Bulls II squad.

Without Mustapha, who would have been a senior this year, the Blue Tide is a different team.

“But we’re going to do our best without him,” Rusek said. “It’s always a big hit when you lose someone like that. If he’s a senior and he graduates, you prepare for the loss, but not when he’s still in the school and you see him every day in the halls. I feel bad for the kids that are still on the team. We take a lot of pride in our closeness on the team. I think the kids are all disappointed.”

With that, Rusek made the strategic move to change the Blue Tide’s approach.

“With Omar and then Mustapha, we wanted to be more direct,” Rusek said. “We wanted to get the ball directly to them. Now, we’re using a lot more passing, moving the ball east to west with short passes instead of lobbing the ball forward to them. We’re excited that we’re going back to be more of a possession-style team. We simply don’t have that kind of guy up front anymore.”

Rusek said that the possibility still exists for the Blue Tide to become a big-play attack team again.

“There’s always a young kid who is hoping to step forward and be that type of player,” Rusek said. “We have some young kids who are looking at this as a good opportunity.”

The Blue Tide still has two solid goalkeepers to right now split duties in net.

Senior Bryan Yllescas saw most of the action last year, as the Blue Tide went 20-2-1. Junior Emiliano Torres is capable of starting games in net, like he did at the beginning of last season.

“Both kids did very well for us in goal,” Rusek said. “We’re still having them split time for now. They will continue to work at it that way until someone takes over the spot.”

Junior Carlos Dionisio is the starter at sweeper to key the defensive side of the ball. Senior Ronald Carrillo is the stopper. Carrillo is a solid leader for the Blue Tide.

Senior Gabriel Arias is one of the top defenders and sophomore Gabriel Reis is the other defender.

Junior Enzo Diaz is the team’s center defensive midfielder. Diaz saw a lot of action last year.

Sophomore Brando Moreno returns after a highly successful freshman season when he scored 12 goals and collected 19 assists.

“He did really well and we’re hoping he can continue doing well,” Rusek said of Moreno.

The two other midfielders have a lot of potential. Sophomore Carlos Moreno brings a lot of skill to the midfield. Senior Yerek Callupe saw a lot of playing time last year, scoring seven goals and adding 10 assists a year ago.

“Carlos is very talented with the ball,” Rusek said. “We’re hoping Yerek can do more than he did last year.”

The forward line features senior Gabriel Abreu, who missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

“I think he’s fully recovered from the surgery,” Rusek said. “He’s a big, strong, physical kid. I hope he finishes with a good senior year.”

The other starting forward is senior Jorge Aucencela, who split time last year between the junior varsity and varsity.

“Aucencela is a nice built senior,” Rusek said. “He’s always been a little guy, but he grew a little, so that’s going to help us.”

Rusek has a deep and talented bench which comes in handy when the readily accepted starters need a breather.

Senior Oscar Balderon, junior Hector Canales and sophomore Brandon Garcia help out the back line.

Talented freshmen Diego Flores and Randy Abarca will add depth to the midfield contingent.

“Abarca has a lot of potential,” Rusek said. “Diego is a very good player. Both of them will help us tremendously.”

Senior Samuel Rodriguez scored 10 goals off the bench for the Blue Tide last season. Junior Jansel Zagarro will add significant talent to the front line.

“They will see a lot of action,” Rusek said.

The Blue Tide opens their season Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. against Secaucus and will face Rutherford and Wallington, two perennial soccer programs, during the course of the season.

“We will be fine,” Rusek said. “We just need to come out strong.”

Just like always.




The Harrison High School boys’ soccer team will look to overcome the loss of Mustapha Sowe deciding to play club soccer this year instead of playing for the Blue Tide. From left are Gabriel Arias, Carlos Dionisio, Christopher Alvarado, Bryan Yllescas, Emiliano Torres, Oscar Baldeon and Ronald Carillo. 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.”