Nutley’s Searle earns Second Team All-State honors

Who would have ever guessed that someone named William L. Marcy would have played such a major role in a sports column written in New Jersey some 170 years after Marcy uttered what has now become a well-used lexicon in the sports world?

No, it’s not the William H. Macy from “Shameless” fame. Or the Bill Macy who played Maude’s husband Walter in the classic sitcom of the same name.

Nope, this guy was a New York senator who was running for a seat in the United States Congress. And in a debate in 1831, Marcy said “to the victor goes the spoils,” describing how elected officials were the ones who hand out governmental jobs.

Maybe Marcy’s comments remain truthful when it comes to handing out year-end honors in sports, say high school football.

It’s astounding that it had been 10 years since Nutley High School’s football team had a representative on the All-State squad. One would think that a strong and storied program such as Nutley would have had at least one player reach All-New Jersey levels.

But the Maroon Raiders did not have a player receive All-State accolades since Nick Tedesco was selected to the state’s Second Team in 2010. Yes, to the victors go the spoils.

Although the Maroon Raiders had great seasons in 2014 and 2015 under former head coach Tom Basile, posting a 7-3 mark in 2014 and going 8-2 in 2015, the organizations that select All-State teams totally ignored the Maroon Raiders those seasons.

But when you enjoy an undefeated season, a divisional championship season at that, chances are you can find someone to get recognized on an All-State team.

That’s what happened last week when standout lineman Billy Searle was selected to the USA TODAY Network All-State team, earning Second Team honors as an offensive lineman.

Again, to the victors go the spoils.

It’s not saying that Nutley hasn’t had a deserving player over the last decade to be named All-State. It’s just that it’s harder to get recognized by the people who pick the teams when you’re on a team that isn’t as successful as others.

The Maroon Raiders won all six of their games this year with the 6-foot-2, 285-pound Searle leading the way along both lines of scrimmage.

When Searle was called by his uncle, namely Nutley athletic director Joe Piro, that he was selected for the All-State team, he didn’t realize the magnitude of the honor.

“I first thought it was like All-Group III or something,” Searle said. “But then I saw all the names involved and realized it was the entire state. I thought that this was a really cool moment.”

It’s the latest stop on a remarkable journey that is Billy Searle’s football career, considering that he was always too big to play youth football in Nutley and never played organized football until enrolling at Nutley High.

“I never put pads on,” Searle said. “I didn’t even know how to get in a three-point stance.”

And now, Searle is considered among the top 34 players in the entire state.

“I had no clue something like this could happen,” Searle said. “It’s pretty surreal.”

Searle said that he always longed to play football as a youngster, even if weight restrictions prohibited him from playing.

“It always was hard for me, because all the guys who played were all of my best friends and I had to stand on the sidelines and watch them,” Searle said. “I would go to the games and support them, but I wanted to play. That was the biggest kick to my stomach that I couldn’t be out there with my friends. But my family would tell me that I would always get a chance to play.”

Searle said that Piro was very instrumental in his development as a player.

“It was tough for me to pick up the sport,” Searle said. “But my Uncle Joey would take me to the field and teach me how to play. So as soon as I got past the first few practices in high school, I knew what I was doing. I just needed the chance to play.”

Searle is also an accomplished wrestler who will head to the mats as soon as it is safe to return. Searle is convinced that wrestling helped him become a better football player.

“To be honest, I didn’t know I would be playing football until I wrestled,” Searle said. “It made me so much more aggressive. I try to explain that to every kid that I talk to. I play football the way I do because I chose to wrestle.”

Searle said that he took wrestling more seriously as a sophomore at Nutley and watched his career blossom.

Nutley head football coach Steve DiGregorio has enjoyed a solid relationship with Searle since Searle was a little boy – and yes, he was once little.

“Our relationship goes way back,” DiGregorio said. “It goes back to Billy coming to our football camp every year. This is the culmination of his career ending with this honor. I’m very thrilled for him. It’s a heck of an honor.”

DiGregorio believes that the accolade will assist Searle in his attempt to land a college scholarship.

“Recruiters say, ‘Who’s this kid who made All-State?’” DiGregorio said. “It helps to put Billy on the radar. It gives his body of work a little more credibility.”

Earning All-State honors have already paid off for Searle.

“I’ve spoken with 13 or so colleges,” Searle said of the NCAA Division II and Division III recruiters. “I feel like this honor has definitely helped me get recognition.”

DiGregorio said that Searle was always a model football player.

“He was always determined athletically,” DiGregorio said. “Even as a kid, he was always around, watching the games. He came to our camps. He committed himself to do the right things. He always kept working harder and became a dominant player. Now, he’s a fixture.”

As Searle now prepares for the upcoming wrestling season, he realizes one thing. He likes being a football player.

“A couple of weeks ago, I realized that I always wanted to play football,” Searle said. “As soon as the clock hit zero (in the Maroon Raiders’ final game against Belleville), I knew I wanted to keep playing football. If someone tells me that I can do both in college, I’ll give it a try. I just have to see if I’m given the option. I just love competing. I can’t sit back and watch.”

DiGregorio was pleased to watch Searle develop as a player and as a young man.

“We’re very blessed to have someone like Billy,” DiGregorio said. “We’re happy that he received a postseason honor. For us, it happens so infrequently that we’re happy we have someone who deserved it.”

Maybe William L. Marcy was right after all.

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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.”