Seton Hall Prep’s soccer team wins state title thanks to players from Nutley

The Seton Hall Prep soccer team enjoyed a fantastic season, even dealing with the obstacles caused by the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic.

The Pirates recently captured their second straight NJSIAA state championship, thanks in part to the contributions from three young men who reside in Nutley.

Standout senior goalkeeper Tomas Hut, inspirational senior midfielder Nick Palangio and rock solid junior defender Eddy Zazzali were all starters on the Pirate team that defeated St. Peter’s Prep, 4-0, in Jersey City last month.

All three also were part of the Pirate team that rolled through the 2019 season, posting an astounding 22-1-1 record. The Pirates were 7-1-2 this season, so it means that they lost only two games over the last two state championship seasons.

Hut was brilliant in goal once again, earning Second Team All-State honors. Headed for the United States Military Academy in West Point in the fall, Hut had seven clean sheets this season, a year after registering an astounding 20 shutouts.

Hut said that his patience over his first two years at Seton Hall Prep paid off.

“I had to wait for my time,” Hut said. “Obviously, we ended up with the right result. I couldn’t ask for a better four years. I wouldn’t change anything. It means the world to me.”

Hut said that he grew up in Nutley playing with Palangio and Zazzali since grade school.

“Eddy’s mom was my fifth grade teacher,” Hut said. “I think knowing them helped with team chemistry. It brought us all together. I always knew Nick from around town and now he’s one of my best friends. That made things easier.”

Hut will study engineering at West Point, either civil or mechanical. He said that he “likes the military aspect of life there,” but he is open to the possibility of playing professional soccer one day.

“That’s what I’m hoping for,” Hut said.

Veteran Seton Hall Prep head coach Marty Berman can’t say enough about his net minder.

“Tomas was virtually unstoppable in goal,” Berman said. “He plays with so much confidence. I gave him free reign in goal. I trusted him in everything. His command of the penalty area is amazing. He has such imposing size in goal. Without question, we don’t win two straight state titles without him. He’s just a superb kid, an excellent student with an excellent grade point average. He represents us well and is deserving of all the honors he receives.”

Palangio said that he had a tough time leaving his close friends and teammates on the Nutley United youth soccer club to go to Seton Hall Prep.

“It was obviously very difficult,” Palangio said. “I have a lot of friends in Nutley, guys I’ve been playing with since I was three years old.”

But Palangio has an older brother, Giananthony, who also went to Seton Hall Prep.

“I went to see a bunch of his games,” Palangio said. “I liked the way the coaches treated the players. I liked the drive they instilled in us. It was a little bittersweet me not going to play with my friends at Nutley High, but I think I made the right move.”

Palangio said that he learned a lot from last season’s incredible state title run.

“I definitely learned a lot from those guys,” Palangio said. “It was a good learning experience. I took a little bit from them.”
Palangio, who is headed to Drew University to play in the fall, said that it was very difficult coping with the COVID-19 crisis.

“COVID put the season in doubt,” Palangio said. “We had to do whatever it took to play, like the two-week quarantine. We kept the faith. Every day in the quarantine, we got on a Zoom call and talked about soccer. We found a general workout and followed along. We all did the workouts together and that brought us closer together.”

Berman liked the way Palangio stuck with his program and protocol.

“Nick was the first sub off the bench last year, so this year we knew he would play a bigger role,” Berman said. “He stepped into the role as a center midfielder. There’s a lot of class to Nick’s game and a lot of composure. He made plays for us all year. He’s good in the air.”

Berman also liked what Palangio did off the field.

“He was the first one to grab the ball bag,” Berman said. “Usually, the younger guys do that, but Nick felt comfortable doing it. He’s just a good, quiet kid who was vital to this team’s success.”

Zazzali made the leap up from junior varsity last year to varsity this season. Three years ago, he was also forced to face the tough decision of either staying home to go to Nutley or attend Seton Hall Prep.

“I grew up my whole life with the Nutley guys,” Zazzali said. “It was a tough decision to make, but I knew the Seton Hall Prep program was so outstanding. I also knew Tomas and Nick were there and they’ve been great mentors to me. That made the decision more comfortable.”

Zazzali said that he grew into his role as a defender this season.

“I knew that if I put my mind to it, I definitely had a good shot to make an impact,” Zazzali said. “I just had to work hard to help the team succeed.”

Zazzali was asked about how three of the Pirates’ starting 11 all came from the same town of Nutley.

“I think it’s pretty impressive,” Zazzali said. “Most of the guys on the team come from other towns, but we had three from Nutley, so it shows how good the Nutley youth program is. I played with those guys from second grade all the way through eighth grade.”

Berman liked the way Zazzali developed.

“He was a major part of our success,” Berman said. “It took him a little while to get used to the speed of the game, but once he got that down, he was very comfortable. Eddy has really quick feet and has a great anticipation on defense. He makes no mistakes in the back. Without his play, we don’t go anywhere.”

Let’s see, there are two straight state championships for three kids from Nutley – not a bad way to close out a pandemic-stricken season.

“We’ve left such a legacy,” Hut said. “We’re leaving on such a good note. These guys were my brothers and friends.”

“It all went by so fast,” Palangio said. “But we had the best ending we could all have asked for.”

Zazzali will be left to carry the torch next season.

“I definitely have to take a leadership role with the team,” Zazzali said. “This was the best thing I could have ever asked for. I’m happy with the way the season ended.”




Seton Hall Prep goalkeeper Tomas Hut was Second Team All-State, as the Nutley native collected 27 shutouts over the last two seasons. Photo courtesy of Richard Morris


Seton Hall Prep midfielder Nick Palangio, another Nutley native, was a solid contributor from his center midfield position. Photo courtesy of Richard Morris


Seton Hall Prep defender Eddy Zazzali, yet another Nutley resident, stepped into a starting role as a defender for the state champions this season. Photo courtesy of Richard Morris



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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.”