Sure, there may have been 50 or so other boys on the new field of the Lyndhurst Middle School recently, but that didn’t dampen the spirits of 12-year-old Ariana Soto.
Plain and simple, Soto was there among the boys to learn one thing – to learn about the game of football.
“I watch football all the time and I just wanted to learn how to play,” said Soto, who will enter the seventh grade at the Middle School in a few weeks. “My Dad was against it, but my Mom said it was a great sport and I should learn. She knew I wouldn’t get hurt. I made her a promise that I wouldn’t, because I never get hurt.”
Needless to say, Soto was happy to be part of the Golden Bears Football Camp, spearheaded by the town’s Department of Recreation and headed by the coaching staff at Lyndhurst High School.
“I was really excited that there was a camp this year,” Soto said. “I’m having a lot of fun. I’m really enjoying it.”
Soto certainly made her presence felt.
“I wasn’t surprised that girls were here,” said Lyndhurst High School head coach Rich Tuero, who coordinated the activity at the camp. “I actually expected girls to be here. Girls play in the Lyndhurst Recreation league. Ariana more than held her own.”
Soto knew exactly how to get in a three-point stance at the line. She participated in all the drills and games. She might have been outnumbered, but she certainly wasn’t outmanned.
It was the first year in about a decade that Lyndhurst held a football camp. Having a worldwide pandemic last summer that forced everyone inside probably helped the decision to have a camp this summer.
More than 50 youngsters from second through eighth grade participated in the camp, with the Lyndhurst football players and other assistant coaches serving as counselors.
“We had about a half-hour instruction in the morning, then we finished it off with about an hour’s worth of games,” Tuero said.
The campers all learned the different terminology that is used by the Golden Bears during their regular season, which begins next month.
“The goal is for all of them to be ready for when they come to play for us in high school,” Tuero said.
There was also a guest speaker. Local football hero Petey Guerriero spoke with the campers before he headed off to camp with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Guerriero, the former Lyndhurst High All-State performer who had an All-American career at Monmouth University, is trying to hook on in the NFL once again after brief stints last year with the New York Jets and the Carolina Panthers.
The highlight of the camp was the time-stamped drills, like the obstacle course and the 40-yard dash.
“It’s all about the kids,” Tuero said. “They were all having a good time.”
Avery Cano is a 10-year-old budding star who will enter the sixth grade at the middle school next month. He plays running back and linebacker for the Lyndhurst Recreation team that won the Bergen County League Super Bowl last year.
“I was really happy to be out here,” Cano said. “I got to see all my friends and I got to run around with them. I learned about what angles to take when making a ackle. It was a lot of fun.”
A.J. DiGiovanni is a 13-year-old eighth grader at the middle school. He was a tight end/wide receiver last year. He’s also a big Giants fan who is happy to see Saquon Barkley back after missing most of last season with a knee injury.
“I was excited about the camp,” DiGiovanni said. “I told my parents that I wanted to do this camp because of what happened last summer. I just stayed in my backyard playing basketball, but I wanted to play football. This gets me ready for the upcoming season. I really enjoyed it.”
Matthew Jarvis is another 13-year-old eighth grader.
“I got real excited when I learned about this,” Jarvis said. “I learned a lot of lineman techniques and things I should do.”
Jarvis is a two-way lineman with a lot of size and strength already.
“I was upset that there wasn’t a camp last year,” Jarvis said. “I just stayed at home playing video games.”
Another of the campers had a very familiar last name. Sophia Tuero is an 8-year-old third grader at Roosevelt School. She’s also the daughter of the head coach.
“The one thing I learned is that when you’re on a football team, you’re with family,” the younger Tuero said. “At first, I wasn’t sure if I could do this, but I realized that I live this every day. Football is my life.”
Vincent Muraglia is a 10-year -old fifth grader at Roosevelt School who also loves the Giants, but his favorite player is former Giant Odell Beckham, Jr.
“I wish he was still with the Giants,” Muraglia said. “I had a lot of fun being here, but I can’t make up my mind what I like best, football or wrestling.”
He will make that decision later this year.
Patrick Auteri is an 8-year-old third grader at Roosevelt School. His father, Pat, is an assistant coach on the Lyndhurst football team and the head baseball coach. Young Patrick was a good student at the camp.
“I learned how to get in the stance,” Auteri said. “I’m still a little too young to play, but I will someday.”
And maybe Soto will as well.
“I think I’m proving a lot of people wrong,” Soto said. “I’m going to play.”
Sure looks that way.
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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.”