Blue Tide victorious in Lucas’ debut; fall short vs. Palisades Park

HARRISON – Two weeks into the high school football season, Harrison head coach Ray Lucas has experienced the highs and the lows.

The highs came in the Blue Tide’s season opener and the first game of Lucas’ coaching career, after the Harrison legend and former New York Jets quarterback decided to take over the program after the sudden departure of the former head coach. The Blue Tide defeated Emerson Borough, 19-6, in Lucas’ debut.

“From Day One, it has been scary and fun at the same time,” Lucas said. “I’m just looking to take them from boys to men. After the game, everyone was texting me. The support from the town has been tremendous. I still felt like that kid in high school.”

But the euphoria was short lived, as the Blue Tide fell to Palisades Park, 28-0, last Saturday night.

Lucas, who doubles as the executive director of the Harrison Housing Authority, is not going away soon. One setback isn’t going to diminish his intensity for the program where he grew up.

“The kids want to go out there and mix it up,” Lucas said. “Practice is practice, but the game is different. I just stand in front of a group of young men and I know I have their attention. That part is very rewarding. The coaching staff is doing a great job of teaching. That’s who we are.”

Lucas knows that one win does not make a coaching career..

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Lucas said. “We haven’t had much consistency. I’m a rookie head coach. I make mistakes like anyone. I’m far from perfect. The first win was pretty special, but that’s over. The feeling out process is over. It’s a new regime. I think they understand that things are much stricter than they used to be. And the kids understand that. They are amazing. We have to move on.”

Lucas is not worried about being judged.

“My goal is not about wins and losses,” Lucas said. “I just want them to go out and have fun for three hours. I’ve already been rewarded with their hard work. They have worked their tails off. I know we’re not world beaters. I just want to make sure they’re doing the right thing.”

Leading the Blue Tide is senior quarterback Jake Mulrenan (6-foot-2, 185 pounds). Mulrenan was the starter last year.

“He has a very strong arm,” Lucas said. “He has good quarterback skills. His football IQ is excellent. I don’t have to tell him anything twice.”

The Blue Tide operate out of a spread formation with four receivers. The lone running back is senior Ryan Rodriguez (5-11, 165), who started his career as a quarterback.

The wide receivers are senior Jayden Galindo (5-9, 170) and junior David Morejon (5-7, 165), with the slot receivers in sophomore Justin Langley (5-11, 145) and senior Bryan Castillo (5-9, 160).

“They’re all athletes,” Lucas said. “They don’t miss many of the passes I throw in practice.”

Yes, the former Rutgers standout and NFL signal caller still fires the ball at his players as he approaches 50 years old.

“I still can sling it,” Lucas laughed.

Senior Joseph Rodriguez (6-0, 265) and junior Jomar Ali (5-9, 300) are the tackles. Junior Angel Pina (5-8, 180) is the returning starter at center and senior Caleb Gomez (6-0, 230) is one of the guards.

“We’re pretty solid up front,” Lucas said. “I like their aggressiveness. They could all be better, but they’re my favorite people in the world.”
There’s another sideline to the story. Pina is Lucas’ nephew.

The defensive set is a basic 4-3 formation.

Pina is the nose guard, with Morejon at defensive tackle and sophomore Brandon Vega (6-2, 230) as the defensive end.

“We’re athletic upfront,” Lucas said. “I get on them pretty hard for not wrapping up and making tackles.”

Castillo and sophomore William Polizzotto (5-9, 170) are the outside linebackers, with senior Artie DaSilva (5-6, 160) as the middle linebacker.

“They’re unbelievable,” Lucas said. “They don’t shy away from anyone.”

The cornerbacks are Galindo and Langley with Mulrenan at free safety and Ryan Rodriguez at strong safety.

The Blue Tide suffered a big loss recently with the injury of junior two-way lineman Ethan Oeckel (6-0, 200), who suffered a foot injury and was on crutches last week.

“I was going to say that Ethan Oeckel was going to shock a lot of people this year,” Lucas said. “We’re hopeful to get him back. We can’t afford many injuries.”

But for now, Harrison’s native son has the Blue Tide going in the right direction.




The Harrison football team has won one and lost one in the early going. From left are Caleb Gomez, Ethan Oeckel, head coach Ray Lucas, Angel Pina, Jomar Ali and Joseph Rodriguez. 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.”