It’s very rare to have an athlete on the losing side earn the Observer Athlete of the Week honors.
But it’s also rare to have a football player have the game that North Arlington junior quarterback Devin Rivas enjoyed in a 46-42 setback to Secaucus last week.
Rivas transferred to his hometown school before last season, when his former school DePaul Catholic, wanted him to play linebacker.
“I always enjoyed being a quarterback,” Rivas said. “I like throwing the ball and running with the ball.”
Rivas loved being a signal caller so much that he attended the Parisi Speed School in Fair Lawn to work on his foot work.
And Rivas wanted to be a quarterback so much that he went regularly to practice sessions with the Simms family, namely New York Giants Super Bowl MVP Phil Simms (the current CBS Sports analyst) and his son Matt, who played in college at Louisville and had a cup of coffee in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons.
“It was a really good experience for me,” Rivas said of working with Simms father and son. “I trained with them once a week. “They definitely prepared me for high school. I felt like I knew what was coming. I work with Matt mostly, but sometimes, Phil stops by and shows me a couple of things. So I was excited and confident for this season.”
When Rivas arrived at North Arlington, he had to bide his time behind incumbent quarterback Joey Witt.
“Joey was a four-year starter and a good leader,” Rivas said. “We were tight. I learned a lot from Joey.”
But Witt graduated and there was a new head football coach in Joe Borkowski, who came in with a clean slate, but he knew one thing for sure. Rivas was going to be the starting quarterback.
“Since the day I showed up, Devin was an extremely hard worker,” Borkowski said. “He was a leader by example. When I first saw him, I thought he was going to be a guard. But I saw him throw the ball and that was it. I was excited to see what he could do. I was impressed with his football IQ.”
And in the Vikings’ second game of the season, the loss to Secaucus, Rivas showed exactly what he could do. He completed 29 of 41 passes for an astounding 442 yards and five touchdowns and added an additional 49 yards on the ground and one more score. The 442 yards represented the highest passing yardage total of any quarterback in the entire state.
So even though it was in a setback, Rivas has been selected as The Observer Athlete of the Week for the past week.
Incredibly, exactly 10 of Rivas’ completions went to receiver Jaivon Aquino for 266 yards and three touchdowns – numbers that might have been good enough for AOW honors on their own if not for his teammate.
Despite the 31-0 loss to Becton Regional last Friday night, Borkowski remains steadfast to his junior signal caller.
“He puts the time in all the time,” Borkowski said. “He’s the first one to practice and the last one to leave. He has a lot of natural talent. I really think he’s capable of more. He is completing 60 percent of his passes. As everyone continues to get better, so will Devin.”
Borkowski said that he doesn’t discourage his quarterback to run the ball.
“He’s more like Cam Newton than Michael Vick,” Borkowski said. “He’s not going to get jiggy with the ball, but he will put his head down and get the extra yard. He wants to win more than anything. I know he’s going to continue to work hard and be a leader. He’s vocal with the kids on the field, but he’s quiet with us.”
Rivas will continue to train with Phil and Matt Simms, going to both the Parisi complex and to a municipal field in the Simms’ home of Franklin Lakes.
“It’s crazy,” Rivas said. “It doesn’t feel real when I’m there. The first time I met Phil, I was really nervous, but I picked it up a lot. Now I’m comfortable with it. I know that if I keep going, I’ll see Phil more.”
Borkowski knows Rivas is a good leader.
“He’s very humble,” Borkowski said. “I know he’s very disappointed we haven’t won. That’s his main focus. He wants to win more than anything.”
“We’re almost there,” Rivas said. “I think we just have to keep putting in the work.”
North Arlington junior quarterback Devin Rivas. 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.”