Before the 2012 high school football season began, Hoboken head coach Lou Taglieri wondered about the youth of his team.
“I thought we had a huge learning curve,” Taglieri said. “Every day isn’t a great day here. Our practices are never the same. It’s a roller coaster here. It’s definitely not easy. We have to worry about kids being kids. We have to worry about study hall and eligibility and keeping kids here before we even worry about football. The last thing we do as coaches is coach football.”
But Taglieri had faith in his seniors, the ones who had survived the tough times at Hoboken.
“The credit has to go to the seniors on the team,” Taglieri said. “After we lost to Verona [a 16-13 loss Sept. 14], the seniors made a promise that it would never happen again. They learned from that loss and realized that they can’t just play one half of football. They have to learn to finish games.”
Since the loss to Verona, the Red Wings have not lost, winning four straight.
“The seniors are living up to their promise,” Taglieri said. “Guys like Donte Carter, Jeffrey Herron and Daquan Peterson are playing and acting like senior leaders.”
The Red Wings were definitely challenged over the last two weeks, facing Lincoln and St. Anthony, two teams that were undefeated at the time they faced the Red Wings. Both teams are no longer undefeated, because the Red Wings first knocked off Lincoln, 34-14, then defeated St. Anthony, 27-20, to win at least a share of the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic League-American Division title.
“To beat two teams like that back-to-back is impressive,” said Taglieri, whose team now owns a fine 5-1 record. “Those are two very good football teams. They’ve played well. About 95 percent of our kids go both ways, so we were a little concerned with getting worn down. But we were confident in our preparation. The wins were big.”
The two big wins have given the Red Wings a huge lead in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I power point standings. The Red Wings now sit atop the standings with a whopping 93 points, 20 points ahead of runner-up New Providence.
“The good thing is that we’re already in the playoffs,” Taglieri said. “With that many points, there isn’t a team that’s going to knock us out. We’re in already. I don’t know where we’ll be seeded or where we’ll play, but we’re in.”
More than likely, the Red Wings will spend the first two rounds of the state playoffs within the humble confines of JFK Stadium in the Mile Square City. They’ll get to host their own version of “Friday Night Lights” in Hoboken for the state playoffs.
“It’s amazing how the kids are working hard and trying,” Taglieri said. “They have a good feeling about themselves. They’re playing with excitement and enthusiasm. That’s what we like to see.”
Leading the way has been senior running back Carter, who isn’t having the superstar season he had last year with 1,200-plus yards and 25 touchdowns, but he’s still the Red Wings’ go-to back.
“I don’t think he’s taken a step back,” Taglieri said of Carter, who had 185 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns in the win over St. Anthony last week. “I think he’s a better player. The statistics might not show it, but I think he’s a better all-around player. He shows up every day, never complains about anything and responds to what we tell him. He’s been a little banged up with an ankle injury, so that hasn’t helped, but he’s there all the time. I think he’s matured a lot and doesn’t have to worry about being the only one back there. That’s what having a senior backfield will do for you.”
Rahmein Herron, the Hudson Reporter Athlete of the Week last week, has also been contributing to the Red Wings’ rushing attack, along with Peterson.
“It really helps when you have seniors in the backfield,” Taglieri said. “Our skilled players are seniors. I never have a problem with our skilled players.”
The quarterback is diminutive Dante Bass, who has really developed into a solid field general.
“He’s getting better, game to game,” Taglieri said. “He’s been able to hit a big pass when we need it, but he makes sure he handles the ball and distributes the ball.”
Taglieri has also been impressed with his team’s defensive efforts.
“They’ve been doing a good job,” Taglieri said. “They held a good St. Anthony team in check for the most part and did a great job against Lincoln, holding that offense to just 14 points. The defense has been improving week-to-week. I like our defense.”
The Red Wings have regular season games against Snyder this weekend, then will play host to a solid Morris County team in Jefferson, featuring a top quarterback J.R. Reese, the son of New York Giants general manager Jerry Reese.
Watching Reese play next Friday night is worth the price of admission itself. The southpaw is only a junior, but will get his fair share of college offers next year. The Falcons are 4-2 and will more than likely be headed for a berth in North Jersey Section 1, Group III, so that game will be a huge challenge to the Red Wings.
In any case, the Red Wings look like a championship caliber team, just like the ones Taglieri enjoyed in his first few seasons at Hoboken, back to the days in 2005 when Taglieri and the Red Wings enjoyed a 12-0 state championship season, an era when Taglieri won his first 21 games as a head coach.
Incredibly, this is Taglieri’s eighth season as the head coach. It seems like yesterday when the legendary Ed Stinson called the shots and Taglieri was a dutiful assistant. Now, for eight seasons, it’s been Taglieri’s program and the Red Wings are right in the thick of things again.
“It’s a good feeling, but the seniors deserve the credit,” Taglieri said. “It makes you feel good when you see it all come together.”
Just like old times.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.