The calendar year of 2011 brought a lot of major headlines for the local sports scene. There were championships of huge magnitude and there was the sadness that came with the passing of several top sports personalities.
Let’s take a look at the top 10 sports stories for 2011.
1. St. Anthony goes undefeated, wins T of C and national championship
It was yet another dream season for the fabulous Friars of St. Anthony, who won all 33 of their games, including a major showdown against St. Patrick of Elizabeth, a game that for the first time ever pitted the No. 1-ranked and No. 2-ranked teams in the country for the NJSIAA Non-Public B North championship at Rutgers University. The Friars entered that game as the No. 2 team, but soundly defeated the top-ranked and heavily favored Celtics, 62-45, to win that championship. Then they won the final three games of the season to earn the national title. Along the way, legendary coach Bob Hurley won the 1,000th game of his storied career.
2. North Bergen wins Group IV football state championship in miraculous fashion
It was an ending that even Hollywood moguls would reject as being too unbelievable if presented in a movie script. The North Bergen football team won the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV state championship by defeating heavily favored Montclair, 14-13. They won on the final play of the game in MetLife Stadium in the Meadowlands on a 22-yard touchdown pass from Sergio Rodriguez to Debray Tavarez. It was the final game of legendary coach Vince Ascolese’s 50-year career and came after the Bruins had won both of their playoff games in overtime.
3. Hudson County mourns the loss of several major sports personalities
Sadness prevailed throughout Hudson County during 2011 as several prominent sports people passed away. In April, the area said goodbye to a true Jersey City icon when Ed “The Faa” Ford, a longtime coach, instructor, and sports columnist, died. In October, West New York was saddened by the passing of long-time Memorial baseball coach Tony Ferrainolo, who earlier in the year had become the all-time leader in New Jersey baseball coaching victories. Former Snyder All-County basketball player Clarence “Boo-Bee” Richardson passed away at age 49. Beloved Dickinson athletic director Gennaro “Roddy” Maffia also passed on.
In a span of just two weeks, basketball legends and brothers George and Danny Waddleton both passed away. Longtime grid coach and Hall of Fame football player Bill Gargiulo also passed on. Weehawken’s most prominent coach, “The Big Laddie,” Howard Wolf, died as well.
4. Snyder’s Thomas, Prep’s Glass repeat as Meet of Champions gold medal winners
In 2010, it was newsworthy when two Hudson County athletes captured gold medals in the NJSIAA outdoor Meet of Champions. Snyder’s Zamir Thomas and St. Peter’s Prep’s Najee Glass won their respective events – Thomas the 200-meter dash, and Glass the 400-meter run. But the idea of the pair actually repeating as state champs was unthinkable, especially when Thomas was battling injuries and was actually unable to compete in the county championships. But in June, both athletes and friends managed to repeat the feat and won those same events. It had never happened before that two Hudson County track athletes repeated as state champions in the same year.
5. Prep’s Fox wins the NJSIAA state wrestling championship
Before last season, there were only two Hudson County wrestlers who ever won a state championship, namely John Bott of North Bergen in the 1980s and David Cordoba of Kearny in the 1990s. But James Fox of St. Peter’s Prep made it three in 2011, when the multi-talented Fox, also a great football player, won the 189-pound state title in Atlantic City, capping an undefeated season. Fox is now wrestling at Harvard University.
6. St. Peter’s College wins MAAC title, heads to NCAA Tournament
The Peacocks of St. Peter’s College entered the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament in early March as the fourth seed, but they defeated both top seeds, Fairfield and Iona, to win the third MAAC title in the school’s history and earned their first berth to the NCAA Tournament since 1995. The upstart Peacocks then went to Chicago to face Purdue in the first round and gave it a game effort before falling to the Boilermakers. But it was a solid season all around for Coach John Dunne and the Peacocks, making a little school history.
7. Prep wins fourth straight Hudson County basketball championship
The Marauders of St. Peter’s Prep won their fourth straight Hudson County title, defeating Marist in the title game. It meant that three Marauder seniors, Kevin Walker, Keith Lumpkin, and Chase Fluellen, won county titles in all four years at Grand and Warren. After the season, Head Coach Mike Kelly, a Jersey City police lieutenant, stepped down from his position, turning over the program to top Assistant Coach Todd Decker.
8. Dickinson’s Veras enjoys a remarkable senior season
It will be hard to top the senior year that Hudson Reporter Male Athlete of the Year Jose Veras enjoyed. In cross country, he won the Jersey City, South Hudson and Hudson County Track Coaches Association championships, finished sixth at the NJSIAA North 2, Group IV championships, and was 34th overall in Group IV.
In indoor track, Veras won the HCTCA gold medals in the 55-meter hurdles, the long jump, the high jump, and the 800-meter run. In the North 2, Group IV championships he won the hurdles, the high jump, and the 800-meter run. He finished third overall in the 800-meter run and fourth overall in the high jump at the NJSIAA Meet of Champions.
In outdoor track, he won the HCTCA championships in the 110-meter high hurdles, 400-meter intermediate hurdles, the 800-meter run, and the high jump, setting new meet records in the two hurdles races and the 800. He won the 1,600-meter run in the Jersey City meet as well as both hurdles races.
At the NJSIAA North 2, Group IV sectionals, he won the 400-meter hurdles, the 400-meter run (an event he hardly ever ran), the 800-meter run, and the high jump. He won the overall Group IV 800-meter gold medal and was second in the high jump and competed in three events at the Meet of Champions, finishing fourth in the 400-meter hurdles. It may be the best overall year in the history of Hudson County track and field.
9. Hoboken wins county baseball title in Matthews’ final year
It was a great run at the end of the baseball season for the Hoboken Red Wings, who went from a bottom rung team in the regular Hudson County season to win the Hudson County Tournament championship in thrilling fashion. They scored two runs in the top of the seventh inning to topple North Bergen in the title game. Pitcher Kenny Roder had a dream season, leading the Red Wings to the title. Long-time head coach Buddy Matthews announced his retirement soon after the title game.
10. NJCU wins the NJAC championship and head to NCAA Division III tourney
The Gothic Knights of New Jersey City University pulled off the unthinkable by capturing the New Jersey Athletic Conference men’s basketball championship, defeating Montclair State in the final game. It capped a great run for coach Marc Brown’s squad, who won 13 of their last 14 games to get to their first NJAC championship and berth in the NCAA Division III tournament since 2004.
There were other big stories in the past year that just missed making the Top 10.
• St. Anthony basketball standout Kyle Anderson announced his intention to play at UCLA.
• The McNair Academic cross country team won their first-ever NJSIAA state sectional championship.
• Formula One auto racing announced plans to hold a race on the streets of West New York and Weehawken.
• Jersey City firefighter Kevin McSorley earned a right to qualify for the U.S. Open golf tournament.
• Jersey City native Bryan Haczyk was invited to the New Jersey Devils’ rookie camp and earned a spot on the Devils’ minor league roster.
• Secaucus’ Shannon Waters was named the Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year.
• Former local grid standouts Kenny Britt and Will Hill ran afoul of the law.
• St. Peter’s Prep won the Hudson County Soccer Tournament, the first time since 2005.
• St. Mary’s High School in Jersey City closed its doors, ending its storied athletic history.
To read more of the 2011 Year in review click HERE.