After coaching St. Anthony to a successful four-year run, Sean Fallon wanted a change, a different perspective.
The former Hudson Reporter Coach of the Year in 2009, Fallon left St. Anthony after last season in search of higher ground.
Fallon found it at the highest point in all of Hudson County geography, the hallowed hills of Dickinson.
The Hoboken native has taken over the role as head coach of the fledgling Dickinson football program, which was discontinued after the 2010 season, only to be brought back as a junior varsity program last year.
The driving force behind the restoration was former Ram standout Carlos Rodriguez, but he was not brought back to lead the program this year.
Enter Fallon, who wanted a chance to coach again locally and take over the program while it is still on the junior varsity level.
“It was like starting over for me,” Fallon said. “I remember when I was in high school, Dickinson was always very good. The fact that they dropped it shocked me. The last year they had football , we shared a practice field with them [at Gateway Field] and I always thought they had some good players. I was really shocked when they dropped the program.”
Fallon was intrigued at the chance of coaching Dickinson.
“When I decided to leave St. Anthony, I heard Carlos was leaving Dickinson,” Fallon said. “I’m good friends with [Dickinson athletic director] Rich Nisbet. We did a lot of things together when I was the AD at St. Anthony. It’s probably the main reason why I was interested, because of my relationship with Rich.”
However, Fallon soon realized that coaching at Dickinson wasn’t going to be like coaching at St. Anthony.
“When I walked in at St. Anthony, we had a lot of good players,” Fallon said. “So this was a chance to see if I was a good coach or did I just have good players.”
When Fallon first convened the members of his football program at Dickinson, he didn’t have enough to field a team.
“We had only eight kids there,” Fallon said. “I thought we’d have well over 50 kids and we would be raring to go.”
But Fallon soon found out that the majority of the players who participated in football last year at Dickinson were seniors and had now graduated.
“They wanted so bad to bring it back that they had seniors playing JV [junior varsity],” Fallon said. “We had to rebuild it the right way.”
Fallon knew that the task at hand was not going to be an easy one.
“It was rough at first,” Fallon said. “After the first meeting, we had younger kids trickle in. Just getting the word out brought out more kids that were interested.”
Sure enough, by the time the first practice sessions were organized over the summer, Fallon had the makings of a football team.
He did keep around two seniors who were so interested in making sure the program stayed alive. Running back/defensive back Deray Gaskin and defensive back/placekicker Mark Crespo wanted to remain with the program, even though they knew that they would have limited chances to play on a JV level.
“They understood,” Fallon said. “They give us leadership. I explained to them the purpose of the program and they wanted to stay. They are good, hard-working kids.”
But the bottom line was that Fallon had to return to his roots – which meant coaching fundamentals.
“This was real coaching,” Fallon said. “We had to teach these kids how to play.”
Fallon had help from Tony Rossillo, his former assistant at St. Anthony. Rossillo was elevated to the head coaching position at St. Anthony last spring and held the position for a brief stint, before the school decided to replace Rossillo with Ed Stinson.
“Tony is a great guy and a big help to me,” Fallon said.
Fallon was encouraged with the talent level.
“It was much better than I thought,” Fallon said. “We have five freshmen that are starting for us. We do have a few kids who never played football before, but that’s fine, because we have kids who are going to be with us for three or four years.”
And Fallon is definitely pointing toward the future.
“No question, we have a future,” said Fallon, whose team will play a full varsity schedule next year. “We’ve already had three varsity games this year.”
The Rams are 2-1 in those varsity games, losing to Nazareth of New York, then defeating Collegiate Academy of Newark and Cardinal McCarrick of South Amboy.
Fallon likes the makeup of his team. The Rams are led by sophomore quarterback Stephon Sanders.
“He’s a little undersized,” Fallon said. “He reminds me of my former quarterback at St. Anthony Sylvester Wright. He runs the [Delaware] Wing-T well and runs the ball well.”
Sophomore Jacquel Gray is the Rams’ fullback.
“He’s our best running back,” Fallon said. “He’s playing well and picking up the offense pretty well. He does have some experience.”
Junior Daniel Taylor is the halfback.
“He’s a tough runner, a smaller sized running back,” Fallon said. “He ran track in the spring, so he’s one of the most athletic kids we have. I can’t keep him off the field.”
Taylor also plays safety on defense.
Sophomore Elias Andino is a two-way lineman, playing guard and defensive tackle.
“By far, he’s our best lineman,” Fallon said. “He’s a product of the Jersey City Recreation program.”
Sophomore Juan Munoz is the Rams’ tight end.
“He also plays basketball, so he’s very athletic,” Fallon said. “He runs well and catches the ball well. I think he has a lot of potential. He’s also a linebacker and our punter. I think he’s a legit, solid player.”
Fallon admits that the program is a complete work in progress.
“It’s been very humbling,” Fallon said. “The first time at St. Anthony, I was just coaching football all the time. I was fortunate to have some really good players. But this is a different feeling, a different experience. I have to explain everything, like the difference between offense and defense. The other day, we had a punt drill and I had to explain when to go after the ball and when to stay away from it. Most of these kids had no idea. So it’s teaching football more than coaching. I don’t have many kids who played football growing up. They’re all basically new to the game. But it’s been fun, teaching kids how to play.”
And obviously, Fallon is in it for the long haul. He was recently hired as a teacher at Dickinson, so he could be closer to the players throughout the day.
“It’s definitely a challenge, but I’m really beginning to like it,” Fallon said.
And frankly, that’s what coaching football is all about.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.