It hasn’t been the easiest of football seasons for the Tigers of Memorial High School.
The season began with lopsided losses to Hoboken and St. Peter’s Prep by a combined score of 106-24.
Two weeks ago, there was a horrific 56-7 loss to the Soaring Eagles of Union City.
That’s enough losing and enough despair for anyone to endure in one season. One almost begins to feel sorry for a team that loses that much and by that much. It’s almost unfair.
But to the Tigers’ collective credit, there was no reason for sympathy. They weren’t about to quit.
“We have a 24-hour rule,” said senior wide receiver Jorge Ortez. “We think about the game for 24 hours and then it’s over with. None of anything else matters. We just move on to the next game.”
“We put those games behind us,” said fellow senior Bobby Bailey, the team’s quarterback. “After the game is over, we get over it and move on.”
It’s an attitude that invigorates head coach Oscar Guerrero.
There are a lot of losing football teams that might have folded up shop and focused on the end of the season. Not Guerrero’s team.
“We always treat every week as a separate week,” said Guerrero, who is in the fourth season as the head coach at his high school alma mater. “We just try to win that week. We learn from the other games and just move on. I think our kids are high character kids who work hard and don’t quit. They’re not winning or losing by a lack of effort. They try their best.”
He’s listed at 5-foot-8 and 185 pounds, but Bailey is considerably shorter and lighter. Yet, he takes constant pounding from opponents, gets up, dusts himself off and scampers back into the huddle.
“Bobby is everything,” Guerrero said. “He embodies everything you want in a quarterback. He doesn’t say much. He just keeps working hard. No one outworks him. He plays through pain and never complains. You pull for a kid like that.”
Bailey never worries about his size – or lack thereof. “I never look at it like that,” Bailey said. “I just play football. In fact, when people say I’m too small, that motivates me. I like being told I can’t play. Nothing is going to stop me.”
Guerrero said that Bailey has an intangible that can’t be seen through his orange and black uniform.
“I know the kind of heart that kid has,” Guerrero said. “You can’t measure his heart. He just has it. Some kids are taller and faster, but they’re not Bobby Bailey. No one plays as hard as he does. He has that intangible. It’s just the way the kid is wired. He’s just a tough kid.”
Bailey also has a fine receiver in Ortez. The two have been together for the last three seasons, so they know what each other is thinking, then doing.
“They are two of the toughest kids around,” Guerrero said. “They’re not the biggest kids, but neither backs down. “
Ortez likes the relationship he shares with Bailey.
“He knows where I’m at,” Ortez said of Bailey. “We have a good connection. He has trust in me that I’m going to catch the ball and I know he’s going to get it to me.”
“We’ve been like this for three years now,” Bailey said. “I trust in him more than any other player. I have a regular progression, but I always end up looking for him.”
The two definitely hooked up well last Friday night against Kearny. Bailey clicked on 11-of-15 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns, all to Ortez. He also rushed for two touchdowns on the ground. Ortez had seven receptions for 157 yards and the three touchdowns.
And the Tigers had a 33-6 victory to improve to 3-4 on the season. Throughout the tumult and turmoil of those tough losses, the Tigers are fighting to get their heads above water, with Bayonne as the final regularly scheduled game prior to the HCIAL crossover week.
Guerrero believes Ortez has enjoyed an All-Hudson County season.
“I think he’s had that caliber of a season,” Guerrero said. “He’s done some great things. He’s another kid who doesn’t say much. He’s never missed a workout in four years and puts the necessary time in. He also loves the sport.”
The players know that a win like the one they enjoyed last weekend makes up for the tough loss they endured against Union City two weeks ago.
“It’s always good to be a winner,” Ortez said. “It always feels good to come out, play hard and get a win. It’s always a reward for the hard work and for playing hard.”
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Bailey said. “I always feel like we deserve to win. If we come ready and we play hard, at the end of the day, we could be winners. I look at every game like we have a chance to win. I think we have a chance to put up points and win.”
Guerrero knows that his team deserves a week like they enjoyed last week.
“As a coach, you want to give your team a chance to reap the benefits of hard work,” Guerrero said. “It’s important for them to have that success on the field. It’s something you want to see every week.”
Unfortunately, that’s not the case for a team like Memorial, so the winning weeks have to be enjoyed and savored – that is, until the next chance to win comes along.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.