Somick grew up around North Bergen football from his Pop Warner days as a youngster, then eventually emerged as a player on the North Bergen varsity, playing for a legend like the late master Vince Ascolese.
Somick then cut his teeth as a long-time assistant coach, patiently working his way up the coaching chain and last year, he fulfilled a life-long dream when he was elevated to the position of head coach.
Somick enjoyed a fine first season as head coach, guiding the Bruins to a 7-3 record and leading his team back to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group V state playoffs, earning Hudson Reporter Coach of the Year honors.
But before Somick could even start to begin to think about the 2018 season, his team was dealt a severe blow, when David Drouet, a two-time Hudson Reporter All-Area honoree, decided to transfer to DePaul Catholic for his senior year.
It was an ill-advised move by Drouet, who once left North Bergen to attend Don Bosco Prep, only to come back to his home district school when long-time Don Bosco head coach Greg Toal was unceremoniously removed from his position.
Drouet seemed to be entrenched in his role with the Bruins, playing in the same backfield with his childhood buddy Michael Santini. But Drouet suffered a season-ending injury after the fifth game of the 2017 season and then decided to leave the Bruins for what he perceived to be greener pasture in Wayne with DePaul.
Drouet has to now sit out the first four games of his senior year due to the NJSIAA’s transfer rule. After already having missed out on five games last year due to injury, Drouet will now miss out on four more chances to play high school football, opportunities that the young man will never be able to recapture for the rest of his football playing days.
Somick doesn’t want to talk much about the loss of Drouet, who rushed for 747 yards and 11 touchdowns last year in just five games last year and had 827 yards and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore for the Bruins.
“Honestly, we don’t dwell on it,” Somick said. “We don’t even think of it. We think we have a good football team without him. We maintain the idea that we’re moving forward and play the kind of football that Bruins are capable of playing. We are still going to focus on the run game.”
Somick likes the idea that he has a veteran group, a conclave of grid warriors who have been doing the same thing as a unit for a long time.
“We have a good group of seniors and that’s a good place to start,” Somick said. “The confidence should be there. We can be even more successful this year. These kids have been winners their whole lives. They just have to stay in rhythm and keep doing what they do. I hate to say that it’s a robotic approach, but that’s the way we play.”
Leading the way is senior tailback Santini (5-10, 205), who collected 625 yards and 10 touchdowns in a secondary role behind Drouet, but will be the main focus like he was after Drouet’s injury last season. Santini comes from excellent stock, because he is the grandson of the late legend Ascolese. Although his grandfather is gone now, the legacy lives on with his uncles and cousins who all played the game and played it well.
“He’s a solid player,” Somick said of the workhorse Santini. “He’s a hard-nosed bull of a back who runs hard and gains positive yardage every time he touches the ball.”
Santini is also a strong pass catcher coming out of the backfield and is a devastating blocker.
The talent in the Bruins’ backfield doesn’t stop with the grandson of the legend.
Senior Chris Angulo (5-9, 195) is a proven commodity who also runs hard with the ball, blocks well and does everything the right way.
“He’s another hard-nosed, solid football player,” Somick said.
Senior Eddie Merino (5-6, 205) also returns from last season and he found the end zone twice.
Maybe the most explosive of the bunch is senior Sebastian Herrera (6-0, 180), the track and field star who dazzled last spring as a hurdler. Herrera might be able to hurdle over defenders this season on the gridiron.
“He’s the one who can break the big run,” Somick said.
Needless to say, there’s a lot of talent in the Bruin backfield.
The quarterback is senior Thomas Liggio (6-2, 185), who saw limited action last year, but has all the tools to be a very good one. He also comes from a football family. His grandfather is former Hudson County Freeholder Tom Liggio, who played football at the University of Notre Dame.
“He throws the ball real well,” Somick said. “He runs a little, but he throws a nice deep ball. I think he’s going to have a good year for us.”
Liggio’s top target will be senior Jaylon Melendez (6-0, 175), who shapes up to be one of the top pass catchers in Hudson County this year.
“He has very good hands and runs the fade patterns well,” Somick said. “He’s a good receiver for Tommy.”
The other receiver is senior Kevin Precinal (6-0, 185). Sophomore Justin Fermin (5-11, 185) is the tight end.
“He’s the only sophomore among the starters,” Somick said. “He’s a strong kid who has good feet. He used to be a fullback, so that helps him with his feet.”
The offensive line has decent size and skills.
Senior Sebastian Perez (6-1, 265) is a returning starter at tackle along with senior Nick Huntt (6-3, 260), who had a sensational breakthrough season as a wrestler last winter.
Somick has three guards who will see playing time in seniors Brandon Rodriguez (5-11, 235), Joshua Acevedo (5-11, 265) and Stefano Velorio (5-10, 250), who was a starter last year.
“Stefano is a good sweep blocker who leads well,” Somick said of Velorio, who is the Bruins’ best offensive lineman. The center is senior Christopher Lopez (6-0, 215), who was the starter at tight end last year.
The Bruins play a 3-4 defensive set, with Merino at the nose guard and Rodriguez at defensive end. Angulo and Herrera are the outside linebackers, with Santini (a Hudson Reporter All-Area selection the last two seasons on defense) and Acevedo at linebacker.
The cornerbacks are senior David Pinedo (5-8, 160) and junior Elijah Aviles (5-8, 160), with Melendez and senior Felipe Ogando (6-2, 175) at safety. Ogando, another track and field standout, is also a reserve at wide receiver.
The Bruins were slated to open their season last Friday night against Bloomfield.
“We could have a very good season,” Somick said. “We’re thinking that way. We have a pretty good shot to do well. The key is staying healthy.”
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com. You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com.