Lou Taglieri knows that the 2009 high school football season was an aberration for the Red Wings of Hoboken High School. As the head coach for the last six seasons, an assistant for a decade prior and as a former Red Wing player himself, Taglieri is aware that Hoboken doesn’t produce 3-7 campaigns often, like the one that occurred a year ago. The Mile Square City is accustomed to winning early and often come football season.
“I understand the tradition of Hoboken football and 3-7 is just not the status quo,” Taglieri said. “I didn’t like having that taste in my mouth. I think the kids didn’t like it. I know what people were saying. They were saying, ‘At 3-7, what were you doing?’ I know what people were thinking. But we lost six linemen in the first two weeks of practice. We had to play with freshmen and sophomores and that was unheard of. We couldn’t recover from the injury bug. We lost the first two games to good teams [Sparta and Cedar Grove] and were struggling from there.”
Taglieri almost stepped away from the head coaching responsibilities in the off-season. He had offers to become an assistant coach at other schools. But he thought about it and thought some more.
“I still think I’m going to be able to be a positive influence and help kids,” Taglieri said. “It wasn’t in my makeup to walk away. I just had to shake the trees a little bit in the school and hope that a few more football players fell out.”
Taglieri feels he’s done that and more. The Red Wings are a year older, a year more experienced and have received assistance from the demise of other local programs in terms of transfers.
“There’s enough talent here,” Taglieri said. “We just have to be able to get the kids to believe in themselves. The quicker they do, the better they can be. But absolutely, I know we’re going to be a better team this year. Without a doubt, we’re much improved.”
Leading the returnees is senior fullback/linebacker Jason Montalvo (5-11, 185), who has been a varsity player for the Red Wings for all four of his seasons and is the final link to the 2008 team that played for the Group I state championship.
Montalvo has shown moments of brilliance over the last two years, but has not been able to stay healthy, much like a lot of the Red Wing players. Montalvo had off-season shoulder surgery, but has recovered fully.
“He played three-quarters of the season last year with the shoulder problem and was never really 100 percent healthy,” Taglieri said. “But he is now. Without a doubt, he’s one of the best backs in the county.”
Junior Spencer Perez (6-0, 170) is the Red Wings’ starter at quarterback. Perez was strictly a safety last year as a sophomore, but he has made the step up to be the top signal caller.
“He’s a diversified Wing-T quarterback,” Taglieri said. “He’s going to give us a little more and give us a few more options.”
Senior Daquan Stewert (6-1, 180) is the starter at halfback. Taglieri has a ton of depth to play any of the back positions in the Wing-T offense, like senior Chris Morales (5-10, 190), and a trio of talented sophomores in Rahmein Herron (5-9, 175), Donte Carter (5-11, 180) and Daquan Peterson (5-9, 170), the son of assistant coach Doug Peterson and nephew of Hoboken grid legend Dwayne Peterson, one of the greatest running backs in the history of the school who once scored an astounding nine touchdowns in a single game in 1989.
So obviously the young Peterson comes from good stock and family lineage.
The main wide receiver is senior Delquan Groomes (6-0, 175) and the tight end is Tareek Montague (6-0, 190), who is a returning starter at that position.
The offensive line features returning senior starter Jalen Haynes (6-3, 250) at tackle, along with senior Peter Bishara (6-5, 305), who transferred to Hoboken when Dickinson eliminated its football program. Bishara was clearly the best two-way lineman last season at Dickinson.
The center is sophomore Andrew Mullins (5-11, 220), who started last year as a freshman. Senior Abel Hodge (5-11, 255) has transferred back to Hoboken from Queen of Peace in North Arlington, where he played two years for former Hoboken grid coach Ed Stinson. Hodge is at guard, along with junior Devin Lawrence (5-11, 210).
The defense will feature many of the same players from the Red Wing offense. Montague and Lawrence are at defensive end, with Haynes, Bishara, Hodge and sophomore Aaron Kirchoff (6-0, 220) all getting time at defensive tackle.
Montalvo returns to his slot at outside linebacker, where he’s been a mainstay over the last four seasons. Carter is the other Red Wing outside backer, with Morales and sophomore Gio Lerouix (5-10, 190) at the inside linebacker positions.
Groomes and Herron are the cornerbacks, with Perez and Stewert at safety.
The Red Wings were slated to begin their 2010 season Friday night against Memorial.
Taglieri knows that the Red Wings have to start the season this year better than they did a year ago.
“Last year, we shot ourselves each and every way we could,” Taglieri said. “We needed to stress in the off-season that we had to play for four quarters. We had to be better conditioned and had to be better prepared. It’s just the way it is. We need to come out and start with a win to keep the kids on board and focused. They seem like they understand that now.”
And as for the coach?
“Having a season like that makes you get the fire back,” Taglieri said. “I think we all have something to prove this season.”
Chances are that the Red Wings will have a return to glory in 2010. – Jim Hague Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.