Michael Santini and Christopher Lopez are the best of friends.
“I don’t consider him a friend,” Lopez said. “I consider him family. He’s my brother from another mother.”
“Whatever I do, he’s right next to me,” Santini said. “We’re always together.”
Santini and Lopez are juniors at North Bergen High School and are both key members of the Bruins’ football squad. The two buddies have played together since their Pop Warner youth football days, with the Red Raiders.
Santini had no choice but to be a football standout, because his grandfather was the immortal coach Vince Ascolese, who was the legendary long-time head coach of the Bruins for almost 40 years and guided the Bruins to seven NJSIAA state championships.
The two friends play on a field that is named after Ascolese, who died in December of 2014.
“Every time I walk out onto that field, I go over to the sign with his name, get down on one knee and ask him to watch over me,” Santini said. “I try to play greater for him.”
So recently, on New Year’s Eve, the two friends went to Geoffrey Santini’s place of business, a trucking firm owned by Michael’s father where the two teenagers work from time to time.
It was right in the middle of that stinging cold front, when the temperatures struggled to get to the freezing level. It was horribly frigid.
“Me and my father saw a scared, cold dog,” Michael Santini said. “We wanted to make sure that the dog was cared for.”
Obviously, the dog was not. And the Rottweiler/German Shepherd mix puppy was not alone. There were three, two male puppies and a female, all under a year old.
The Santinis, along with Lopez, are volunteers in the North Bergen Department of Animal Control, so they knew what they had to do. The North Bergen Police were also called into action to assist in the situation.
Two of the puppies were secured, but the third was a little hard to handle.
“Chris and I went into the woods to try and catch him,” said Santini, who is a two-time honoree on the Hudson Reporter All-Area Football team in the fall. “We wanted to make sure the dog was safe. But it was so cold and it got dark, so it was tough to get him.”
“That last puppy was elusive,” Lopez said. “It was a cold night. I was worried for the dog.”
The contingent set up a cage complete with blankets and food, hoping that the puppy would seek warmth and shelter in the cage.
Sure enough, the third puppy somehow climbed into the cage and was rescued.
The three dogs, obviously abandoned because no one has called the North Bergen Police Department to ask about their whereabouts, were taken to St. Hubert’s Shelter in Madison, where the puppies, believed to be about nine months old, will be treated and set up for adoption.
The best friends and football players together did something great together, saving the lives of those three puppies. The attention that the story gained was amazing, as crews from FOX5 News in New York and News12 in New Jersey came to interview them. Newspapers also asked for interviews. It received mention on ESPN SportsCenter.
“I never thought it would blow up like that,” Lopez said. “It was crazy. But people kept saying that we did a great thing. I had no idea. It’s a great feeling. Nothing could compare to it.”
Santini is always displaying acts of kindness. When first attempted to be reached for an interview here, he was busy shoveling the walkways of needy North Bergen senior citizens.
“We do that every snow day,” Santini said. “The elderly need us. It’s an awesome feeling being able to help.”
“Every moment I spend with Mike is special,” Lopez said. “Every moment I make with him I cherish. I’ll always remember doing this.”
So will a lot of other people in North Bergen. It was a job well done…
The New Jersey State Assembly passed a bill last week that will allow school districts to form cooperative sports programs in order to remain competitive, without the NJSIAA having any say in the matter.
The bill, which is now on Gov. Chris Christie’s desk to sign into law in the final days of his administration, will allow public high schools of any group classification in the same school district to form a cooperative program in any sport, if the district has a tough time fielding a competitive team because of declining participation.
The matter went to the state Assembly because last fall, West Windsor-Plainsboro North wanted to merge with West Windsor-Plainsboro South because North did not have enough football players to form a competitive team.
The NJSIAA would not allow the move, so the two programs suffered.
Now, with the new bill set to be signed into law by Christie, school districts are free to form cooperatives whenever they feel the need.
So don’t be surprised when the Jersey City school district decides to merge struggling football teams like Dickinson and Ferris into one better team. It could very well happen now…
There have been some interesting performances on the local high school basketball scene in recent weeks.
Hassan Farhat has been a main reason why Memorial is off to a 5-2 start. Farhat had 26 points and 13 rebounds in a win over Clifton and 14 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Kearny…
The talented Isaac Aguiar has landed in Union City after stops at two other schools. Aguiar had 20 points and 15 rebounds in a win over McNair Academic, had 17 points and 14 rebounds in a win over Orange and 17 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots in a win over Hillside…
Hudson Catholic may own a 4-3 record in the early going, but the Hawks have been getting steady play from junior Danny Rodriguez, who had 10 points and 11 rebounds in one game and 13 points and 13 rebounds in a win over North Bergen…
And it’s hard to overlook the play of Lincoln’s sensational backcourt of Dante Darby and D.J. Henderson. Darby had 19 points and six steals in a win over Ferris and Henderson had 16 points, eight assists and seven steals in a win over Kearny…
On the girls’ side, Marist’s Breyanna Frazier continues to be a dominant force. Frazier had 19 points, five rebounds and four steals against Ferris and 21 points and10 rebounds in a game against St. Joseph Hill of New York…
Haylee Ramirez continues to be a standout for Hudson Catholic. Ramirez had 20 points, five assists and five steals in the Hawks’ big win over Bayonne…
Nyasia Mixson has emerged as the go-to player at Hoboken, evidenced by her 23-point performance against Union City and 16 points vs. Bayonne…
Jada Camacho of Dickinson scored the 1,000th point of her career last week in a game where she scored 17 points, grabbed eight rebounds and collected eight blocked shots against North Bergen. She also had a 29-point performance against McNair Academic…
And Amanda Ulrich has been nothing short of brilliant for Secaucus. The defending Hudson Reporter Player of the Year had 20 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and four steals in a win over Westwood and 21 points, eight steals and five assists in a win over Harrison…
Hudson Reporter Boys’ H.S. Basketball Top Five: 1. Hudson Catholic (4-3). 2. St. Peter’s Prep (6-1). 3. Lincoln (5-2). 4. Union City (7-1). 5. Dickinson (6-2)…
Hudson Reporter Girls’ H.S. Basketball Top Five: 1. Secaucus (8-1). 2. Lincoln (8-1). 3. Hudson Catholic (7-1). 4. Marist (7-3). 5. Hoboken (6-2). – Jim Hague.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.