Ruben Sanchez has his roots in football in Morris County. A native of Parsippany, he played for some great coaches like Jerry Moore and coached at Whippany Park under coach Don Morgenroth.
But recently, Sanchez spent his time in Jersey City, coaching and teaching at Dickinson High School.
After last season, when former head coach David Cruz stepped down after the Rams had to forfeit their last game against Union City because of a lack of players, one of the returning Rams, junior running back Isaiah Koomson approached Sanchez to see if he would be interested in taking over the program.
“Isaiah came up to me and practically begged me,” Sanchez said. “What was I supposed to do?”
Sanchez then threw his name into the ring to become the head coach and was given the position.
It’s not a dubious task, considering the Rams won only one game last season and forfeited the last game.
But Sanchez was excited for the challenge.
“Once the players found out that I had the job, they were into it,” Sanchez said. “They were getting other kids to buy into it and the numbers grew.”
At a recent practice, the Rams had 32 players in uniform, so things are definitely looking up.
“We got swimmers, we got baseball players,” Sanchez said. “We had a lot of new kids coming out. They’re doing a pretty good job of buying in.”
Sanchez said that he didn’t pay much attention to what players had what positions last year.
“We basically started from scratch,” Sanchez said. “We have only three kids who played big roles last year. The rest are all new faces. I really had no idea what the kids could or couldn’t do. We literally had tryouts for every position. We have a lot of different moving parts.”
The quarterback is senior Hashim Khan (6-0, 160).
“He started to play in the past, but had to quit because of family obligations,” Sanchez said. “But he’s been on board with us from the beginning and hasn’t missed a day. He can throw the ball and commands the offense. He has good reliability and is a true leader. He’s an extension of me in the truest form.”
The top running back is the aforementioned Koomson (5-8, 180).
“He’s our speed guy,” Sanchez said. “He’s our most versatile player. He can run with both power and speed. He gets it.”
Senior Eli Payton (5-9, 190) is another solid runner.
“He’s a downhill runner,” Sanchez said.
Sophomore Kayee Williams (5-11, 180) is a transfer from Snyder who can play right away at Dickinson. Williams is also in the Rams’ backfield.
“Kayee has a little bit of both speed and power,” Sanchez said. “I look for him to carry the load.”
Junior Dwayne Howell (5-6, 160) completes the Ram backfield.
“He’s our little speedster,” Sanchez said.
Senior Tyrone McManus (6-2, 200) does almost the unthinkable, moving from offensive tackle to wide receiver this year.
“He’s a kid I’ve known since he was a freshman,” Sanchez said. “He was a quarterback then, but broke his arm and missed the rest of the season. He then sprung up and came to me and said he wanted to be a tight end. So we had him run and he ran a 4.7 in the 40 [yard dash], so I figured he was fast enough to play receiver. His route running has been fantastic and I think he’s proven that we’ve made the right move putting him at receiver.”
Junior Bishop Nichols (6-2, 185) is another receiver. Nichols never played football before this year. He goes to Hoboken Charter School, but lives in Dickinson’s geographic district, so he can play with the Rams.
Junior Carlos Castillo (5-7, 145) is a baseball player who has become another Rams receiver this season.
Freshman Ivan Moreno (5-10, 145) is the final member of the Rams’ receiving corps.
The offensive line has some returning veterans.
Senior Joseph Fulgencio (6-1, 235) is a four-year starter on the Rams’ line. He was a guard last year that has now been moved to tackle, joining junior Youssef Eliwa (6-0, 200).
Senior Kevin Peguero (6-3, 315) is a holdover who plays guard this year, along with junior Rafael Pepin (6-4, 285), giving the Rams some nice size at the guard position.
The center is junior Jared Nunez (5-11, 215).
Defensively, the Rams use primarily a 3-4 set.
Peguero and Pepin are the defensive ends, flanking nose tackle Joseph Rivera, a 5-7, 200-pound freshman.
Payton and senior Justin Koroma (6-3, 185) are the outside linebackers, with Fulgencio and McManus on the inside.
The cornerbacks are Howell and sophomore Kenny Peguero (5-7, 185), the little brother of senior Kevin.
The safeties are Williams and Castillo.
The Rams begin play Sept. 14 at home against Belleville at Caven Point Cochrane Stadium at 1 p.m.
“I told the kids that in the fullest sense, this is a complete rebuild,” Sanchez said. “But I think we can be competitive.”
That would the first step in the positive for the Rams. – Jim Hague