Matt Gallo certainly knows Hudson County football.
He’s a product of the famed Hoboken High School program, headed by the immortal Ed Stinson.
Gallo has served as an assistant coach at places like Harrison High School and Lincoln High School, establishing his vast knowledge of the game in both places.
And for a few seasons, Gallo was the head coach at St. Anthony before the school closed, leading the Friars to the NJSIAA Non-Public Group 2 state playoffs.
Now, Gallo is getting the chance to be a head coach once again, taking over the program at Snyder High School, replacing Ray Marshall, who has since moved on to Marist.
Gallo said he has not had a problem in transition, taking over for Marshall.
“My relationship with the players has been excellent,” Gallo said. “The kids all took to the organization that we have and the standards that we hold them to. I think kids tend to appreciate the discipline. The standards we have are standards. The players are required to be responsible young men with a certain level of toughness.”
Gallo has not changed his principles one iota from what he was with the Friars.
“It’s really not that much different to what we did at St. Anthony,” Gallo said. “I think I’ve been consistent. We believe in holding kids to an academic standard. Everyone is held to that academic standard. That’s very important. I’ve always believed, and this is coming from Coach Stinson, that the football field is an open-air classroom.”
Gallo has changed the look of the Tigers’ offense from a spread to the Delaware Wing-T that he learned under Stinson.
“The Wing-T requires more repetition,” Gallo said. “And that’s the mother of all learning. You really don’t figure out the offense until you master it. The Wing-T gets a reputation as a true high school offense. It requires a commitment to the run game. You have patience and you keep going.”
Leading the way is junior quarterback Corshon Cousins (6-1, 210).
“He’s in the process of learning the discipline that is required to be a Wing-T quarterback,” Gallo said. “He’s in the infancy stage of learning the offense, but he’s doing very well.”
One halfback is senior Jeremiah Chambers (6-1, 195), who has been moved to the backfield from receiver where he played last year.
Another halfback is junior Malachi Mallard (5-10, 175).
The workhorse will be senior returnee Malik Cooley (5-9, 210), who ironically played for Gallo at St. Anthony when he was a freshman, then transferred to Snyder.
“Cooley started for me as a center at St. Anthony,” Gallo said. “He has the leadership and the athletic ability to be a good running back. He has the understanding and the toughness you need there. He’s a good runner between the tackles.”
Sophomore Hezekiah Daise-Adams (6-0, 170) is the team’s wide receiver.
Senior Donnell White (6-0, 200) is another player who once played for Gallo with the Friars.
“Donnell was a St. Anthony kid who played guard for me,” Gallo said. “He was very selfless and is now in his natural position as a tight end. He is a very good leader. He remembers the technique needed in our blocking scheme and that has been very helpful to us.”
The offensive line features some kids who played there a year ago.
Senior Malachi Simmons (6-2, 240) is a tackle who started for the Tigers in that position last year. The same can be said for senior center Christopher Bando (5-11, 250) and senior guard Ibrahem Husain (5-11, 220).
The returnees on the line are joined by junior tackle Jonathan Dale (6-0, 200) and junior center Najawon Johnson (6-0, 250).
“Our line play is more about movement and these kids can move pretty well,” Gallo said.
The Tigers will use a 4-2-5 defensive front.
White, who is one of the best two-way players in the county, will be at defensive end, along with senior Lakeem Dukes (6-0, 175). Dukes has been converted into a defensive end from outside linebacker, where he played last season.
Simmons and Bando are the defensive tackles.
“He’s one of the leaders,” Gallo said of Bando.
The linebackers are Cooley and Chambers, with junior Nhazeim McRae (5-11, 180) as a roving free safety/linebacker.
The cornerbacks are Mallard, a returning starter from last season, and Daise-Adams.
The safeties are Davion Hicks (5-9, 175) and Jawaun Smith (5-11, 165), both of whom are seniors.
The Tigers were scheduled to open their season on Friday, Sept. 6 at 7 p.m. in Lincoln Park.
They play again on Friday, Sept. 13, also at 7 p.m., also at Lincoln Park.
Gallo is glad to get another shot at being a head coach.
“I love it,” Gallo said. “It’s the passion of my life. We’re at the infancy of a massive culture change here. It’s going to take some time. It may take an entire year, but we’re going to change this culture.” – Jim Hague