A year ago, Corey Fitch was an undersized junior at Union City High School, but Fitch just wasn’t talented enough to be part of the Soaring Eagles’ varsity football roster.
So Fitch was relegated to the Soaring Eagles’ junior varsity, even though he was part of the junior class.
A lot of other kids might have taken the demotion as a slap in the face and reason to walk away from the game for good.
But not Fitch.
In fact, getting sent down to the JV just might have been a blessing in disguise for Fitch, who stands 6-foot-3, but weighs only 165 pounds.
“I used it as motivation,” Fitch said. “I knew I had to show people what I could really do. I focused on the field. I’ve been playing the game since I was eight years old. I had to make my senior year as my best year.”
But before he could get going this year, Fitch suffered a setback over the summer when he suffered a dislocated elbow.
Throughout his career in Union City, Fitch was really a player without a true position.
“When I was younger, I played running back,” Fitch said about his days with the Union City Youth Football Program. “But I stopped playing running back my freshman year and I started playing wide receiver and safety.”
But Union City head coach Wilber Valdez was not sure that Fitch had found his niche.
“We didn’t know where he fit,” Valdez said. “We saw just how big he is and we knew he could run. He was a little awkward. But his number one asset was his speed.”
So Valdez decided that maybe Fitch could play defensive end.
“He had a good get off the ball and we knew he had the speed,” Valdez said. “He worked really hard at being a defensive end and he’s more athletic at defensive end than most others. He’s legitimately the fastest kid on the team. We tried to put some weight on him over the summer, but he just couldn’t put on a pound.”
How fast was Fitch? How does running the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds sound? That was a number that was certainly eye-popping to the Soaring Eagles’ coaching staff.
“I knew that I was getting faster and faster,” Fitch said. “But when I saw 4.56, I was really surprised. I didn’t think I was that fast. Coach Valdez and Coach Isaac [Flores] always told me that I had potential. I took the job of being a defensive end personal. I just kept going out there and doing my job.”
In Fitch’s first start as a defensive end against Passaic, he collected an astounding three sacks. He had another sack in the Soaring Eagles’ second game, a loss to Irvington, a game where Fitch also collected eight tackles.
The confidence continued to rise and little by little, Fitch made his ascent into contention for the program’s all-time single sack leader.
“I never thought I had a shot for that,” Fitch said. “I had no idea what the number was. I figured it had to be over 10. To get that number would be tremendous.”
Sure enough, Fitch registered his 12th sack last week, topping the record of 11 set by Jacob Gonzalez.
So the kid who was a JV player last year, a kid without a true position, has now taken his place in the Union City record books.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Valdez said. “He’s having an exceptional year in his only year of varsity football. This shows his grit and determination. I think we always knew he could play, but he just needed to find a position.”
Valdez found himself rooting for Fitch to excel.
“He’s a quiet kid and he’s very humble,” Valdez said. “He found something that he’s good at. He goes after the quarterback and gets out on the edge to make plays. Am I shocked with what he’s done? Yeah, a little bit, but I just had to get him a spot at the table because he truly deserved it. And now he’s had a great season.”
The 5-4 Soaring Eagles were set to face 7-1 Ridge in the opening round of the NJSIAA North Jersey Group V state playoffs Friday night…
Once again, the Hoboken rushing attack was lethal in a 46-13 victory over Newark Collegiate last Friday night. With Nyjon Freeman and Kyrin Rhone in the backfield together, it brings back memories of when head coach Keeon Walker was a player himself. Freeman had 13 carries for 165 yards and two touchdowns. Rhone had 116 yards on 10 carries and also scored two TDs. The 5-3 Red Wings are headed to 6-2 New Milford for the first round of the state playoffs…
Well, at this time of year, namely the football state playoffs, a special prognosticator appears. Yes, once again, the Great Hagueini is back to make his picks for the NJSIAA playoffs this weekend. The wide one with the turban and crystal ball is ready to make a lot of local fans angry with his picks, but remember, do not use these selections for any monetary wagering, unless it’s for a bologna and cheese on white bread and a diet Dr. Pepper with your Uncle Looie.
Union City (5-4) at Ridge (7-1): The Soaring Eagles have a tough task going to central Jersey and taking on the Red Devils, but their uniform colors are green and white. Go figure. But Ridge gets the job done. Ridge 21, Union City 14.
Hoboken (5-3) at New Milford (6-2): The Red Wings’ rushing attack is on a roll lately. It continues here. Hoboken 35, New Milford 14.
Lincoln (5-4) at Camden (6-2): The Lions qualify once again for the state playoffs, but as a reward, they get a two and a half hour bus ride to Camden. Ewww. Camden 26, Lincoln 20.
Bayonne (5-4) at Ridgewood (6-2): The Bees got in the Group 5 state playoffs this year after getting the short end of the stick last year. And the Bees got a little lucky, because it looked as if they were going to get undefeated Union in the first round and got two-loss Ridgewood instead. It was a good year just to get in. Ridgewood 42, Bayonne 13.
Immaculata (4-5) at Hudson Catholic (3-6): Even with the 3-6 record, the Hawks qualify and get a home game, the lone home game in Hudson County this weekend. The Hawks are battle tested and had some tough losses early. They recover here. Hudson Catholic 20, Immaculata 12.
So there’s the first edition of the Great Hagueini’s picks. If you’re wondering, St. Peter’s Prep received a bye in the first round, even after losing to St. Joseph Regional of Montvale last weekend, 24-6. Let’s see how Hagueini does…
And lastly, the first Hudson County Sports podcast is up on YouTube. It’s a great hour-long trip down Memory Lane with Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Hurley. If you haven’t heard it yet, click this link: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGoMMq9O7dE.
A new podcast will be up on YouTube sometime next week with special guest Lincoln head coach Robert Hampton. So go to YouTube, check for Podcast with Coach Hampton, see the Hudson County Sports logo and enjoy.—Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com.