The Bayonne High School football team posted a 5-5 record last season, which included a trip to the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group V state playoffs.
While the record wasn’t as rewarding as the 7-3 record the Bees enjoyed in 2018, that season ended without a trip to the playoffs, so making the states in 2019 was something to build from for fifth-year head coach Jason Acerra and his staff.
So when the Bees began plans for the 2020 season, those hopes began with another trip to the state playoffs – but then the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic through a wrench into those plans.
The NJSIAA will not have state playoffs this year due to the pandemic.
“We were disappointed,” Acerra said. “That was our goal to get back. We only have six seniors, but they were a little disappointed that we can only compete for a league title (the New Jersey Super Football Conference-Liberty White Division). We know that’s in front of us to compete in every game and to win as many as we can.”
Acerra admitted that the Bees were a little stymied by the two-week break mandated by the NJSIAA prior to getting back to practices in late September.
“We are a little behind from where we would like to be,” Acerra said. “I would guess that most teams are the same. We were still installing things and bringing in new things. But the kids are working hard every day after they’re getting everything thrown at them.”
One of the obstacles was the unseasonably cold weather one Saturday morning down at Don Ahern Veterans Memorial Stadium. It’s generally always cold along the Newark Bay and the wind is always swirling. But on this one Saturday, with the air temperatures around 45 degrees, the wind chill had to be below freezing – just two days after the weather was 82 degrees and sunny. Such is life with Bayonne football.
The team’s quarterback is senior Richard Gonzalez (5-10, 185), who has the dubious distinction of replacing Hudson Reporter All-Area QB Danny McAuliffe. Gonzalez was the starting wingback last year, but gets moved under center this season.
“He’s transformed into a leader,” Acerra said of Gonzalez. “He has taken on that leadership role.”
Gonzalez is a playmaker with the ball in his hands. He will do fine with his new role.
“He has all the plays down,” Acerra said. “He’s been preparing for this opportunity since the end of last season.”
The main running back is senior Cedric Bazile (5-9, 190), who earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors at linebacker last year. Bazile is a hard-nosed runner who possesses explosive speed and big-play capability.
“He’s played a lot of football for us,” Acerra said. “He can play all over. We can also move him to the slot if we’re throwing.”
Bazile collected 1,400 all-purpose yards last season and scored 15 touchdowns.
The wide receivers are junior Jerome Edwards (5-10, 195) and senior Christian Ashe (5-10, 165). Both receivers are excellent athletes and playmakers. Ashe was the main pass catching threat last year, totaling more than 600 yards.
“Ashe is a gamer,” Acerra said. “He has good hands.”
Junior Jamarion Wright (5-10, 165) will also see time at wide receiver.
The tight end is junior Joevon Stephens (6-3, 185).
The Bees’ offensive line has some decent size and strength.
Senior Jake Peregrin (6-2, 245) returns to his slot at tackle, where he’s joined by sophomore Bryson Cabiness (6-1, 240). The guards are juniors Pedro Beato (5-10, 260), Billy Doering (6-1, 235) and Christopher Arias (6-3, 255). Senior Jordan Gil (5-10, 230) returns to his spot at center.
Defensively, the Bees will use Cabiness and Peregrin at defensive end, with Arias, Prieto and junior Kymir Jackson (5-11, 290) at defensive tackle.
Senior Rahjel Stephens (6-1, 195) is a returning starter at linebacker. He’s joined at linebacker by his brother Joevon, as well as junior Leshaun Bethea (6-0, 205) and promising freshman Rocky Rodriguez (5-10, 170).
The cornerbacks are Edwards and junior Ryan Moore (5-6, 165), with Wright getting some playing time there.
The safeties are rock solid with Ashe and Bazile, two of the very best around.
The Bees open their season Oct. 2 against Irvington and face Kearny Thursday, Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. in Kearny.
“We should be able to compete in every game on our schedule,” said Acerra, who faces North Bergen and Union City among their six regular season games. “We will see what happens.” – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com