Dickinson football encouraged by energetic turnout; Pandemic far from over; Top Fives; prayers for Terry and Richie

The Dickinson Rams will be vastly improved this season. Front to back Ramon Tejada, Rafael Pepin, Adrian Strusa, Deon Tisdale and Youssef Eliwa. Head coach Ruben Sanchez is to the left
The Dickinson Rams will be vastly improved this season. Front to back Ramon Tejada, Rafael Pepin, Adrian Strusa, Deon Tisdale and Youssef Eliwa. Head coach Ruben Sanchez is to the left

As he begins his second season as the head football coach at Dickinson High School, Ruben Sanchez has to notice that a lot of his personality is rubbing off on his players.

Believe it or not, the Rams are just as enthusiastic and energetic as their fiery head coach.

For Sanchez, a man who got his coaching roots in the highly competitive world of Morris County football, he fit right into the mania that is the Hudson County gridiron scene.

It doesn’t matter that the Rams have won just a total of two games in the last two seasons. It doesn’t matter at all that the Rams had to endure two forfeit losses two seasons ago. All of that is history. At least it’s history to the head coach.

“I’m just glad that we’re out there playing,” said Sanchez, who suffered a heartbreaking 36-32 loss to Memorial in the season opener last week. “These kids hung in there and did what was expected of them.”

The first step was to accept the status of the New Jersey Super Football Conference-Ivy League division. Dickinson made the two-year commitment to play in the Ivy League, only facing schools with equal participation numbers and talent.

“Personally, I love the idea,” Sanchez said. “It was pretty rough last year trying to hold the kids together. The ones that didn’t want to be here left. Now, we’re playing teams with similar situations as us. It gives me a little leeway. We have an uphill battle and this new league evens things out a little. I think it’s awesome. I hoped it was going to be that way when I took the job. The enthusiasm grows when you do a little bit better. The other kids believe in what you’re doing.”

And the kids certainly believe in Sanchez. The Rams hang on every word, every utterance that comes out of Sanchez’s mouth.

“I have so much respect for them just for being there,” Sanchez said. “I just hope they keep showing up.”

After the loss to Memorial, there were 47 kids in uniform for the next practice. They didn’t beat the effervescent and alive coach onto the field. That’s another story altogether.

But there are not many like Ruben Sanchez. He’s cut from his own cloth.

Sophomore Tayshaun Cox (6-0, 185) is the quarterback, a transfer from Lincoln. That says a lot that Cox would leave a perennially more successful program like Lincoln for Dickinson.

“He’s going to be big time,” Sanchez said of Cox. “He fits in with what we want to do. We’re getting the kids back whose fathers played for [legendary head coach Joe] Marsella. Tayshaun wants to be home. He has talent and knows football. That’s huge.”

The top running back is junior Kayee Williams (5-11, 195).

“He’s my everything,” Sanchez said, leaving out “my first, my last” and the red smoking jacket for Barry White. “Hands down, he’s the best player we have. He can do it all. He’s a very cerebral kid and a good leader. He’s everything.”

Senior Isaiah Koomson (5-9, 180), a three-year starter, returns in the backfield and is joined by junior Kenny Peguero (5-9, 185).

The top wide receiver is senior Bishop Nichols (6-3, 190), who is joined by junior Emmanuel Olivares (6-0, 165) and sophomore Ivan Moreno (5-10, 155).

The Rams have a plethora of depth at tight end, using three different players at the position.

Juniors Jaydean Wilkerson (6-2, 200) Isaiah Davis (6-1, 200) and sophomore Malik Bails (6-3, 225) are in the mix at tight end, with Bails getting a head start to varsity after starting at Marist last year.

The offensive line has two returning players in senior Youssef Eliwa (6-2, 220) and senior Roberto Hernandez (5-6, 230), who was a running back last year.

A trio of sophomores, namely Deon Tisdale (6-0, 285), Ramon Tejada (6-3, 305) and Adrian Strusa (5-9, 225) rounds out the starting members of the line.

Defensively, the Rams will be in the 4-2-5 alignment like the aforementioned Weehawken set and a formation that a lot of coaches are utilizing.

The defensive ends are Davis and Wilkerson. The tackles are Tisdale, Tejada and Eliwa. The linebackers are Bails, who could turn out to be a very good one, and senior Dwayne Howell (5-7, 165).

The cornerbacks are Oliveras and Peguero and the safeties are Koomson, Kayee Williams and Bishop Nichols, which sounds like a heavenly name.

Nothing is going to deter the excitement of the head coach.

“I keep telling the kids that we had only two weeks of practice to start the season,” Sanchez said. “They are very resilient. They’re not sweating the little things. They’re always there, ready to go.”

Yeah, with a little prodding from the coach…

The football season is not even three weeks old and we’ve already had some battles with the coronavirus. Both Secaucus High School and Bayonne High School have suspended all athletic operations when the athletic departments at both schools found out that at least two people in the Secaucus school district and four in the Bayonne school district tested positive for COVID-19, shutting down the athletic departments in their respective communities.

It’s not known whether the people who tested positive were in direct contact with any of the student/athletes, but as a precaution, the powers-that-be canceled all sporting events until Thurs. Oct 22, which means both schools will probably lose two games.

Bayonne already will not play again until Oct. 30 against Newark East Side. Secaucus now has only three games listed on their schedule and none until Oct. 23 against Becton.

And is there a trickledown effect involved. What about the schools scheduled to face either Bayonne or Secaucus in the coming weeks? Scary time, indeed…

Prayers to the families of Terry LaBruno and Richie Zadroga, both of whom were once key members of the St. Peter’s Prep athletic community.

Terry was a teacher at Prep for a little over 10 years, but she certainly left her mark as one of the favorite instructors at the school. All of her students adored her.

Terry was also a fixture at all Prep athletic contests. She was the one you heard cheering above everyone else. Her voice was impeccable and the strength of her “Woo-Hoos” was probably heard by every Prep athlete.

Terry was also the long-time girls’ basketball coach at the now-defunct St. Mary’s in downtown Jersey City. She coached with the same fervor and energy she brought to cheering for the Prep. A former Hoboken councilwoman, Terry was one of a kind.

Richie Zadroga was a tough, hard-nosed football player for the Marauders in 2008 and 2009. He never backed down to a challenge given to him by the Prep coaching staff, even when his position changed almost every year.

Richie worked so hard to get a starting spot with the Marauders. That was his goal. There probably wasn’t a kid who worked harder at attaining playing time than Richie Zadroga.

Terry LaBruno died after suffering a brain aneurysm last month. Some of her organs were harvested, so she keeps on giving after she’s gone.

Richie was tragically killed last week when he was struck by a tractor trailer on a Virginia highway. He was only 29. It brought back memories of Richie’s cousin, Dan Finn, who died at the age of 23 when he was struck by a car in Myrtle Beach. Incredibly, Dan Finn’s kidney was harvested and given to Richie’s grandmother, Ellen Zadroga.

It’s a true circle of life and a sign of Prep grads being “Men for Others” even after leaving this earth…

Hudson Reporter H.S. Football Top Five: 1. St. Peter’s Prep (2-0). 2. Union City (2-0). 3. Lincoln (2-0). 4. Hoboken (1-1). 5. Hudson Catholic (1-1)…

Hudson Reporter H.S. Soccer Top Five: 1. Union City (4-0). 2. Dickinson (4-1) 3. St. Peter’s Prep (4-2). 4. McNair Academic (3-3). 5. North Bergen (2-2). – Jim Hague