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Strange twist of fate lands Gallo in North Bergen; Jersey City native Savino in Final Four; wrestling notes

Matt Gallo is the new head football coach of the North Bergen Bruins, ending a wild twist of fate that obviously worked out in Gallo’s favor
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Matt Gallo is the new head football coach of the North Bergen Bruins, ending a wild twist of fate that obviously worked out in Gallo’s favor

In January, former Snyder High School head football coach Matt Gallo found out that his services were no longer required, even though Gallo was leading the Tigers back to respectability in his two years as the head man of the program.

“It was very surprising,” Gallo said. “It came out of left field. I had to give very serious consideration to sit the season out. I thought that I was not going to be able to coach. Coaching is the love of my life. It’s my passion.”

Gallo gave his heart and soul to the Snyder program, even introducing his players to get involved in the community, like donating their time at the Hope House for the homeless and needy, serving the residents hot meals.

“In a pandemic year, we played our entire schedule,” said Gallo, whose team posted a 3-5 record in 2020. “We did a good job keeping the kids safe. It was difficult getting this news. The timing was not good. I started to do some self evaluation, but then I picked myself back up off the mat.”

The timing wasn’t good for Gallo to lose his job in a position that he loved. But then he remembered that Ed Somick was not going to return as the head coach in North Bergen.

“I decided to throw my hat into the ring and see what happens,” said Gallo, who was also the head coach at St. Anthony and the long-time assistant coach to Robert Hampton at Lincoln. “I’m confident in my ability as a coach.”

Gallo applied for the North Bergen position and received an interview.

“I thought about [legendary Hudson County and New Jersey Coaches Association Hall of Famer] Coach [Vince] Ascolese went from Hoboken to North Bergen,” said Gallo, a Hoboken native who got his start in coaching in Hoboken. “But I felt like I was a long shot. I was just hoping for the chance to get the interview.”

While Gallo was preparing for his interview, he recalled Ascolese, who died six years ago.

“I would never compare myself to Coach Ascolese, but it was like we were traveling in the same path,” Gallo said. “He was in my head as I started the process. There is a parallel to some degree in terms of a path.”

The late great Ascolese did indeed first coach at Hoboken for 10 years, then moved over to North Bergen in 1973 and remained there for the final 30 years of his storied coaching career.

Sure enough, Gallo survived the interview process in North Bergen and was officially appointed as the new head coach last week.

“I’m truly humbled by it,” Gallo said. “I’m very grateful to get a chance to lead such a historic football program. I wanted to get to work right away. I started making a list of the things I had to do to lead North Bergen back in the right direction.”

Talk about landing on your feet. Gallo is fired from Snyder and gets the job in North Bergen. That’s like getting stood up on a date with Roseanne Barr and then going home with Charlize Theron.

Let’s face facts. North Bergen is North Bergen, the program with eight state championships in Ascolese’s tenure and owning the rich storied tradition. It’s now a program with a new turf facility right in the backyard of the school. Step outside the weight room and go to practice. It’s like hitting the lottery.

There’s no need for waiting for the school bus to take you to practice at points unknown, that is if the bus is even there on time. Coaching football in Jersey City public schools is a logistic disaster.

“As soon as I got there, I’ve been doing everything I could,” Gallo said. “My first introduction to the kids needs to be in person, outside, inside, wherever they let me.”

Obviously, being from Hudson County, Gallo is very familiar with the Bruins.

“Any time you have familiarity with a program, it always helps,” Gallo said. “I watched North Bergen football my entire life. It always held a special place in my heart. I feel really blessed and extremely fortunate. North Bergen has everything right there. It’s giving me a chance to succeed. The facility is phenomenal. I am just so blessed and humble. I’m ready to restore this program to the hierarchy of North Jersey football.”

When Gallo said those words, there was a pause. The coach knew where the reporter was coming from. It has been nine years since North Bergen won a state championship and that one was stripped by the NJSIAA when the state’s governing body determined that North Bergen illegally recruited two players on that state championship team.

“I truly believe that line,” Gallo said. “I think we can do it. It’s where I want to bring this program.”

And first things first – the Bruins will have a familiar offensive attack.

“We will be running the Delaware Wing-T,” Gallo said of the offense used by Ascolese and Gallo’s mentor Ed Stinson during his glory days in Hoboken. “I still believe it’s the offense you need to run to succeed in high school football.”

Gallo said that he also plans to maintain most of the coaching staff that worked with Somick the last few years.

There’s no question the young man says all the right things. When Gallo was asked if he remembered the classic NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV championship game between North Bergen and Hoboken in 1990, won by North Bergen 3-0, on a field goal by Rich Pierre that plunked off the crossbar and over for the game winner, Gallo said he didn’t recall the game.

“I was two years old,” Gallo said.

That made the sportswriter feel so much older…

Gallo’s trusted assistant coach Paul Giorgio will follow Gallo to North Bergen…

The NCAA Final Four has a local flavor. UCLA assistant coach Darren Savino is a Jersey City boy and has enjoyed the Bruins’ remarkable run from the First Four to the Final Four. Congrats to Savino and his boy Mick Cronin for taking the Bruins to the Final Four in just two seasons at the school. Incredible…

The wrestling season is underway, with St. Peter’s Prep getting five matches in already, winning four of them. North Bergen and Bayonne are both 3-1, with Bayonne’s lone loss coming at the hands of mighty Marauders…

We will have more on the North Bergen wrestling team in next week’s editions…

And don’t forget, the baseball and softball seasons are coming up shortly. We will have profiles of all the top teams and players in future editions, so stay tuned. – Jim Hague 

Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com