Here's a glimpse at the football teams, players and outlooks in the Hudson County Interscholastic Athletic Association:
Hudson Catholic WATCH
2009 RECORD: 2-8
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: QB Matt McMonagle (Sr.), RB/DE Oscar Torres (Sr.), RB/LB Byron King (Jr.), DE Sage Williams (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: With an influx of new talent from Paterson Catholic and a new coach and former NFL star Leonard Marshall at the helm, the question is how quick can all the pieces gel for the Hawks. The transition into new offensive and defensive schemes should be aided the addition of said transfers - most notably, burner Taj McNeal. Nasean Haskins and Jamal Hoge are former Cougars who give Marshall some big bodies up front, and two strong options at nose tackle for his recently instituted pro-style 3-4 defense.
GAME TO WATCH: Sept. 25 vs. Lincoln
WHY: Lincoln is the measuring stick in the HCIAA’s American division and should be a good early season test. It is a chance for Marshall to get his first win on home soil.
2009 RECORD: 8-2
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Ronald Butler QB/WR (Sr.), Deshawn Goodwin HB (Sr.), Joshua Wooten DE (Sr.), Tyron Stevens RB/SS (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: After inheriting a team that has gone winless in the three seasons prior to his arrival in 2006, alumnus Robert Hampton has increased the Lions’ win total every year and may have his strongest team yet in 2010. With the three-headed rushing attack of Ronald Butler, Tyron Stevens – aiming to become the school’s first 3,000-yard rusher - and Deshawn Goodwin powering the team’s spread offense, Lincoln should have no problem scoring points. Questions remain on defense though; a strong front-seven needs to be supported by an equally strong secondary if this team is to be successful in its blitz-happy, 4-6 scheme. Lincoln gave up 69 points in its final two games last season, and on the line is the chance to be the first public school in Jersey City to make the playoffs three years in a row.
GAME TO WATCH: Set. 10 vs. Ferris
WHY: It has been a decade since Lincoln has defeated its cross-town rivals and to do it in the home opener would be extra special.
2009 RECORD: 4-6
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Evon Sommerville T/DE (Sr.), Garry Merrill FB/LB (Sr.), Troy Garland RB/CB (Sr.), Aaron Smith RB/MLB (Jr.)
OUTLOOK: There are lots of new faces on the field and this team is definitely better as a whole even without any superstars. Head coach Larry Arico raves about having a great group with good senior leadership, headlined by Gift Igiri at nose tackle. There is not a lot of depth with only 28 kids on the squad, and that may make it tough for Marist to improve on its 4-6 record of a year ago, especially with the bulk of its tough games coming late.
GAME TO WATCH: Sept. 10 vs. Hudson Catholic
WHY: In a matchup of two co-ed catholic schools that hope to attract the same student athletes, Marist will try to avenge a loss in a game it gave away with bad turnovers a year ago.
2009 RECORD: 1-9
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Michael Morrison QB/CB (Sr.) Willie Martin WR/S (Jr.) Maurice Johnson RB (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: A once-proud football school, Snyder has only won eight games since 2003, but first year head coach Tom Malahey knows the tradition well and wants to get this program back to respectability. With a new pro-style spread offense mixed with the wildcat and a former halfback in Morrison to run it, Snyder might give a lot of teams a look they have never seen before on offense as well as on defense. The implementation of the newly popular 3-5-3 should keep the best athletes on the field for the Tigers on defense. Malahey has put his stamp on the program. The question is whether that translate into more wins.
GAME TO WATCH: Oct. 30 vs. Lincoln
WHY: Snyder is improved, but has the team improved enough to stop the Friars from imposing their will?
2009 RECORD: 7-3
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Deshawn Goodwin HB (Sr.), Jivamon Sparkman LB/RB
(Sr.), David Coleman RB/CB (Sr.), Kadeem Wilson TE/DE (Sr.), Sylvester Wright QB (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: The Friars have a legitimate chance of running the table throughout the regular season. Running a modified Wing T offense, coach Sean Fallon’s squad looks to ground and pound Goodwin, Sparkman and Coleman all year long. The Friars also boast a 2009 Rivals Top-100 Freshman in Darius Roper, who played guard and defensive end effectively last season and will enjoy an even further expanded role this year. Fallon is in his second year and while it is only the teams third year of existence, many freshmen forced into action gained valuable experience a year ago and should only make this squad stronger.
GAME TO WATCH: Oct. 8 vs. Lincoln
WHY: Lincoln was the conference champion last year and the Friars were left with a bad taste after choking away the game late. This will be a real tough football game that can only be described as smash-mouth.
St. Peter’s Prep
2009 RECORD: 9-3
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: RB Savon Huggins (Sr.), CB Sheldon Royster (Sr.), OT Keith Lumpkin (Sr.), WR Najee Glass (Jr.), S D.J. Singleton (Jr.), LB Denzell Thomas (Sr.), QB Brandon Napoleon (Jr.)
OUTLOOK: The Marauders have enough assets to make prognosticators overlook Don Bosco's sparkling national title and succumb to the fact that a new No. 1 has risen in the Garden State. Head coach Rich Hansen's offensive schemes will prove to be too lethal for opponents, thanks to senior Savon Huggins, who is widely considered one of the top running backs in the country. Meanwhile, cornerback Sheldon Royster anchors a defense much too stingy for any in-state foe to forge a threat this season. If there ever was a time Non-Public Group 4 supremacy belongs in Jersey City, this is it.
GAME TO WATCH: Sept. 18 @ St. Joseph Regional
WHY: The Marauders don’t have the luxury of displaying their talents against the cream of the crop in the state, as Bergen Catholic and defending national champion Don Bosco Prep don’t appear on the schedule. A tough game against the Green Knights, however, will prove to be a nice measuring stick.
Union City WATCH
2009 RECORD: 4-6
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Dominick Montanez RB/CB (Sr.) Eddie Ayala FB/MLB (Sr.) Josue Matias OL/DT
OUTLOOK: New head coach Will Valdez brings in a whole new staff along with new offensive and defensive schemes from Ferris High School. The biggest question is how hurt is the team’s best player Josue Matias? Matias, rated among the top 10 players in the state in MSG Varsity’s preseason player rankings, reportedly suffered a serious knee injury in August. An integral part of both the defensive and offensive lines, the Soaring Eagles can ill-afford to be without this beast in the trenches.
GAME TO WATCH: Oct. 9 @ St. Peter’s Prep
WHY: There is no doubt St. Peter’s is head and shoulders the best team in the HCIAA and a statewide threat, and this will be a good chance to see how far Valdez has brought this team at the midseason point.
2009 RECORD: 1-9
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Travis Gallardo FB/LB (Jr.), Lance Fischer WR (Sr.), Michael Moses QB (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: Seven returning players on defense and six on offense is the good news. The bad news is the Bee’s gave up 38 points a game and only averaged five on offense a year ago. A new 4-3 scheme, and an offense anchored by three sophomores who have matured and gotten bigger help inject hope for coach Frank Blunda’s squad. Questions remain however about big-play capabilities on both sides of the ball. Being competitive is the name of the game through a tough 2010 schedule.
GAME TO WATCH: Sept. 10 @ Belleville
WHY: This is a winnable game to start the year and may set the tone for this team for the whole season.
2009 RECORD: 4-6
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Zimkim Williams RB/DB (Sr.), Shamoir Griffin RB/LB (Sr.), Patrick Hester RB/DB (Jr.)
OUTLOOK: A couple of losses by less than four points could have easily swayed Ferris to a winning season a year ago. With junior quarterback Steve Le a year more comfortable in Rich Glover’s spread offense, the Bulldogs will look to lean on Hester and Griffin to carry the load. One thing in this team’s favor is the schedule. Ferris plays only teams four teams that had winning records last season.
GAME TO WATCH: Nov. 5 vs. Union City
WHY: Coach Will Valdez left for Union City and his former squad wants to prove its worth in a game that could have big playoff implications.
North Bergen WATCH
2009 RECORD: 5-5
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Vinny Ascolese LB/S S (Jr.) Mike Mentor LB/WR (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: Tradition is strong with long-time head coach Vincent Ascolese on the sideline. All three of his sons, Michael, Greg and Vinny Jr., have assisted him on the sideline over the years, and now his grandson, Vinny Ascolese III, returns as the team’s biggest playmaker on defense. Xaverian transfer Denzell Leitch has 4.4 speed and should help spread the field vertically for the teams rushing attack. Michael Mentor is a legitimate D-1 football prospect who is chomping at the bit to hit the field after missing the last two seasons due to injury. The proof will be in the pudding early for North Bergen, as its first three games are all tough ones against Sparta, Montclair and St. Peter’s Prep. All hold tremendous power point implications but will be played at Bruins stadium.
GAME TO WATCH: Sept. 10 vs. Sparta
WHY: A very good Spartans team comes to Bruins stadium Week One and we will see if memories of a playoff-less season for the first time in 23 years a season ago has North Bergen raring to go.
2009 RECORD: 3-7
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Jalen Hayes LT/DT (Sr.), Daquan Stewart RB/S (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: Injuries and character issues marked a subpar 2009 campaign for the Red Wings. After coming together as a team under coach Louis Taglieri Jr. in camp, there are no longer questions about the heart of this team, but it is unclear who will make the plays for a defense that gave up 31.6 points per contest last season.
GAME TO WATCH: Oct. 16 @ Lincoln
WHY: Hoboken was winning by 28 points last year before giving up 38 unanswered in a losing effort against Lincoln.
2009 RECORD: 1-9
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Nelson Tavares RB (Sr.), Brandon Barret QB (Sr.), Eddie Flores MLB (Jr.)
OUTLOOK: There is talent on this Kardinals squad, but after finishing 1-9 last season new head coach Pete Llaneza needs to help his team find confidence in the early going for Kearny to be competitive.
GAME TO WATCH: Oct. 29 @ Hoboken
WHY: Perhaps no playoff aspirations this year, but this game is a chance to play spoiler in the late going at JFK Field.
2009 RECORD: 2-8
KEY RETURNING PLAYERS: Chris Gomez RB/OLB (Jr.), Kenny Furlong QB (Jr.), Jermaine Reyes TE/MLB (Sr.), Jonathan Carfield WR (Sr.)
OUTLOOK: It has been tough sledding for Memorial since moving to Group 4 in 2008. First-year head coach and Memorial alumnus Oscar Guerrero takes over after leaving Kearny High School. Guerrero brings a unique Multiple-I offense and 4-4 variations on defense but he inherits a 2-8 squad that lacks playmakers, scoring just over seven points per game in its eight losses a season ago.
GAME TO WATCH: Sept. 10 vs. Hoboken
WHY: How competitive can Memorial be in 2010? We should know after Week One with a game Red Hawks team coming to town.