So when Romano arrived at St. Joseph, he wanted to experience the same success he had at his previous ports of call. He quickly found out that success at a school that didn't have a football team for several years before bringing back the sport six years ago wasn't easy to come by.
However, Romano's first year turned out to be better than what was expected. The Blue Jays actually flirted with the idea of actually qualifying for the NJSIAA Parochial Group I state playoffs before a late-season losing streak ended those hopes. The Blue Jays finished 2005 with a 4-6 record and a ton of hope for the future.
Just how much hope?
"I think anything short of the state playoffs this year would be a disappointment," Romano said.
Strong words from a program that is still in its infant stages, maybe toddler at best. But Romano strongly believes them.
"Our goal is to make the state playoffs and our players believe that we can get there," Romano said. "Never mind believe it. Our kids expect it."
There's only one problem. The Blue Jays have only 19 players on their roster. That doesn't make the scenario any easier.
"It makes practice virtually impossible," Romano said. "We can't line up against each other. We had only two incoming freshmen sign up to play football and that hurt. But we have a good base of kids, some talented kids. All of our returning starters got a chance to play a lot last year and they will play a lot again this year."
Of course, as long as the Blue Jays stay injury-free. If one kid gets hurt, it could sent the whole program reeling.
However, the Blue Jays might have the best quarterback and running back that Hudson County doesn't know of.
Senior quarterback Mike Cafiero (6-1, 175) returns for his final go-round. The three-year starter passed for more than 1,400 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. He started off the 2006 season in fine fashion, passing for 319 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening loss to North Warren. Cafiero spent most of the summer attending talent camps throughout the country with the hope of being spotted by a college recruiter.
"He was invited to the Elite Quarterback Camp and did very well there," Romano said. "He worked hard all off-season to get ready for this year. I think he has all the tools to play on the next level. He has what it takes. In my mind, Mike's one of the top five quarterbacks in the state. He makes the right reads, the right plays and has a great arm."
The other talented returnee is senior running back Yessy Tejada (6-2, 205), who had one of the most memorable performances in Hudson County high school history last year, when he accumulated more than 550 yards in rushing and receiving and scored seven touchdowns.
Tejada, who is getting his share of attention from the college recruiters, is playing more as a wide receiver this season, a place where he might play on the next level.
"I thought we could throw it more and get the ball to him more that way," Romano said. "But he'll play all over the place. We have to get him as many touches as possible. We want him to get 75 percent of the touches we have."
A pair of juniors, Augie Perez (5-11, 180) and Eric Diaz (5-6, 145), will get most of the action at running back.
Romano is very high on freshman receiver James Colson (6-3, 170), who had a breakout performance in his varsity debut, collecting four receptions for 169 yards in the loss to North Warren.
"Everyone is asking about him," Romano said of Colson. "He absolutely has a lot of potential."
Senior Mario Martinez (5-8, 175) is the wing back with senior Danny Marte (6-2, 210) serving as the tight end.
The offensive line is keyed by senior center Jason Solan (5-7, 170), who has not missed a practice or a game since he joined the program four years ago.
Juniors Benjamin Robiou (5-10, 190) and Giovanni Diaz (5-11, 205 and no relation to the running back) are the offensive guards, while seniors Jonathan Tolentino (6-0, 205) and Bobby Hanrahan (6-2, 245) are the capable tackles.
The Blue Jays utilize a 4-6 defense, moving a lot of their offensive personnel around to keep them fresh enough to finish games.
Martinez and Tolentino are the defensive ends, with Giovanni Diaz and Solan at defensive tackle. Tejada keys the linebacker corps, along with Perez and Marte. Sophomore Jesse Gephardt (6-0, 195) is another capable defender at strong safety.
The secondary is keyed by Cafiero and Colson at cornerback and Eric Diaz at safety. Senior Sonny Reyes will also see time in the secondary.
The Blue Jays tweaked their schedule this year and play some stronger teams, like facing North Warren (a loss) and Newark Academy (a win) to start the season.
"We have to be a little better prepared when we get to the state playoffs," Romano said. "We have some proven high school players. The time is now."
Sounds like a very confident coach. - Jim Hague