Sean Fallon was well aware of the troubles that beset the fledgling St. Anthony football program last fall.
Even though Fallon was busy working as an assistant football coach at Hoboken High School, it was hard to ignore the situation that took place in the Friars’ first year of competitive varsity football.
After the Friars won three of their first four games, it was learned that the team had used an ineligible player, believed to be an eighth grader. That move cost head coach Bill Sullivan his job. It also forced the Friars to forfeit those games and instead of rolling toward the NJSIAA state playoffs for the first time, they fell short of completing the dream season.
Fallon knew that the St. Anthony program had a lot of talented players, because he was familiar with them.
“I knew a lot of those kids,” said Fallon, who is an elementary school teacher in a Jersey City public school for troubled kids. “I saw them play in the Jersey City PAL. I met some of their parents. I knew that there was a lot of talent there.”
So after the Red Wings lost in the NJSIAA Section 2, Group I state finals to Verona at Giants Stadium, Fallon started to think about the possibilities of landing his first head coaching position.
“I think the process started after we lost the game at Giants Stadium,” said Fallon, who was a former player at Hoboken High in their glory years of the mid-1990s and then returned as an assistant coach. “I wanted to become a head coach and I became interested in that job.”
Fallon reached out to friend Hasan “Sonny” Ulqinaku, another Hoboken native who is now the athletic director at St. Anthony.
Ulqinaku set up an interview for Fallon.
“When I got there for the interview, I thought I didn’t have a chance,” Fallon said. “I knew that there were other people going after the job. My first instinct was to go on the interview as an experience, just to learn about how to go about it.”
But when Fallon started to talk with the St. Anthony administration, they were impressed with what he had to say.
“Of all the candidates who came in for interviews, Sean was the one who blew everyone away,” Ulqinaku said. “He said what he wanted to do and what he was capable of doing. His resume speaks for itself. He’s a teacher in Jersey City who knew a lot of our kids since grade school. He came recommended by two respectable high school coaches in the area, namely Wilbur Valdez [the head coach at Ferris] and Ed Stinson [the former Hoboken coach, now at Queen of Peace in North Arlington]. He’s from the same pedigree as those coaches.”
Fallon thought he handled himself fairly well through the interviews.
“Once I met with the principal [Dr. Matt Glowski], I thought I had a chance of getting the job,” Fallon said.
As it turned out, he had more than a chance. The school hired the 30-year-old Fallon last week.
Fallon, who has coached at both Ferris and Hoboken in his seven-year coaching career, likes the challenge of coaching the Friars’ program.
“It’s a really good school and I like the way the people conduct themselves there,” Fallon said. “It’s nice to see people go out of their way to offer support to help your program. The people there have been great to me, going out of their way to encourage me.”
Fallon said that he was encouraged by the first meeting he had with the returning players.
“The first day I met them, I told them that what happened in the past was none of my business,” Fallon said. “I didn’t care. I was coming in with a fresh start and a clean slate. When a mistake is made, you can’t point fingers. It starts with the guy in charge, so I think the kids understood that they didn’t do anything wrong and they’re willing to make sure something like that never happens again.”
Fallon knows that the road ahead won’t be easy, trying to instill a little bit of credibility to a young program that has already had to endure an embarrassing controversy.
“It’s in the past,” Fallon said. “I already know that we will practice most of the time at Franco Field and one day a week at Gateway. We’ll have an outdoor storage facility at Franco, so the kids won’t have to drag their equipment through the streets. We’re going to do it the right way.”
Ulqinaku was impressed with Fallon’s regimented approach.
“He already has a calendar set up,” Ulqinaku said. “He knows it’s going to take some sacrifice, but Sean’s ready for it. The kids are already lifting. The conditioning program is in place. He’s set.”
So is the Friars’ schedule for the fall, opening with Montclair Immaculate on Sept. 12 and Newark Academy on Sept. 19, followed by a showdown against his former team, Hoboken, on Sept. 26.
“That’s going to be interesting,” Fallon said.
Still, the young man who always dreamed of being a head coach is now getting his chance.
“When I was a little kid, all I wanted to be was a head coach,” Fallon said. “I was a ball boy for the Hoboken games when I was eight years old and holding the chains when I was 10. I watched all the great Hoboken players like Dwayne Peterson. I was lucky enough to play with some great players and I was a role player on those state championship teams [1994 and 1995].
“I’m really excited about this chance,” Fallon said. “It’s a great first coaching job. It’s what I should be doing.”
Sometimes, the best opportunities just fall into your lap. Fallon has a chance to turn the St. Anthony football program into a gold mine.