Zach Naszimento knows that Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Ming Dynasty didn’t exactly take shape overnight.
So when the former Secaucus High School grid standout and former University of Cincinnati player took over the reins as the new head football coach and athletic director at Weehawken High School, Naszimento knew that it might take a little while for the Indians to become competitive.
“The transition has been great,” said Naszimento, who took over as head coach for Chris Johnsen and replaced long-time AD Rich Terpak as the athletic administrator. “The kids have been tremendous. They really bought into me from the minute we started in the weight room and with conditioning. I noticed that the Weehawken kids are very hungry. They want to win more than anything. I don’t think I ever coached a group like this one. It’s a pleasure to be coaching these kids in Weehawken.”
It will be more of a pleasure if Naszimento’s team keeps performing like they did last weekend. In his head coaching debut, Naszimento guided the Indians to a resounding 51-12 victory over Wood-Ridge, perhaps the most impressive first game a Weehawken coach ever enjoyed.
“I am just so pleased with the amount of hard work everyone has put in,” said Naszimento, who was an assistant coach at Queen of Peace in North Arlington and Hackensack before coming to Weehawken. “Even the coaching staff, who have been tremendous with the transition and have become an extension of me. The coaches care about the kids so much. I had a lot of people tell me that I was crazy to take this job, but I never doubted we could do well, because of the work ethic everyone has put in. I knew that if we worked hard, things would take care of themselves. I wasn’t worried about us.”
Now, the new coach has proof, in the form of a lopsided win.
Leading the way is senior quarterback J.J. Pineda (5-10, 170), who has been a four-year starter at the position for the Indians.
“He’s a tremendous leader in the huddle and is a tremendous kid,” Naszimento said. “He’s throwing the ball a little better.”
The first game is proof. Pineda was 6-of-10 passing for 164 yards and three touchdowns. For good measure, he rushed for 126 yards on nine attempts and scored twice. That’s called getting off to a flying start.
Another key returnee for Weehawken is junior running back Damian Corredor (5-9, 180), who could very well be the best all-around performer in the New Jersey Interscholastic Conference’s Meadowlands Division.
Corredor, who earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors last year as a sophomore, rushed for more than 1,000 yards last season and he’s off to a great start this year.
In the win over Wood-Ridge, Corredor carried the ball 17 times for 224 yards and scored two touchdowns.
Pineda and Corredor gave the Indians a potent 1-2 punch during the first week of the season.
The Indians’ Delaware Wing-T offense also features wing back Humberto Leigue (5-11, 170), who moved from wide receiver where he played last year to the backfield under Naszimento.
“He loves being there, because he knows he’s going to carry the ball,” Naszimento said. “The first play he got to run in the preseason scrimmages, he went for 55 yards. He does everything and is going to be a threat there.”
The halfback is junior Dante Cieri (5-10, 180), a good prospect and fine athlete who is playing varsity football for the first time.
“He’s a tremendous athlete and a good fit,” Naszimento said.
The wide receiver/tight end is another fine athlete in senior Kenny Minier (6-2, 220), who earned Hudson Reporter All-Area honors in baseball in the spring.
“Kenny will play anywhere,” Naszimento said. “He doesn’t care where he plays. He just wants to win.”
The offensive line features returning starters Bobby Reiss (6-3, 275), a senior tackle, and senior Nick Steen (5-8, 200), a senior center. A trio of juniors, tackle Brian Sullivan (6-0, 200) and guards Luis Nunez (5-10, 240) and Stephen Rodriguez (6-1, 205) round out the starting offensive front.
Defensively, the Indians utilize a 4-3 defense, with Cieri and Sullivan at defensive end and Reiss and Nunez at defensive tackle.
Minier, Rodriguez and junior Chris Cintron (5-8, 160) are the linebackers, with Pineda, a four-year starter at cornerback, returning there with senior Michael Rodriguez (6-1, 170 and no relation to Stephen).
Corredor, who was an All-NJIC honoree last year at safety, returns to the position he held down last year, along with fellow returning starter Leigue.
A huge win like the ones the Indians enjoyed during Week One can only go a long way to further success down the road. It also doesn’t hurt that Naszimento has some great assistant coaches, including his own father, Bruce, a Hudson County Sports Hall of Famer who was once the head coach at Emerson in Union City and served as an assistant coach at St. Peter’s Prep and for more than a decade at Secaucus.
“Words can’t even begin to describe what this is like to be with my father,” the younger Naszimento said. “He’s been a huge help. I really expect this to be a good year for us. I think maybe this win has opened some eyes and can see what we really are. I’m not at all surprised by the success, because of the work that was put in. These kids deserve this.”
So does the young, new and eager head coach who waited for his chance to lead a program and has obviously shown he’s a welcome addition in a town where winning happens just about as often as European metropolises and Chinese dynasties are built and formed.
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.
You can also read Jim’s blog at www.jimhaguesports.blogspot.com