At the tender age of 66, one has to wonder why Ed Stinson, already a Hall of Fame coach with an impeccable, almost unconscionable resume, would want to return to head coaching, taking over the program at St. Anthony.
“It’s definitely an addiction,” said Stinson, whose tenure at Hoboken High School was legendary, winning six NJSIAA state championships, engineering winning streaks of 38 and 29 straight, two of the longest win streaks in Hudson County history. Stinson won more than 200 games in his 20-plus years at Hoboken.
“I was in a couple of good situations at Hackensack and Bergen Catholic [as defensive coordinator],” Stinson said. “They were big-time programs. But the truth of the matter, after 30 years of being a head coach, that’s where I prefer to be.”
But St. Anthony principal Charlie Tortorella brought his long-time colleague Stinson in to take over the Friars, who have been competitive in the past, but not the way school officials wanted the Friars to be.
“There are challenges,” Stinson said. “Kids are basically the same, from place to place, but here, we had to address the needs. We had to address proper football behavior, like being on time and how to act. You have to address that before you get to the fundamentals of football and the Delaware Wing-T offense.”
Stinson had to get some changes from Tortorella and the administration before he took the job.
“The kids basically had to walk a mile every day to practice [to Gateway Field],” Stinson said. “So now we have a bus every day. We didn’t have locker rooms for the players to dress, so we took two trailers, cleaned them up and turned those into locker rooms. We all leave for practice on the bus. We’re all safe and on time. We’re treated with dignity.”
Stinson doesn’t know if that will translate into wins and losses.
“When someone shows up to see us, looking to see a finished product, no one knows what it takes,” Stinson said. “It’s an unusual commitment from the kids and from the coaching staff. You have to love the game.”
Junior Alex Vidal (5-10, 170) is the Friars’ starting quarterback, but he sustained a hip injury recently in practice and his status for the season opener this weekend against Passaic County Tech remains in question.
Junior Eli Terry (5-10, 185) and junior C.J. Wood (5-8, 175) are vying for time as the starting fullback. Terry saw some action last season.
The halfback position is even more crowded, with four players battling for two spots.
Senior Herb Johnson (5-7, 165) has to have the advantage, because he played a considerable amount last season. The rest of the crew includes senior Wayna Shirden (5-9, 170), senior Tyrell Gourdine (5-10, 175) and sophomore Juwan Morgan (5-7, 165).
“They’re all getting reps and all getting carries,” said Stinson, whose offense is predicated on spreading the wealth with the ball. “We don’t have that one back who can carry us.”
Senior Rashad Brandon (6-4, 260) would be the starter at tight end. Brandon is getting his share of looks from the colleges, but currently, Brandon is out of action with a knee injury, so burly junior Rahquan Small (6-4, 300) replaces Brandon at the spot.
Small belies his name, because he’s far from small. He might be the biggest tight end in Hudson County history.
“He moves fairly well and I’ve seen some positive things there,” Stinson said.
Junior DeVonte McLaurin (5-11, 180) is the starter at wide receiver.
Senior Maurice Bullock (6-5, 255) and sophomore Jermaine Speaks (6-3, 265) are the tackles. Senior Dorian Walker (5-10, 210) returns to his starting guard slot. Junior Devon Terry (6-1, 250), the brother of Eli, joins Walker at guard. Sophomore Raees Johnson (6-1, 260) is the center.
It’s not a typical Stinson offensive line, because there is a lot of size.
“They have the size, strength and athleticism,” Stinson said. “But there’s an issue because they’re not where we need them to be.”
The Friars will utilize a 3-4 defensive alignment.
Small is a force at nose guard, with Raees Johnson and Walker at defensive tackle. When healthy, Brandon will be in the mix on the defensive line, along with senior Quron Watson (6-0, 210).
Senior Marcus Monroe (5-11, 185) will be at linebacker, along with Rahquan Everett (5-10, 190). The Terry brothers are also keys at linebacker.
Herb Johnson is a fine cornerback, along with Shirden and senior Jacquan Smith (5-10, 170). Gourdine and McLaurin are the safeties.
The Friars open play this weekend. It should be interesting to see how they fare.
“What I’ve heard from people in the building is that we’re organizationally much better,” Stinson said. “We’re getting the kids to do things involving discipline. The attendance has been great. Learning still leaves a little to be desired, but they’re showing signs. We’re teaching them more and more about the football concept. Once they learn the concept, they’ll be alright.” – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.