We are now about to take a journey into time, not only in sight, but in mind. We are going to a place where no man has ever gone. We are going into the Hagueini Zone.
True, this column can't even hold a candle to the immortal Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, which captivated audiences for decades. But the Hagueini Zone will afford local sports enthusiasts a peek at the year to come in Hudson County sports.
Looking into the crystal ball, as the Great Hagueini often does throughout the course of a year, there does seem to be a ton of promise in the local sports scene. Once the final clock ticks to 12 midnight and the ball drops on Times Square, the slate is wiped clean and everything seems to change. There's always promise and always hope.
Every year at this time, the Great Hagueini pulls out the old dusty turban, the faded crystal ball, and the crumpled magic wand and travels on a magical journey into the future. The old wide one rubs that crystal ball, looks for the annual spiritual and financial guru guidance from his wise friend Duncan Chubbie, and comes away with some bold predictions for the coming year.
As the year begins, we find ourselves entrenched in the local basketball season. And it appears to be another exciting one for Hudson County fanatics. There are several teams who could take a run at the HCIAA boys' hoops title, but for some reason, Hagueini likes the Lions of Lincoln High School, with new coach Joe Cirillo calling the shots. The Lions have a trio of talented performers in James West, Damien Nelson, and Daron Darby. In perhaps the closest race in recent memory, look for Lincoln to defeat Bayonne in the HCIAA finale in late February.
And in the Seglio Division, look for Hoboken to battle St. Mary's in an epic finale, with new coach Buddy Matthews battling the veteran "Bell of St. Mary's," Tommy Lalicato, tooth and nail.
The Player of the Year will be St. Mary's talented guard Devon Stanberry, who does it all, averaging close to 25 points per game. Ferris' Tyrell Archibald will also do his share of damage all season long and earn an NCAA Division I scholarship.
In the HCIAA girls' race, it will come down to three teams, namely defending champion Bayonne and former champions Marist and St. Dominic Academy. While Marist has standout forward Angela Fitzgerald and SDA has sensational senior guard Annie Cossolini, it will be hard to beat Bayonne once again.
Another player to watch is North Bergen's sharpshooter Betty Mendieta.
It's tough to pick one of those three as the Player of the Year. The crystal ball is showing Mendieta at this point. Look for Cossolini to earn a good college scholarship for her efforts as a point guard, probably at a smaller NCAA Division I school.
While the local high school basketball team to watch will be the fabulous Friars of St. Anthony, they will be hard pressed to make it a "three-peat" in the NJSIAA Tournament of Champions. In fact, the Friars' season will come to an end in the Parochial B North finals against powerful St. Patrick's of Elizabeth.
But Terrence Roberts will earn All-State honors and newcomer Sean McCurdy will light up local scoreboards with his pinpoint perimeter shooting.
Wrestling, baseball, softball
St. Peter's Prep wrestler Conrad Dudziak will make another run at a state wrestling championship.
North Bergen's wrestling team will capture the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV championship.
In high school baseball, the Marauders of St. Peter's Prep, led by speedy outfielder Mike Brown and slugger Pat Murphy, will go on to win their fifth straight HCIAA Coviello baseball title.
The Hoboken Red Wings, led by pitcher Jason Blanks, will win the Seglio Division baseball crown.
North Bergen will win the HCIAA softball title, led by senior pitcher Jodie Hild and talented infielder Darlene Cristeleit. Hild will come very close to breaking the pitching records set by Tara Solan.
It will be a fitting going away present for North Bergen Athletic Director Randy Chave, who retires at the end of the school year.
Memorial pitcher Mercedes Nunez will continue to marvel people by winning games on the boys' varsity baseball level.
North Bergen sprinter Kevin Thompson will win both indoor and outdoor state championships in the 55-meters (indoor) and 100-meters (outdoor).
The Sandy Koufax World Series returns to Secaucus in 2003 with great success, just hopefully with a bit cooler temperatures this time around.
Football and soccer
In late January, Hoboken's All-State running back Ira "I-Train" Guilford will announce his intention to attend Ohio State.
In the fall, the best football team to watch will be St. Peter's Prep, led by running backs Brown and Rashawn Jackson, who may emerge as the best running back tandem in New Jersey.
The football player to watch is Emerson's speedy do-everything back Jeffrey Pena, a definite rising star.
Stephon Anderson emerges as the latest Hoboken go-to running back.
Emerson will repeat as HCIAA soccer champions, with the multi-talented Mauricio Castillo earning All-State honors.
College and pro
In college sports, Hoboken native Tyrell Dortch makes a complete recovery from his broken ankle and leads Michigan State back to respectability, with new coach John Smith.
Secaucus' Chris Paciga wins nine games as a pitcher for Montclair State, with former high school teammate Tommy Warth batting .400 for the Red Hawks, who make a run at the NCAA Division III championship.
Former St. Anthony guard Elijah Ingram emerges as one of the best point guards in the Big East Conference and brings St. John's to the NCAA Tournament.
In professional sports, former Marist hurler Joe Borowski continues to shine for the Chicago Cubs, while Jersey City's Willie Banks becomes a major step-up man and big part of the Boston Red Sox bullpen.
Union City's Frank Winters announces his retirement after leading the Green Bay Packers to the Super Bowl.
All in all, 2003 shapes up as another exciting year in Hudson County sports.