For one, Arco has an undefeated football team.
He earned his last win over a team that won 10 games a year ago, including an embarrassing shellacking of Marist just a year ago.
And Arco is a proud father again. His wife, Kim Barnes-Arco, who is the head women's basketball coach at St. John's University, gave birth to a baby girl named Emma, who entered the world last week at six pounds, three ounces, standing 20 inches and already bouncing a basketball. Emma Arco joins older brother Trevor, who is four years old.
Undefeated football program in his first year? And a daughter? In the same week? Can't get any better than that. "It was a great week," Arico said in an understated tone. "I can't complain at all. Things have been going pretty well."
Well, to start, Arico earned a victory in his first game as the new head grid coach with the Royal Knights, a resounding 44-0 win over Nazareth of Brooklyn.
"I think every win adds to a team's confidence," said Arico, who arrived at Marist after serving the last five years as the head coach at William Paterson University. "But I was really impressed with the way we won. I think the kids have been buying into the program since we went away to camp. They never had been to camp before, and I think that really changed the way they became focused on what they needed to do. They became ready mentally and physically, with the mental toughness being the No. 1 thing."
Added Arico, "These kids had to handle a lot of adversity. There was a lot going on."
Sure thing. The football players at Marist had to handle three different football coaches and three different athletic directors over a three-year span. The revolving door had to be maddening and certainly confusing, learning different coaching philosophies and personalities.
But now, they had a coach in Arico who was bound to stay around for a while, so that sense of a comfort zone had to help ease the collective minds of the Royal Knights.
"The kids had a history of not being successful," Arico said. "But they really got themselves in great shape for camp. They bought in to what the coaching staff had to tell them. By being in great shape and staying mentally strong, they had the mentality to be successful."
Arico also made some changes in the makeup of the team. During the first days of practice, Arico liked the way that senior James St. Germain ran across the field from his nose guard position. St. Germain was a two-way lineman for former coach Jack Higgins a year ago and was beginning to earn recognition from several scouting services, including the prestigious McCarthy Report, as a college prospect on the line.
"Early in camp, I just saw that James had great feet and he exploded off the ball," Arico said. "He could move laterally well for a kid his size."
So Arico did the unthinkable. He made the 6-1, 270-pound St. Germain into a running back.
"When I approached him and asked him if he could handle it, he thought I was kidding with him," Arico said. "But I was serious. I thought he could make a good back. Of course, he loved the idea."
What lineman wouldn't? Just touching the pigskin is every lineman's dream. After getting smacked around in the trenches for the last three years, St. Germain was now going to control his own destiny in the backfield and administer the punishment.
"I don't know if another school in the state has a bigger back," Arico laughed. "But I tell you, he's a good running back. He's a great lead back."
St. Germain is playing the fullback position this year, leading the way for his brother who is the starting tailback. Senior Arikeem Desrirnes (5-9, 175) is the starting tailback, so he's just following his big brother's lead.
Marist's brother combination in the backfield is almost reminiscent of the great Passaic teams of the early 1980s, with Craig "Ironhead" Heyward (who later played in the NFL) using all 275 pounds of his frame as a running back, with little brother Nate (who was 175 pounds) in the same backfield.
Sophomore Jawan Carson (5-9, 160) is also in the mix, but Carson is not related to the other running backs. Carson has explosive speed and plays all over the field. Junior Tremaine Jeffries (5-11, 185) is another fullback who sees playing time.
Senior Nolan Fdyfil (6-1, 190) is the starting quarterback. Arico says that Fdyfil has been doing a "great job" orchestrating the team's offense.
Senior Harun Jones (6-1, 185) is the Royal Knights' starter at flanker.
The Royal Knights also have one of the biggest lines around - and perhaps was the main reason why Arico could gamble and take his 270-pound tackle and make him a running back. Seniors Mike Sims (5-11, 285) and the highly regarded James George (6-4, 340) give Arico the biggest bookend tackles in Hudson County. George has been getting his share of attention from the college recruiters.
The guards are junior Robert Welch (6-1, 255) and senior Derkyl Paton (6-2, 305). The center is senior Oscar Sanchez (5-10, 235). That's a host of big boys along that front. You have to hope Arico got a food allowance in his budget to feed those monsters.
Junior Jonathan Rivera (6-1, 215) is the tight end.
On defense, George and St. Germain comprise two of the toughest linemen around, playing side by side. Rivera and Jeffries are excellent linebackers. Jones and Carson are steady in the secondary.
So Arico liked the makeup of his team after the first week of the season. The new running back St. Germain had 54 yards rushing and a touchdown. His brother Desrirnes had 85 yards on seven carries. Jeffries had a 72-yard run for a touchdown. Everyone chipped in.
But the second week of the season proved to be a bigger task, facing Butler, which lost to Westwood in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group I final at Giants Stadium last December.
It was also the same Butler team that totally humiliated Marist to the tune of 60-16 last year. That's not just a loss. That's an execution.
"We really tried not to focus on last year's game," Arico said. "We wanted to have a clean slate. It's a new coaching staff and some of the kids are different. We had momentum from the first win that we just needed to keep going. However, there were some kids who had that 60-16 game stuck in their minds. They might have thought the same thing was going to happen again."
But Arico wouldn't allow it.
"I told them that I felt they could play with anyone," Arico said. "They just had to execute and focus on the task at hand, instead of worrying about the scoreboard. I might have brought it up during practice, that if they didn't practice hard, they could get beat 60-16 again."
Maybe that worked. Whatever it was, it did. The Royal Knights shocked last year's state finalist, winning 31-29. This time, bull moose St.Germain had 104 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Desrirnes had 112 yards on 16 carries. Carson had 68 yards on three carries, but scored two touchdowns, one on an interception return. Jones had two interceptions. Lo and behold, miracles can happen. This team actually avenged a 44-point blowout loss in one year's time.
"Of course, I expected to win," Arico said. "We went in with the mindset that we had a good shot to win." So Arico is having the time of his life in his first year coaching high school football. William Paterson is in the rear view mirror. He's 2-0 at Marist with a happy family and a school that appreciates him.
"I really like it," Arico said. "I like the people, I like the high school game, I like the kids I'm working with. I'm glad I decided to work for good people at Marist. It's been a lot of fun so far."
This week, there's another undefeated surprising team on the horizon, namely the 2-0 Blue Jays of St. Joseph of the Palisades, a school that also has an aggressive new coach in Steve Romano.
If anyone would have predicted that both Marist and St. Joe's would be undefeated when they met, that person would have been declared certifiably nuts and immediately institutionalized. But it's the truth. It happens this week.
Arico is hopeful that the newness of being a dad and an undefeated football coach doesn't wear off too soon.