Sure enough, there was a High Tech soccer team in 2001. A 12-game schedule was devised.
"We wore the ugliest purple uniforms that you would ever want to see," said Jose "Bumper" Gonzalez, the man selected to coach the soccer team, even though he didn't have a background in the sport. "We had 17 boys and eight girls on the team that first year. We played whoever would play us."
Now, five years later, the High Tech soccer program is more than legit. It's cemented as a local small school power.
The Lasercats captured their third straight HCIAA Seglio Division championship Sunday when they soundly defeated McNair Academic, 7-0, to cap their undefeated run within the confines of the Seglio.
"It's been a continual building process from 2001 to get it where it is now," Gonzalez said. "These kids work so hard on and off the field. They're continually working to make it better. I would say that the program was a novelty the first year, but we just continued to improve. We suffered some bumps and bruises along the way, but it was all in part of building the program."
Once again, the Lasercats were led by the scoring prowess of senior forward Nicholas Hopkins, who delivered nine three-goal hat tricks during the season, earning the moniker of "Hat Trick Nick."
Well, Hopkins didn't get three goals on Sunday. He had to settle for two - only seconds apart.
It set off the High Tech scoring barrage that saw six different players scoring goals.
While the offense was running wild, the defense, led by goalkeeper Ryan Woods, was spectacular. Woods made six saves in securing the shutout and earned the game's Most Valuable Player award in the process.
Two days after defeating McNair Academic to win complete the Seglio "three-peat," the Lasers played host to perennial power Chatham in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group II semifinals, where they dropped a heartbreaking 1-0 contest in double overtime.
"It was a game for the time capsules," Gonzalez said. "The kids left it all on the field."
Chatham, one of the state's most prolific soccer programs, scored the game-winning goal with five minutes left in the second overtime.
"I don't think anyone gave us a chance to play with them," Gonzalez said. "When they left, they knew that they had been in a game. The kids played extremely hard. I am so proud of them."
With the loss, High Tech's season ended at 17-4, with its losses coming at the hands of Chatham, Bayonne - and the two HCIAA Coviello finalists, North Bergen and Memorial.
"I watched that championship game and said, `We lost 3-2 (to North Bergen) and 4-3 (to Memorial) to those teams,'" Gonzalez said. "We always look to play the best competition. Over the years, I bet there were teams like Rutherford, North 13th Street Tech, Bernards, all came into the game against High Tech thinking they were going to easily beat a team that had girls playing for them."
Sure enough, Gonzalez had another girl on the team this season, starting forward Justine Mateo, who is only a sophomore and is also a fine basketball and softball player at the school.
"Opponents see a girl and we immediately get no respect from them," Gonzalez said. "Until they walk away after the game, knowing we gave them a fight."
Gonzalez said that he will sorely miss the seniors, especially players like Hopkins, Woods and sweeper Michael Pieczonka.
"They gave their all for this program for four years," Gonzalez said.
After the game, team leader Hopkins addressed the players who will return next year.
"He said that he was going to make sure he was coming back to help with the conditioning, to make sure they're all working for another championship," Gonzalez said. "That's what kind of kid he is."
Although High Tech loses 10 seniors and seven starters, there are four returning starters - stopper Lautauro Sanfilippo, midfielders Michael Percontino and Steven Santos and defender Taylor Ensmen.
Gonzalez was particularly impressed with the play of freshman Ensmen.
"Not many freshmen can go out there in a state game and perform like that," Gonzalez said. "He made all the plays. He's going to be a starter for the next three years."
More importantly, there was some talk that Gonzalez was going to step aside from coaching soccer to concentrate on girls' basketball. Not so fast.
"I'm not going anywhere," Gonzalez said. "I told them I would be back. I did think about moving on, but the kids are the reason why I'm staying. They're just downright good kids and I couldn't think of anywhere else in the world I would rather be." - Jim Hague