The calendar year of 2013 brought a lot of excitement to Hudson County sports fans. But what were the ten best stories for the year? Let’s take a closer look:
1-Hoboken wins second straight state football title
It was one thing for the Hoboken High School football team to win a state football championship in 2012. After all, the Red Wings won the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I crown a year ago with a healthy roster and a superstar All-State running back in Donte Carter.
During the course of the 2013 season, the Red Wings suffered injury after injury, including two crucial season-ending ones to senior leaders Kain Dunham and Terry Perry. Even head coach Lou Taglieri had to endure serious gall bladder surgery. The Red Wings didn’t exactly hit the postseason in stride, losing to Union City, 41-7, in the regular season finale.
But led by senior quarterback Donte Bass, the Red Wings regrouped at the right time and won their three playoff games over Ridgefield, New Providence, and finally Shabazz of Newark, 13-7, in December at Kean University in Union, winning on a touchdown from Josh Mercado with just 12 seconds remaining to give Hoboken its second straight state sectional championship.
Seconds before the touchdown, Bass completed a 68-yard pass to DeShawn Reed to set up the game-winning score.
The thrilling win over Shabazz and repeat state championship performance enables Hoboken to secure the top spot in our year-end list.
2-North Bergen’s Giraldo captures NJSIAA state wrestling title
Before 2013, there had only been four Hudson County wrestlers -- and only one from North Bergen High School -- to ever capture an NJSIAA state wrestling championship.
But Anthony Giraldo of North Bergen, a Guttenberg resident who attends High Tech High School, created his slice of history in March, when he defeated Corey Stasenko of South Plainfield to capture the 126-pound state championship.
Giraldo, a junior, became the first North Bergen wrestler to earn a state crown since John Bott won in 1983. Giraldo, who signed a national letter of intent to attend Rutgers on a wrestling scholarship in December, joined Bott, David Cordoba of Kearny, and James Fox and Lenny Richardson of St. Peter’s Prep as Hudson County wrestlers who captured state titles.
Barring injury or illness, Giraldo will look to become the first-ever two-time Hudson County state champion in March, 2014.
3-Secaucus wins county, state softball championships
After the first two weeks of the high school softball season, the Patriots of Secaucus didn’t look like they were going to have a successful season. They lost three of their first five games and didn’t appear to have the makings of a good squad.
But somehow, the Patriots caught fire as the first week of May unfolded and went on a streak where they won an amazing 14 straight games, including a win over North Bergen to capture the school’s first-ever Hudson County Tournament championship and later a win over state-power Whippany Park to earn the school’s first-ever NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I state sectional title.
Secaucus became only the fifth Hudson County softball team to earn a state title, joining North Bergen (1987), Hoboken (2007), and High Tech (2008 and 2009).
Led by eventual Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year Danielle Roesing, who pitched the Patriots to the historic firsts, the Patriots ended up with a 24-8 record, setting a school record for wins in a season in the process. The only drawback was that Patriot head coach Cherryl Bott announced her resignation at the close of the incredible campaign to remember.
4-Hudson County’s hoop season for the ages
It’s been recognized for ages that Hudson County has been the hotbed for high school basketball. After all, it’s the home of the most successful high school hoops program in the country in St. Anthony, complete with its Hall of Fame coach in Bob Hurley. So the area has always been recognized for its greatness.
But the 2012-13 season represented a new high for the locals, because six different teams – four boys’ teams and two girls’ squads – made it all the way to their respective NJSIAA state sectional championship games last March.
Two of the teams, namely St. Anthony in Non-Public B North and St. Peter’s Prep in Non-Public A North, won their respective state championships. For St. Anthony, it was old hat, winning the 29th state sectional title in the school’s history. For Prep, it was only the third since 1962.
Hudson Catholic, which captured its second straight Hudson County Tournament title before the state playoffs began, unfortunately lost to the fabulous Friars in the state sectional championship game for the second straight year. But the Hawks had a brilliant season from senior Reggie Cameron, who earned Hudson Reporter Player of the Year honors and was on most All-State teams before heading off to Georgetown on a scholarship.
The other state sectional finalists locally were Snyder’s boys in North Jersey Section 2, Group II, as the Tigers fell to Newark Tech in the title game by a single point, 55-54; Secaucus’ girls, who lost to Bloomfield Tech, 39-35, in the title game of the North 2, Group I bracket and Lincoln, which lost to Shabazz in the North 2, Group II title game.
Earlier in the month, Lincoln defeated Secaucus in overtime to win the Hudson County Tournament title for a second straight year.
Still, having six teams compete for a state sectional title on the same night was a major accomplishment and certainly memorable.
5-Unfortunate death of Marist football player Pohill
Unfortunately, the No. 5 story of the year involves a tragedy. In early November, Marist High School freshman defensive tackle Kylin Polhill collapsed while playing a pickup basketball game in Newark on a day off from school and later died. Polhill, a hulking player with a ton of promise, was only 14 years old.
The tragedy hit the Marist community very hard, especially a football team that had to gear back up and play another game four days after Polhill’s untimely death. But the Royal Knights rallied, thanks to inspired play from senior do-everyting D’Ondre Robinson, and defeated Ferris, honoring their fallen teammate in the process.
It marked the first time that an active Hudson County football player had died during the season since 1996, when Snyder captain Tahid Ramsey collapsed on the field and later died from some sort of respiratory failure.
6-Union City’s Castano earns spot with New York Red Bulls
It was a historic moment last March, when 18-year-old Santiago Castano was signed by the New York Red Bulls out of the team’s youth academy and was placed on the team’s roster. Castano, who attended Union City High School for a brief stint before being recruited to attend the Red Bulls Youth Academy three years ago, became the first Hudson County player outside of Kearny and Harrison to play in the Major Soccer League. The young goalkeeper has a promising future with the Red Bulls and is a player to watch.
7-Weehawken’s Mendez gets drafted, signs with Texas Rangers
In June, Weehawken’s Sal Mendez fulfilled a lifelong dream when he was selected by the Texas Rangers in the Major League Baseball Draft. The Weehawken High School senior then quickly signed with the Rangers after graduation from high school, becoming the first Weehawken product to play organized professional baseball in more than 40 years. Mendez did not get a chance to pitch much for the Rangers after suffering an elbow injury, but he should be raring to go in time for spring training in 2014.
Also, Marist product Fabian Roman was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in the 16th round of the draft and the Jersey City native signed and pitched for Billings in the Pioneer League.
8-St. Peter’s Prep dominates District 16 wrestling
In perhaps the biggest display of overall strength ever shown at an NJSIAA district wrestling tournament, the Marauders of St. Peter’s Prep dominated the field at the District 16 tournament in February. The Marauders scored 311 team points, more than double of any other team in the field and the most in state history. They crowned an astounding 11 District 16 champions, also the most in the state. The Marauders went on to have five wrestlers earn medals at the NJSIAA state championships in Atlantic City in March. A true sign of team dominance.
9-Legendary boxer Griffith dies
In July, legendary boxer Emile Griffith, who won world championships in both the welterweight and middleweight divisions, died after a long battle with what is called pugilistic dementia. Griffith was 75 years old.
Griffith, who lived in Weehawken, Hoboken, and Jersey City for most of his adult life, was a terrific boxing champion and fan favorite, but his career took a sudden turn when he fought Benny “The Kid” Paret in Madison Square Garden in March of 1962, a fight that was televised on national television on ABC as part of their “Friday Night Fights” package. Paret had called Griffith a homophobic slur during the pre-fight weigh in and Griffith was angered by the slur, so he took it out of Paret in the ring. Paret was beaten so badly that he died from his injuries. While Griffith remained a professional boxer for another eight years, he wasn’t the same fighter and felt guilt and remorse for Paret’s death.
Griffith later became a boxing trainer locally, working with world champions Wilfredo Benitez, Juan LaPorte and James “Bonecrusher” Smith and worked in the Secaucus youth detention center as a corrections officer.
In later years, Griffith suffered from dementia and lived in a care facility on Long Island, where he died.
10-Stinson returns to coach St. Anthony
After stepping away from coaching on the high school ranks at Hoboken in 2005, ending a legendary stay in the Mile-Square City, Ed Stinson returned to coach again in Hudson County in 2013, taking over the program at St. Anthony in Jersey City.
When Stinson was the coach at Hoboken, he led the Red Wings to successes never before seen in local high school football, including six NJSIAA state champions, three of which came in succession (1997 through 1999). The Red Wings had two winning streaks of 38 and 29 straight. He won 221 games as the mentor of the Red Wings, carving his niche as one of the best grid coaches in Hudson County history.
Stinson spent a few years at William Paterson University and Bergen Catholic as a defensive coordinator and had a brief stint as the head coach at Queen of Peace in North Arlington, but began the 2013 on the sidelines in his old stomping grounds of Hudson County.
In October of this year, Stinson returned to JFK Stadium to coach against the Red Wings. Hoboken won the game, 24-13.
Just missed list
Here are some of the other stories that just missed making the top 10 list. Bobby Hurley became a head college basketball coach, taking over the program at the University of Buffalo. Jersey City natives Mike Eusebio and Rashon Burno, both products of the Duncan Avenue housing projects, were reunited as player and coach on the men’s basketball team at the University of Florida; former Marist football coach Gene Pagnozzi, a Hudson County Hall of Famer, died; St. Peter’s Prep’s baseball team won 28 games, a school record, and won the Ed Ford Memorial Hudson County Baseball Tournament; the Prep indoor track team dominated the HCTCA meet, winning by over 100 points; Hoboken’s Tyshawn Taylor makes inroads as a steady basketball player for the Brooklyn Nets; former St. Peter’s Prep standout Will Hill put aside his personal strife to become a fine player and starting safety for the New York Giants.
All in all, it was an exciting 2003, capped once again by outstanding achievements by teams and individuals throughout the county.