Blue Jays look to take competitive leap Back on track with solid win over Sussex Tech

In beginning his second year as the head football coach at St. Joseph of the Palisades, Guy Bertola didn’t know what to think after the Blue Jays helped to christen the new West New York athletic complex, named the Joseph Coviello Field in honor of the late coaching legend, and got trounced by neighboring Memorial by 40 points.

“It was tough trying to beat Memorial in that first game,” Bertola said. “We fumbled the ball five times in our own end. You’re not going to win that way.”

So Bertola knew that the Blue Jays had to somehow find the wherewithal to bounce back and get the season back on track. If not, then there would be no chance to improve on the 2-6 mark the Blue Jays had in Bertola’s first season.

“We have good veteran leadership,” Bertola said. “I knew they would bounce back.”

The result was a 32-8 victory over Sussex Tech, totally turning the tides from the season-opening disappointment.

“I think the win validates a lot what we’re trying to do,” Bertola said. “Everything now seems to be falling into place.”

Leading the way for the Blue Jays is senior quarterback and co-captain Leonel Carranza (6-0, 170), who rushed for two touchdowns and threw for one in the win over Sussex Tech.

“Leonel has definitely taken on the leadership role,” Bertola said. “He’s the guy who gets us going. We definitely need him to step up every game.”

The top running back is senior Irving Dardon (5-8, 160), who had 85 yards on just five carries and two touchdowns against Sussex Tech.

“He’s a big-play type of kid and our toughest kid,” Bertola said of Dardon. “He also had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Memorial.”

Dardon is joined in the backfield by junior Eric Harris (6-1, 165) and diminutive sophomore Francois Garcia (5-7, 140), whom Bertola calls “The French Connection.”

The wide receiver is junior Marcus Hunter (5-11, 175) and the tight end is senior Jason Olivera (5-8, 175), whom Bertola said did a great job blocking in both Blue Jays games thus far.

The offensive line has good size at the tackle position, with senior co-captain Herbert Parada (6-3, 265) and senior Jonathan Vega (6-2, 255) manning those slots. Juniors Jeff Escobar (5-8, 180) and Derek DeHaseth (5-9, 170) are the guards, with junior Tyler Solan (5-10, 240) at center. Bertola calls Solan “the anchor of the offensive line.”

The Blue Jays utilize a multitude of defensive sets, with DeHaseth and sophomore Dennys Terrero (5-10, 160) at defensive end, Solan and senior Scott Aguilera (5-8, 250) at defensive tackle and Escobar at the nose guard slot.

The Blue Jays have a pair of promising sophomores at linebacker in Hector Molina (5-8, 185) and Jose Lugo (6-1, 180). Bertola likes the way young Molina goes after people.

“He’s a real hitter,” Bertola said of Molina.

The secondary features Harris and Hunter at cornerback and Carranza and senior Pete Garcia (5-8, 165) at safety.

Bertola believes that the Blue Jays have turned the corner after the opening game loss.

“I’m definitely happy where we are,” Bertola said. “We only need four wins to get into the state playoffs (Non-Public Group I), so I’m optimistic. I think we can win five or six games. We’re a better team than last year. Last year was a teaching year. This year, I feel like we’re on the go and ready to go. We have some talent. We have some kids who can play.”

The Blue Jays face Manville this weekend, a team that beat St. Joseph’s 26-6 last year. But they do have a full nine-game independent schedule, including a game against surprising St. Anthony on Oct. 18. – Jim Hague


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