TASTY TIDBITS HCIAA soccer championships set; power point update Rondon favorite to capture another cross country title; Hurley steps down

The HCIAA soccer championships are set for Sunday (Nov. 2) at Bruins Stadium inside North Bergen’s North Hudson Braddock Park.

The first game, scheduled for 12 noon, will be for the HCIAA Seglio Division boys’ title, pitting perennial favorite High Tech against upstart McNair Academic. That game will be followed by the HCIAA Coviello girls’ finale, an all-Bayonne affair with Holy Family Academy taking on Bayonne at 2 p.m.

But the nightcap of the tripleheader will be the showdown between two-time defending county champion Memorial and this year’s HCIAA Coviello regular season champ North Bergen. The game is slated for a 4 p.m. kickoff.

For the last three seasons, the Bruins of North Bergen have been chasing the Tigers. In 2006, the Bruins lost in the Coviello title game to the Tigers. A year ago, Dickinson ended the Bruins’ title run in the league semifinals.

But this time, things are a little different, because the Bruins are the favorites and despite being the two-time defending champ, the Tigers are the ones doing the chasing. The Bruins’ only blemish inside the HCIAA this season was a 1-1 tie with Ferris. The Bruins won the regular season showdown with the Tigers, taking a 2-1 decision.

So the scenario is a little different this year for the Bruins and head coach John Belluardo.

“For the last two years, we’ve been basically playing the same team and that team has been maturing each year,” said Belluardo, who was the head coach the last time the Bruins won the HCIAA title in 1992. “Since we fell short the last two years, that gives us the goal and the initiative to win it this time. It’s been a team effort to get where we are. We know that when you’re the favorite, everyone wants to knock you off the pedestal. It’s going to take a concerted effort.”

Belluardo knows that the Tigers, coached by Alberto de los Reyes, will not give up their crown without a fight.

“The respect is definitely there for that team and that program,” Belluardo said. “They have been the powerful force for the last two years and deserve the respect. We can’t go into the game with an attitude that we’re simply going to win it, because they’re a good team. We have to play hard for the full 80 minutes.”

Belluardo knows that there is a solid rivalry between the two schools.

“Through the years, it’s become a good rivalry, both on and off the field,” Belluardo said. “They’re the next community over from us and the kids all know each other. The rivalry continues 12 months of the year. The kids even play against each other during the summer.”

Belluardo likes the way that he has scoring balance throughout his lineup, led by striker Andrew Buitron, who has scored 17 goals and collected seven assists this season. Midfielder Cesar Ventura, perhaps the most skilled player in the HCIAA, has tallied 16 goals and collected 11 assists.

“Andrew was very instrumental this year and picked up the scoring pace when Willy [Cardenas, the Bruins’ top goal scorer a year ago] went down with an injury,” Belluardo said. “Andrew’s been the man and Cesar is the one who gets us going.”

Cesar Callegas has added seven goals for the Bruins.

“We get scoring contributions from everyone,” Belluardo said. “I’m really proud of the way they all contribute.”

The other key for the Bruins is the play of goalkeeper Daniel Valencia, who has surrendered just eight goals all season long.

The Tigers will look to forward Fernando Alvarez, midfielder Ricardo Benitez and defender Jon Paul Nicolade if they want to make it a “three-peat.”

But it won’t be easy, especially with the Bruins playing on their home field.

“It does give us an advantage, because we know how to play our style on that field,” Belluardo said. “It’s our home.”

And it should be the site of where the Bruins finally get that long-awaited HCIAA Coviello title, the final HCIAA soccer title ever…

The NJSIAA football state playoff picture is getting a little clearer and the local teams should pretty much know their fate come Monday morning, as some teams will have played the eight games necessary for playoff consideration.

In North Jersey Section 2, Group I, both Hoboken and Secaucus have clinched playoff berths and are now jockeying for a possible first-round home game. The Red Wings are second in the section behind Brearley Regional and should hold on to at least second with a win this weekend against North Bergen, but will gain 10 power points with a win over the Bruins and that could be enough to snare the top seed in the section.

The Patriots have a 6-0 record and are currently in third place in that section. They have a tough game this weekend against 5-1 Park Ridge, so a Secaucus win could mean the Patriots actually getting a home state playoff game, which has not happened in coach Charlie Voorhees’ tenure as head coach. The Patriots are usually sent packing to a road game in the playoffs, so getting a home game would be a huge boost.

As mentioned in the Scoreboard column, Lincoln has already clinched a berth in North Jersey Section 2, Group II and the Lions are hoping to get a home game.

In Group III, Ferris is still alive, but the Bulldogs need a huge upset of St. Peter’s Prep to claim a berth. A loss means that the Bulldogs will be just shy of the state playoffs for a frustrating third straight year.

Hudson Catholic sits atop the Non-Public (Parochial) Group 2 standings and the Hawks could clinch the top seed with a win over Bayonne this weekend, despite having three losses. Holy Spirit of Absecon is right behind the Hawks in the standings, but they still have two games before the cutoff, while the Hawks have only one.

Incredibly, after all that they’ve been through, the Friars of St. Anthony remain alive in Non-Public Group 1, even after forfeiting three games due to the use of ineligible player. The Friars have a tough task, having to defeat Belleville to get in, but it can happen.

St. Peter’s Prep, winners of five straight games, has moved up to No. 5 in the Non-Public Group 4 standings, just a single point behind nationally ranked Don Bosco Prep. Incredibly, as it stands now, the Marauders would have to travel to Ramsey to face the dreaded Ironmen in the first round of the playoffs, not the state title game like the last four seasons. Things should change dramatically in that bracket, because current leader Bergen Catholic faces Don Bosco this weekend…

The Hudson County Track Coaches Association cross country championships are this weekend as well and Dickinson’s boys loom as a favorite, but North Bergen’s Danny Rondon appears to be a virtual shoo-in for his second straight county title. Rondon is having a phenomenal year, one that will end up in the record books.

St. Dominic Academy should battle Kearny for the team title among the girls’ ranks…

Bob Hurley announced his retirement last week. No, not as St. Anthony boys’ basketball coach, but as the director of Jersey City Recreation, where he has served well over the last seven years.

Hurley’s legacy with Jersey City Recreation will always be the renovation and restoration of the Jersey City Armory, because without his name power and influence, there is no way that the New Jersey state legislature would have ever agreed to the $4.5 million facelift.

It was Hurley’s influence that got the lawmakers like then Assemblyman, now Congressman Albio Sires and former State Sen. Bernard Kenny to push for the funding. Now, the Armory is a sports palace once again, used by the thousands all year round.

But what puzzles me is the backbiting and backstabbing that went in getting Hurley out. There were minions in Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s administration that were slithering their way to push Hurley out the door. Can you imagine? After all, he’s Bob Hurley, perhaps the most recognizable sports figure in Jersey City right now, and there are people in City Hall actually looking to get rid of him, simply because of politics.

Word is that Joe Macchi will be tabbed as Hurley’s successor and Macchi has paid his dues in the Recreation Department and deserves the opportunity to head the department. But it shouldn’t have come at the expense of Bob Hurley.

At least, Hurley’s going out on his terms and didn’t give some extremely jealous politico the chance to hand him a totally unwarranted pink slip. Politics certainly can be a nasty, nasty game…

Congrats to West New York youth baseball guru Lou Nagurka for being named as the top amateur baseball coach in New Jersey by the Amateur American Baseball Congress (AABC). Louie is one of the most dedicated baseball people in the county and has been devoting his heart and soul to the kids of West New York for ages. He deserves the accolades… — Jim Hague

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