It hasn’t been easy for the Hudson Catholic football program, having gone through four different head coaches over the last four years.
But the new head coach of the Hawks, Colin Eckert, already senses major changes in the program.
“They’re absolutely buying into what we want them to do,” said Eckert, who was previously a head coach at Mount Olive before coming to McGinley Square. “The energy level and intensity is there. I told them that the final score is not going to determine if they’re successful. It’s about them having faith and working hard. If they keep working, good things will happen.”
Eckert said that he has not mentioned the idea that the current Hawk seniors are dealing with their fourth coach in as many years.
“The truth of the matter is that we’re dealing with the here and now,” Eckert said. “I heard it a lot from people about dealing with different coaches. But I’m not just trying to get away from their [the former coaches’] thinking. I wasn’t here in the past, so it doesn’t matter to me. Everything is going to be the way I do things. I don’t care how it was done in the past.”
Added Eckert, “The kids are doing an excellent job of buying into that idea. What’s past is past.”
Eckert likes the talent of the players on the Hawks’ roster. It’s not the biggest team in terms of numbers, with only 25 or so comprising the Hudson Catholic varsity, but there is some talent.
“We have some football-minded kids,” Eckert said. “We need them to put the talent they have out there and let them perform. We have to get them to focus on the moment. They’re getting that and it’s good. I told our staff that we have to coach the kids we have and not worry about the ones who are not here. The kids have definitely responded to that.”
Leading the way for the Hawks is senior quarterback Jonathan Czerniewski (6-2, 175), who took over the signal caller responsibilities this season.
“He attended almost every single offseason training session we had,” Eckert said. “He worked his tail off, because he wanted to be the quarterback. He did the right things and deserved the shot.”
Senior Byron King (5-9, 180) is the Hawks’ main running back. King is a four-year veteran of the Hawk program who has endured the trials and tribulations, as well as the several coaching changes.
“He’s been great,” Eckert said. “He’s done all the things you need in a senior leader. He’s been solid.”
King was the Hawks’ leading rusher last year.
Junior Champ Smith (5-10, 180) is another Hawk running back and junior Nate Mack (6-0, 185) is the fullback.
The wide receivers are juniors Kevin Albert (6-2, 180), Jahlil Nelson (5-10, 170), Curtis Mullins (5-10, 170) and promising freshman Dwon Walker (5-9, 165). All four were slated to get playing time, but Nelson suffered an injury and will miss a few weeks.
The tight end is sophomore Rob Montanez (5-11, 200).
The offensive line is headed by returning senior starters Anthony Ray Haddad (5-10, 200) at guard and Michael Anthony DeBari (5-9, 250) at center. Sophomore Joe LaBrutto (5-9, 185) and junior Nick Swift (5-11, 220) are the bookend tackles and junior Joshua Asmad (5-10, 240) is the other guard.
Because of the team’s numbers crunch, all of the Hawks’ offensive players turn around and play defense as well.
Montanex and Haddad are defensive ends, with DeBari and Asmad at defensive tackle. Swift and LaBrutto are the linebackers, with Albert and sophomore Jalen Carter (5-8, 160) at cornerback and Smith, King and Mack at safety. King is a returning starter and a mainstay in the secondary.
The Hawks opened the 2011 season with a 12-2 loss to Newark Academy last weekend, but that was a positive sign, considering that the team surrendered more than 35 points per game a year ago.
“Defense is what we’re all about,” Eckert said. “That’s what we’re trying to build. We’re stressing the fundamentals, especially defense right now. It’s nothing fancy. We’re just making a commitment to defense first. If we continue with that intensity, we can be pretty good.”
One thing is for sure: Eckert looks as if he wants to make the commitment to this program for quite some time, stopping the spin of the revolving door of coaches that has hurt the program for the last four years. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.