TASTY TIDBITS Hoboken gridiron trio reunites in NY/NJ All-Star Classic

Weehawken’s Chong throws smoke; Hayward recovering; Roman taking next step

They walked off the field last November after suffering a heartbreaking loss to Dunellen in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I semifinals, ending a streak of seven straight playoff wins stretched over three seasons.
There was not going to be a “three-peat” this time for the Red Wings of Hoboken High School. The season came to an end with the defeat.
At the time, childhood friends Elijah Mercado, Josh Mercado (no relation) and Daniel Clifford believed that their time together as teammates had come to an end.
But that wasn’t the case, as all three were reunited last Sunday night, playing for the New Jersey All-Stars at the third annual NUC NY/NJ All-Star Classic at Winton White Stadium in Englewood.
The trio of Red Wings was the only Hudson County representation in the game, but the Hoboken kids more than held their own.
Elijah Mercado started the game at quarterback and completed a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ugo Ezemma of St. Joseph’s of Montvale on New Jersey’s first possession that gave New Jersey the lead for good in the 14-12 victory.
“I grew up with these guys, so for me, it’s a great honor,” Elijah Mercado said. “I went away for a bit [to Union City High School], but they let me back into their lives and it was all for the better. It’s crazy that we’re all here together. Part of me is happy, because we’re together, but part of me is sad because I won’t play with them again.”
Mercado has spent the spring months playing baseball, so it was a little hard to get back into football mode.
“But we wanted to represent Hoboken well,” Elijah Mercado said. “We got the rust off and got back on the field. We took a few hits and it was like we never left.”
Josh Mercado, who is headed to Wagner College with lifelong friend Clifford, got a few carries out of the backfield and played special teams.
“It’s a blessing to be back out here with my friends,” Josh Mercado said. “There’s no better feeling than to wear Hoboken on our helmets once again and have fun. I think all three of us always had chemistry together, so it’s always a good thing when we can play together.”
Lineman Clifford was also pleased to be part of the New Jersey squad with his buddies.
“Our last high school game didn’t end the way we wanted it to, so now we got another chance to get at it and cross that off my list,” Clifford said. “I’ve been in the weight room, lifting to get ready for college, so it wasn’t that tough to get back to playing football. This game was great, because I already know a lot of the players. It’s like playing organized street football in a pick-up game, only with equipment.”
It certainly didn’t hurt to leave the field as victors. Elijah Mercado looked good in his snaps and should be able to secure a college home after that performance, especially the fine fade pass to Ezemma for the score. The other two have their college plans already mapped…
It might be under the radar of some, but not for others, especially in Weehawken, where sophomore pitcher Sophie Chong pitched consecutive no-hitters last week against St. Mary’s of Rutherford and Paterson Charter and went 5-for-5 in the two games with five RBI. Chong and her twin sister Samantha, the team’s catcher, have been a solid 1-2 punch for the Indians…
Speaking of Weehawken, the first-ever Weehawken Autism Awareness Challenge was a rousing success last weekend – especially for the local teams that participated.
Eight Hudson County baseball teams were in the two-day event. Seven Hudson County teams won. Weehawken beat Park Ridge, 7-6. Dickinson got a huge win over River Dell, 4-3. Secaucus defeated Hasbrouck Heights, 5-4. Ferris continued its brilliant season by defeating Dumont, 5-3. Union City knocked off Indian Hills, 4-3 and to top off the weekend, Prep demoralized St. Joseph of Montvale, 20-1. The only local team to suffer a loss over the Weehawken weekend was St. Anthony. But seven wins over eight Bergen County schools? Chalk that up to Hudson County grit and determination…
Speaking of grit and determination, what more can be said about Marist baseball coach Ron Hayward and his fight against a rare kidney disease. Last week, Hayward, who has to endure five hours of dialysis almost daily, went into the hospital for a blood transfusion. But then disaster struck. While undergoing the transfusion, fluid built up in Hayward’s lungs, causing him to have difficulty breathing. He was sedated and kept in intensive care for a few days, forcing Hayward to miss a few games, including a thrilling late-inning victory over Hudson Catholic.
I spoke to Hayward through texts and he said that he was doing better and hoped to be out of the hospital this weekend. Late Wednesday night, Hayward posted this message on Facebook:
“This to all my boys, I always tell you guys, no one will ever stop us, I’m not sad, I’m enjoying my battle, the smile in the picture is how you always see me. Play every day with a smile, when you stink, smile, we will be playing in the championship this year, because I said so. The best part about life is that, you can battle. I taught you what I only know and that’s to battle. Just get us a top seed [in the Hudson County Tournament], so I don’t have to coach so hard in the playoffs.”
That says a lot about who Ron Hayward truly is.
Incredibly, what a season this has been for Hudson County baseball coaches. St. Anthony coach Buddy Matthews blew out his hamstring and required reconstructive surgery. Ferris coach Mike Hogan needed prostate surgery. Prep coach Pat Laguerre suffered a heart attack right before the season opener. And now, Hayward. The Hudson County baseball coaches are going to need their own hospital wing…
Speaking of Marist, former Royal Knight standout pitcher Fabian Roman, who has been featured in these pages several times over the years, was surprisingly released by the Cincinnati Reds, just a year after Roman helped the Reds’ Pioneer League affiliate, the Billings Mustangs, to a league title.
Roman said that he has already received a handful of offers from other MLB teams and may sign in the coming weeks. It was thought that Roman was a rising star in the Reds’ organization, especially after being made a closer. Roman believes that a dispute between his agent and the Reds led to the release. Crazy how professional baseball works…
The New Jersey Golden Gloves Boxing Championships will be held in Pershing Field Ice Rink in Jersey City Saturday night. Tickets range from $15 to $50. It should be a great night of amateur boxing right here in our backyard…
Hudson Reporter High School Baseball Top Five: 1. St. Peter’s Prep (12-1). 2. Ferris (10-4). 3. Memorial (8-4). 4. Marist (8-4). 5. Weehawken (7-3)…
Hudson Reporter High School Baseball Top Five: 1. Bayonne (8-1). 2. St. Dominic Academy (7-3). 3. Hudson Catholic (6-3). 4. North Bergen (7-5). 5. Secaucus (7-3)…–Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group