Finally, a light at the end of tunnel for Snyder grid team

For more than a decade, the losses simply continued to mount for the Snyder High School football team, like it was simply supposed to happen. The Tigers would line up on the field each week and get their collective heads handed to them. Week after excruciating week, the losses piled up like a stack of household bills on the dining room table.
Need proof? Since 2003, the first year that the wonderful website Gridiron New Jersey started to post game results every week from all over the state, the Tigers had a robust win-loss record of 12 wins and exactly 100 losses. Can you fathom that? Frankly, it gets worse.
In fact, prior to this year, the Tigers had lost 29 straight games dating back to November of 2011 to the start of this year. That’s almost four full years of losing, four full campaigns of putting on the uniform, lacing up the cleats and head to the field, simply to get whomped.
The senior members of this year’s current roster had no idea what it was like to be on a winning football team, not one single time. Can you imagine that?
But this year, something magical happened. A new coach named Ray Marshall arrived, coming over from Lincoln, where the winning has been happening for quite some time now and this year, the winning has occurred nine times in nine games. That’s right, the Lions head to this weekend’s NJSIAA state playoffs undefeated at 9-0.
Marshall finally got his chance to be a head coach and he ran with it.
“When I first came here, I knew I had to build at it a little,” Marshall said after a healthy practice at Caven Point Cochrane Field, where the Tigers will close out their season Saturday with an NJSIAA “regional crossover” game against Fort Lee.
“I thought that it would take maybe two years,” Marshall said. “The first step was getting a win. A lot of these kids didn’t know what that was like.”
Sure enough, in the second week of the season, with the winless streak at 30, the Tigers beat Newark West Side, 13-4. It wasn’t the prettiest win, but there were bigger numbers on the left side of the scoreboard for the Tigers. That’s all that mattered. A win is a win is a win. It was a place to start.
“These kids are fighters,” Marshall said. “They worked hard for more.”
There were more wins against Dickinson, Marist and St. Anthony, three programs that are struggling for players, but the wins kept piling up. The Tigers reached four wins prior to facing Immaculate Conception of Lodi last week.
Thanks to the efforts of reborn running back Nolan Burns, who had 252 yards on 24 carries and scored three touchdowns, the Tigers rolled to a 38-0 victory.
Lo and behold, the Tigers had their fifth win of the season. They didn’t have five wins over the last six seasons combined, but they have five now. They own a 5-4 record with one game remaining against Fort Lee. The chances of Snyder having a winning season are actually there. Talk about miracles. This is one of the biggest athletic miracles in Hudson County sports over the last 25 years.
In fact, if the Tigers manage to defeat Fort Lee and finish this season at 6-4, it will represent the highest win total Snyder has enjoyed during football season since 1990. Yes, a full quarter century of gloom and doom can all be washed away with one win this week.
“We want to be able to send the seniors off with something to talk about,” Marshall said. “Something to be proud of. Something that they will remember for the rest of their lives.”
The players are definitely excited for the chance to be 6-4. There’s no championship attached to it. There is no state playoff game. It’s just a football game, but to the members of the Tigers, it is a lot like the Super Bowl, the World Series and Christmas morning all rolled into one.
“It means a lot to me,” said senior defensive back Tykel Tate. “We can change the past and what happened. Maybe we’re getting kids in the school who want to play football. It’s too late for this year, but they can keep it in mind. I was happy that we had a better record than in the past. I wanted to be able to go out with a bang and make a little statement, to make sure no one would forget us. Coach Marshall deserves the credit, because he stuck with us and pushed us.”
“It means a lot because a lot of people have played here, good people with good backgrounds,” said senior linebacker Keiwan Anderson. “We were the ones who made the change. I just hope it goes on after we leave.”
Dakim Lyons is another senior who had to endure the tough times as well.
“I believed that we were going to turn it around,” Lyons said. “I believed in Coach Ray. I believed in our coaches. They’re all dedicated and wanted us to learn and wanted us to win. They brightened up our future. I think we all believed we could do it. We’ve set up the program from here on.”
Marshall just loves the rebirth of Snyder football.
“The support has been great,” Marshall said. “We have many members of the alumni who have been coming back and want to give back. No one can treat Snyder as a doormat anymore. I thought it was going to take some time. It happened this year. We got the first win and that was a relief. Once we got the second win, I said, ‘Hey, this feels good.’ These kids needed to win. They needed to experience it. It means so much to the kids. Now, every kid in Pop Warner and Jersey City Recreation can consider coming to Snyder. We’re not a joke anymore. Right now, there are two good teams in Jersey City [Lincoln and Snyder]. Who’s to say it can’t stay that way?”
It’s up to the kids and it’s up to Marshall.
“We have a winning attitude inside the kids now,” Marshall said. “That winning attitude is inside the school right now, too. It’s amazing how this all turned around in such a short time. But they first got to see what it was like to win one game and then it was two games and then three. We just wanted to ride it out. It’s like a 360-degree turn here.”
Marshall has to hope that it all just keeps spinning Snyder’s way in the future. And a solid future begins with a win over Fort Lee, because 6-4 is much more impressive than 5-5. Just a thought.

Jim Hague can be reached at
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