EDITOR’S NOTE: Three Hudson County high school football teams have reached their respective NJSIAA state championship games this weekend. This is a look at each of the three participants as they prepared to bring home a slice of state glory. Only once in Hudson County history (1994, Hoboken, Marist and St. Peter’s Prep) three local teams won state titles in the same year. Here’s the look at this year’s combatants as they shoot for a chance at history.

Another December journey for the Red Wings

Ask Lou Taglieri how many times he has been involved in an NJSIAA state championship football game as a coach and you get tired just listening to the Hoboken High School head coach rattle them all off in a row, without even pausing for a breath.
“Well, there were the wins in 1994, 1995 and 1996,” Taglieri said about his days as an assistant coach to the legendary Ed Stinson. “We lost in 1997, then won again in 1998 and 1999. We lost in 2002, then lost again in 2004. We won when I was the head coach in 2005, then lost in the finals again in 2008. We won in 2012 and 2013 and now this year. How’s that? I guess you can say I’ve been involved in a lot.”
The final tally comes to 13 times that Taglieri has helped to prepare Red Wing teams for a state championship game.
“It doesn’t get old,” said Taglieri, who will take the 8-3 Red Wings to Kean University Saturday to face undefeated 11-0 Brearley of Kenilworth for the North Jersey Section 2, Group I championship at 1 p.m. “It’s actually a lot of fun to still be playing in December.”
Of the 13 teams that have played for a state title under Taglieri’s tutelage, the 2015 version of the Red Wings (two words) is clearly the one that no one thought could get there.
“It’s definitely the least likely of all the teams we’ve had,” Taglieri said. “Simply because everything is brand new. We have a new offensive coordinator [former defensive coordinator John Peluso] and a new defensive coordinator [former Red Wing All-State great Keeon Walker]. We have a new offense installed and a new defense. Yeah, if someone would have told me back in August that this team would be playing for a state championship, I’d say, ‘You’re nuts.’”
Never mind August. There were times during the season when Taglieri wondered whether he did the right thing by scrapping the old reliable offensive approach (the Delaware Wing-T, which was a staple of Hoboken football through the entire Ed Stinson era).
“There were some games where we came out in the first half on fire and then come out in the second half and they’d give us nothing,” Taglieri said. “That doesn’t equate to playing for a state championship.”
This is a Hoboken team that got demoralized by the other two Hudson County teams playing for state titles this weekend. The Red Wings were drubbed by Lincoln, 40-6, and got hammered by Hudson Catholic, 28-6. In neither game did the Red Wings look like a state championship caliber club.
Just two weeks ago, the Red Wings were trailing Weequahic, 22-6, at halftime, but exploded in the second half to win, 30-22, thanks to the brilliant performance of junior quarterback Wilden Germain, who rushed for 284 yards and a touchdown out of the Red Wings’ spread offense and threw for 130 yards and a score.
“It’s a little frustrating coaching a team like this,” Taglieri said. “Believe me, we knew absolutely nothing about how this team was going to react. People always expect so much from them because they’re from Hoboken. It’s not that easy. Maybe we’re in the finals this time because we had no expectations. Usually, we have this player coming back or that one. We had nothing. The whole thing was new.
Added Taglieri, “The first half of the Lincoln game, I thought we were having a great time out there. We were losing, 6-0, but playing well. Then you wonder what happened to make us lose that badly. We have to be on these guys 110 percent of the time to keep them focused and keep their eye on the prize. Just because it says Hoboken on the fronts of their shirts doesn’t mean they’re a good football team. They haven’t accomplished anything.”
But thanks to the play of people like Germain at quarterback (15 TDs rushing), Marquis Roberts at running back (1,513 yards rushing, 15 TDs) and Kyeise Lopez and Diquill Neal (big touchdown reception against Weequahic), the Red Wings have now started to have that look of a champion.
“You can see it in their faces this week,” Taglieri said. “They know what’s at stake. They know what they have to do.”
Facing an undefeated team is a huge challenge.
“Brearley is a very good team,” Taglieri said. “They’re very well coached, very solid in what they do. They make very few mistakes. We better be ready to block and tackle. If not, it’s going to be a long afternoon. They run the option well and have a very well-rounded offense. Scott Miller is an excellent coach. It won’t be easy.”
Taglieri has a lot of faith in his junior signal caller.
“Wilden Germain reads everything on offense,” Taglieri said. “I don’t tell him to hand the ball off or throw the ball. Everything is in his hands. He reads all the plays 100 percent of the time. And he loves it. He comes over to the sidelines with that smile on his face. He has that smile even when he makes a mistake.”
Taglieri knows that there’s a huge challenge, facing a Brearley team that could practically walk to Kean. So Taglieri will assemble his team on Friday night and have a sleepover at JFK Stadium, like they have in the past in recent state championship runs.
They will collectively pay respects to Bobby Johnson, the former Red Wing player and brother of assistant coach/equipment manager Vinnie Johnson (also the head softball coach at the school), who died Tuesday at the age of 51. They will sleep on cots at the stadium, have breakfast together Saturday morning and head to Union.
They’ve done it before. It’s nothing new. Only the team is new.
“There were times I said to myself, ‘Did I do the right thing?’ Taglieri said. “I abandoned tradition. But kids are different now. They can’t handle things that are monotonous. You have to make them want to play.”
We’ll see if they want to play at Kean on Saturday.

Jim Hague can be reached at

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