SCOREBOARD Hoboken wins yet another state football title

Third in four years and 10th overall has a different ring to it

It was mid-October and there had to be some concern with the Hoboken High School football team. A 40-6 trouncing at the hands of Lincoln came on Oct. 16 – at home no less, as part of Hoboken’s traditional Friday Night Lights – and that was followed by a 28-6 loss to Hudson Catholic one week later in Jersey City.
It was a 1-2 punch that would have floored most teams and sent them wobbling back to the corner, looking for the spit bucket and something to stop the bloody nose.
The Redwings (yes, the school’s superintendent has decided once and for all that the nickname is one word, so it will now be that here as well) owned a record of 4-3 after the two straight lopsided setbacks. They didn’t look like football royalty. The new fangled spread offense and new defensive alignment didn’t appear to be working too well.
“I don’t know if I said that it wasn’t happening,” veteran head coach Lou Taglieri said. “We just had to sure some things up. But I didn’t know what was going to happen. I think they knew they had to get better and they were ready to make the commitment to get better.”
The two losses served as wake-up calls to the players.
“Once we lost to Hudson Catholic, we were a little shaky,” said senior wide receiver/defensive back Diquill Neal. “We all knew that if we were going to be good, that was it. We couldn’t lose again. We couldn’t afford to lose again.”
Junior quarterback Wilden Germain, who never played the position before this season, was confident that the Redwings were going to turn it around.
“To be honest, doubts didn’t creep into our heads,” Germain said. “In honesty, it fueled us. It got us going. I knew that once Coach Tags told me about our chances in the playoff bracket, we could win it all. It was stuck in my mind that we could win it.”
Although he’s a junior, Germain is the heart and soul of the Hoboken Redwings. He plays with fervor and a passion. He has a love for the game and does everything with this infectious smile. He’s also the type of person that you better get your words in quickly talking to him, because he’s not going to let you speak again, rattling off word after word in rapid fire fashion.
Taglieri took a major gamble last summer by turning the keys of the Hoboken castle over to Germain, who was a wide receiver. Taglieri wanted to go to a spread offense with Germain calling the signals. The kid never played quarterback before.
“The pressure was on me,” Germain said. “There was no tryout. I was the quarterback. It was my job, my responsibility, my ball.”
But after the two one-sided losses that would have devastated anyone, Germain made sure that it wasn’t going to have a negative impact on the Redwings.
“We all knew we had the talent,” Germain said. “We knew we couldn’t mess it up.”
Taglieri noticed a change in his team.
“I think they became more students of the game,” Taglieri said. “They became more cerebral. The mental aspects of the game, they cleaned up. They weren’t afraid to make mistakes. You can’t think when you’re playing football. You have to react. They were thinking too much.”
“I never thought the two losses were that big of a setback,” said senior running back Marquis Roberts, the team’s leading rusher. “We all knew we had it in us. We just had to stop making mistakes.”
The Redwings won their last two regular season games against Memorial and Marist in devastating fashion, scoring 58 points in each game, to get to 6-3, which was good enough for the second seed in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I playoff bracket.
Immediately, the older members of the Redwings realized one thing. Sure, some of them might have been on the 2012 or 2013 teams that won state titles, but those teams were dominated by other players.
“I wanted my own ring,” Germain said. “I like this one, but I wanted one of my own. I couldn’t say that I won one. I kept it in my mind that I couldn’t wait to win one of my very own.”
“Those other championships were nice, but they weren’t ours,” said senior wide receiver/defensive back Kyiese Lopez. “We wanted one to call ours.”
So the Redwings got to the state playoffs and were on a mission, defeating Glen Ridge in the opening round, then Weequahic of Newark in the second round to get to the state title game against Brearley Regional of Kenilworth, an undefeated 11-0 team shooting for its sixth overall state title.
Last Saturday at Kean University, the Redwings got one of their own, soundly defeating Brearley, 34-12, to capture the North 2, Group I crown, the third in the last four years and the 10th overall for the school.
Roberts rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns. It was Roberts’ touchdown on the first play from scrimmage that set the tone for the whole game. Germain added 90 yards and a score. Neal and Hafiz Gordonel also added TD runs for the winners.
And funny, all thoughts of that October swoon were long gone.
“Since freshman year, everyone has always been doubting us,” Neal said. “We did what we had to do and came out victorious.”
“I knew it was ours once we got off the bus,” Gordonel said. “I saw the way they looked at us coming off the bus and I knew it was over. We had to prove people wrong.”
Roberts is one of only a handful of Hoboken football players all time who will have earned three state championship rings.
“When I first came here, I knew that it was less than 10 that had three rings,” Roberts said. “I am proud to now be a part of that.”
The Hoboken legends like Tyrell Dortch and Keeon Walker were on the teams that won three straight from 1996 through 1998. Both coached these kids at some point. Walker is still the team’s defensive coordinator.
“Those teams were dominant,” Roberts said. “We all left it on the field to get the third one. It’s a great feeling to be in the same category with those guys.”
“That was a great dynasty back then,” said defensive end/wide receiver Isaiah James, who transferred to Hoboken from St. Peter’s Prep after his sophomore year. “Those guys put so much work into us. We didn’t want to disappoint them. When I came here, my main objective was to get one. It would have been hard to get out of high school without one. But we were able to keep the tradition going.”
Those Hoboken teams won an astounding 38 straight games during its three-year run and in one six-year span, the Redwings won 67 of 68 games. That mark will never be matched again in Hudson County history.
But winning three in four years is nothing to sneeze at.
And this ride turned out to be a lot of fun.
“I can brag to the whole world that I finally did it, playing a new position,” Germain said. “My first year at quarterback, I guess I did pretty well.”
“My sister said that she never saw me smile,” Taglieri said. “This one, by far, is the most enjoyable one. It was just a fun bunch of kids. I have to credit assistant coaches John Peluso and Keeon Walker for making the changes and sticking with them. It’s surreal and pretty remarkable.”

Jim Hague can be reached at You can also read Jim’s blog at

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