Sports Year in Review: 2015

Hoboken’s state grid title, North Bergen wrestling champs top 10 sports stories of year

So what were the top sports stories for 2015?
We crowned champions and bade farewell to major legends. We had dreams fulfilled and other thoughts curtailed. More importantly, we had another year to remember in Hudson County sports, so let’s take a closer look at The Hudson Reporter’s Top 10 Sports Stories for 2015.

1-Hoboken wins another state football title
It’s almost synonymous these days – December and state championships for the Hoboken High School football team. The Redwings recovered from some midseason blues to steamroll through the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I bracket, including a convincing final game victory over Brearley Regional of Kenilworth.
The Redwings defeated previously undefeated 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, the top football state title total in Hudson County.
The Redwings got 177 yards rushing and two touchdowns from senior Marquis Roberts and 90 yards rushing and a touchdown from junior quarterback Wilden Germain in the win over Brearley. Incredibly, the Redwings accomplished the feat after changing long-standing offensive and defensive formations and strategies.

2-North Bergen wins NJSIAA state wrestling title
In February, the North Bergen High School wrestling team accomplished something that no Bruin grappling team had done in more than 20 years. They won a state championship.
The Bruins defeated Clifton, 37-34, to capture the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group V state championship.
It marked the first time since 1993 that the Bruins won a state sectional wrestling title – and the first in head coach and athletic director Jerry Maietta’s outstanding career.
“It’s not about me,” Maietta said. “It’s about the kids. It’s been a long time coming, more than 20 years. These kids really wanted this. They waited for their turn to get a shot at winning it. They showed a lot of determination and the heart of a Bruin.”
What makes this state sectional championship even more remarkable is that no one thought it was possible when the season began.

3-Prep’s Colucci wins NJSIAA 220-pound state wrestling crown

In each of the last two high school wrestling seasons, Christian Colucci found himself in the same exact location, on the outside looking in.
“I was sitting in the stands [at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall] and watching the finals [of the NJSIAA state tournament],” Colucci said. “I knew in my heart right then that this was not going to happen again. I was so close twice. I was going to do everything in my power to make sure it wouldn’t happen again. It was a lot of motivation.”
By the time the wrestling season began in earnest in late November, Colucci felt he was ready.
“I felt that going into the season, I had to set the tone and show everyone that I was going to win the state title,” Colucci said. “No one was going to touch me. I set the tone. This was my year. It was no one else’s year.”
Colucci remained untouchable in New Jersey, rolling to another NJSIAA District 16 championship (his third), a Region 4 championship (also his third) and finally, the grand prize, the 220-pound overall state title.
Colucci won the state title by defeating Marc McDonald of West Essex, 3-0, in the championship round, completing his season with a stellar 35-3 record and 112 wins for his career at Prep.
With the win, Colucci became the third Prep wrestler and only the seventh in Hudson County history to win the state crown. It’s a true success story, capped with what Christian Colucci always wanted – a state championship.

4-Hudson Catholic boys’ hoops squad makes it four county titles in a row

Plain and simple, Hudson Catholic has built a dynasty when it comes to boys’ basketball.
The Hawks earned the dynasty moniker in March, courtesy of a 51-48 victory over Marist to capture the school’s fourth straight Hudson County Tournament championship.
Think of it in these terms: When the Hawks captured the Hudson County tourney title in 2012, it marked the first time in 37 years that the school won a county crown. That was somewhat of a novelty.
It’s not anymore. To win four championships in a row, you’re like the New York Yankees of Hudson County basketball, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Chicago Bulls, UCLA basketball. Simply put, you’re a dynasty.
It’s no fluke, no freak of nature. The Hawks were supposed to lose last year to St. Peter’s Prep in the finale. They didn’t. They were supposed to win this year as the top seed and they did. That’s what dynasties do. They win when they’re not expected to and win when they are expected to.
“Winning the county championship is extremely important to us,” Mariniello said. “Winning the first one, there was so much buzz because it had been so long. The first one, we were never expected to win and we did. Now, we’re expected to win. It’s a totally different mindset than the first one.”

5-Izod Center closes its doors

It was first the Brendan Byrne Arena, then the Continental Airlines Arena and finally the Izod Center, but from the minute the doors opened in the summer of 1981, it was more universally known as its unofficial name, the Meadowlands Arena.
And it was a building that helped to put New Jersey on the national sports map, with nearby Hudson County being a huge part of that success.
Despite being the one-time home of both the New Jersey Nets of the NBA and the New Jersey Devils of the NHL, the Meadowlands Arena played a major part of prominence for college basketball games galore, including the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference holding its season-ending tournament there for several years, with local favorite St. Peter’s College battling for league supremacy there, just never got over the top.
St. Peter’s played at least one game a year there, most of the time facing Seton Hall. But The Peacocks defeated UConn one year and Michigan State another.
On the high school level, St. Anthony enjoyed gigantic success there, winning the T of C in the Meadowlands a grand total of nine times, including the final time in 2012 with Kyle Anderson (now of the San Antonio Spurs) leading the way to the Friars’ second straight crown over Plainfield.
The Friars, led by current Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley, as well as Terry Dehere, Rodrick Rhodes and Jerry Walker, captured the first ever T of C title at the Meadowlands in 1989. The Friars also won a T of C title when Rashon Burno collected 10 steals in defeating Shawnee there in 1996 and another when Donald Copeland drained a corner jumper to give the Friars a hard-earned 48-47 win over Shabazz in 2001.
But the Izod Center was closed by state officials in April, turning the facility into an eyesore and leaving its rich history and tradition in sports as a distant memory.

6-Washington Park wins District 7 Little League title, first since 1969

In July, Washington Park Little League of Jersey City won the prestigious District 7 11-and-12-year-old All-Star tournament championship, the first for the long-standing league since 1969.
The kids from Washington Park truly thought that they were going all the way to Williamsport and play in the Little League World Series. They used that goal as motivation. They managed to maneuver their way through the loser’s bracket, winning five games, more than Washington Park did in the last few years combined.
“After the first loss, I was a little worried,” Washington Park manager George Lewis said. “But after the third win, they were unstoppable. This team was hungry. They wanted to keep playing. They wanted the championship.”
Luis de la Cruz almost took matters into his own hands. Pitching, he didn’t allow a run. At the plate, he slugged a pair of two-run homers, leading Washington Park to an 8-0 victory over West New York National in the title game.

7-New York Giants add two Jersey City natives in Ayers, Casillas

Robert Ayers and Jonathan Casillas didn’t know each other too well before the start of training camp with the New York Giants in July. But as it turned out, Ayers and Casillas had something deeply in common, namely their place of birth.
Both Ayers and Casillas were born in Jersey City, just eight miles away from MetLife Stadium, the Giants’ official home.
The two thought they never had met, until Casillas’ father, Jersey City playground legend Flash Gordon (yes, that’s his real name) mentioned something to his son about previously knowing Ayers from his Jersey City days.
“My Dad knew his family,” Casillas said. “I had heard of him and knew he was from Jersey City, but I didn’t know him. We initially introduced ourselves to each other, but then my Dad said that we played basketball against each other when we were little kids. That’s just wild.”
Sure enough, as it turns out, Ayers and Casillas lived only blocks apart on Garfield Avenue when they were youngsters in Jersey City.
“His family knew all of my family,” Ayers said. “I was told we played basketball together, but I really didn’t remember him. I really don’t remember much about those days, but it’s crazy to think we once played together.”

8-Hudson Catholic becomes county volleyball queens

Secaucus held the reins of being the top team in Hudson County softball for more than the last two decades, with perhaps just a respite here and there.
But in 2015, Hudson Catholic became the queens of Hudson County volleyball, defeating perennial favorite Secaucus in three sets – 25-13, 13-25 and 25-15 – to win the program’s first-ever county title and the first for any girls’ team at the school.
Secaucus had won the previous six straight county tournament titles and had defeated Hudson Catholic in each of the last three years, so the Hawks enacted a bit of revenge on the county’s top volleyball program.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” head coach Fernando Colon said. “Our girls put in a lot of hard work. This was one of the goals that they wanted to reach. I think Secaucus raised the bar for Hudson County volleyball. Coach [Sheila] Rivera does a fantastic job with that program. Everyone knows that Secaucus is one of the best programs in the state. Just to beat a team like that is a great feeling and a great honor.”

9-Secaucus girls win county hoop title, enjoy 27-1 season

It really was a year to remember for the Secaucus girls’ basketball team, which captured the school’s first-ever Hudson County Tournament championship, taking down three-time defending county champion Lincoln in the title game, and won their first 27 games of the season before falling in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 2, Group I semifinals.
The team was led by the play of seniors Andie Lennon and Julia McClure, who went on to earn The Hudson Reporter Female Athlete of the Year honors. Both went on to play basketball in college, Lennon at Caldwell and McClure at Wagner. It was the best season that Secaucus ever enjoyed in the school’s history.

10-Prep baseball team earns Hudson County title again, second in three years

St. Peter’s Prep steamrolled through the regular baseball season, winning all 14 of its games within the county, then rolled past three opponents, including Memorial in the title game, winning by a 2-1 margin.
Dan Cooney was the winning pitcher and Antonio Velardi got the save, as the Marauders won the tourney title for the second time in the last three years, capping a brilliant 26-3 season.

Just-missed list

There are several other stories that just missed making our top 10. Julia McClure of Secaucus and Corey Caddle of St. Peter’s Prep were presented with the Hudson Reporter Athletes of the Year; Gianni Zayas of North Bergen was drafted by the Seattle Mariners and signed immediately; Snyder’s football team ended a 29-game losing streak and actually won five games, the most for any Snyder team in 25 years; Secaucus athletic director Charlie Voorhees told the tale of his two autistic sons, Eric and C.J.; the St. Anthony boys’ basketball team won the NJSIAA Non-Public B North sectional title for the fifth straight year, and the county lost a true legend with the passing of Union City’s favorite son, Nick “Whizzer” Mastorelli. For more on these stories, read previous columns at

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