BELLEVILLE, NJ – When Jermain Johnson was named the Belleville High School varsity football head coach this spring, he wanted to change the losing mentality surrounding the program.
The Bucs unfortunately have been through some hard times for the past few years, having won nine games in the past six seasons, including just one win last year. That’s why Johnson, a 1991 Bloomfield High School graduate, was the right coach for the team. He knows what it takes to win, having spent the past five seasons as the defensive coordinator at perennial power Wayne Hills.
After the first two games of the season, the Bucs certainly are learning from Johnson and his coaching staff.
The Bucs defeated Dickinson, 37-6, in the opener at home and Newark East Side, 50-12, on the road for their first 2-0 start since 2008, which also was the last time they finished with a non-losing record as they went 5-5 that season.
Johnson admitted that he and his coaches are pleasantly surprised at the Bucs’ encouraging start.
“These kids are really working hard, doing what we’re asking to do,” Johnson told EssexNewsDaily.com. “Coaching them up and teaching them the fundamentals, showing them how to put down game film, understand what we’re looking for; it’s really going a long way with them.”
The Bucs hope to win their third straight game to start the season when they host Ferris on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.
Johnson said the team doesn’t have a lot of seniors, which makes the future even more bright.
The Bucs, who name captains on a weekly basis, have been led by several players. Among them are senior tight end/defensive end Joe Monroig and senior running back/middle linebacker Gabe DiPalma. The duo are vocal leaders who inspire their teammates.
“When they talk, people listen,” Johnson said.
The Bucs are a bit banged up right now. They hope to have senior defensive tackle Demetrie Samoyoa in a few weeks after he was injured in the opener, noted Johnson.
For now, Johnson is stressing a one-game-at-a-time approach, telling his players to trust him and the coaches and to “buy into what we’re saying.”
Nevertheless, the attitude is extremely positive, which is good to see.
“They are excited,” said Johnson of his players. “We’re beating teams that beat them last year. It’s great. Nobody is giving them a chance. Everybody thinks we’re a doormat still. Let them think. No matter how we win, the kids fight hard. They’re really trying, and that’s all I can ask of them; just give me your ‘A’ effort every day that you step on the field.”
Sept. 7, Won, Dickinson, 37-6
Sept. 13, Won, at East Side, 50-12
Sept. 21, Ferris, 7 p.m.
Sept. 29, at Kearny, 1 p.m.
Oct. 5, West Side, 7 p.m.
Oct. 12, at Barringer, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19, at Orange, 7 p.m.
Oct. 26, Millburn, 7 p.m.
Stats for Week 2
Matt LaTorre (senior QB): 8 of 14 attempts, 153 yards, 2 TDs, 0 Int.
Derek Leigh (sophomore RB): 27 carries, 185 yards, 1 TD.
Ben Polk (junior RB): 3 carries, 55 yards, 1 TD
Eric Rivera (senior WR): 15 carries, 217 yards, 4 TDs
Joe Monroig (senior TE): 1 reception, 15 yards
TreVon Myrick (junior WR): 1 reception, 33 yards
Omarie Wilmore (junior WR): 2 receptions, 35 yards, 2 TDs
George Escobar (senior K): 6 of 6 PATs
Eric Rivera: 1 punt return for TD; 1 kickoff return for TD.