No one told the Weehawken football players to head over to the parish center at St. Lawrence Church in the days following superstorm Sandy. No one had to.
Not when they knew that some of their teammates lived in the area hardest hit by the storm.
“We survived, and we feel lucky,” said star senior running back Damian Corredor. “Most of our teammates that lived there got hurt somehow. Some people lost their homes, their clothes, everything.
“No one told us to go. We just wanted to help.”
And now the Indians (7-2) are going to help in another way. They will make only their third playoff appearance in program history, opening the North 2, Group 1 playoffs Friday night at Dunellen.
The Indians went into the weekend hoping they would have an opportunity to play their first home playoff game. But when all the residual points were tallied up, they dropped from the third seed to fifth.
The Indians are 5-0 at Weehawken Stadium, their quirky home above the Lincoln Tunnel, and have played before large, enthusiastic crowds. And while the sudden turn of events will disappoint the Weehawken faithful, there’s no denying the impact this playoff run has had on the community.
“This has excited the whole community,” Weehawken coach/athletic director Zach Naszimento said. “We’ve had some tough times here, especially in the downtown area. For us to be in the playoffs with a 7-2 record, it has become a very inspirational time.
“This is helping to bring the community together a bit, and to me, it just has a nice vibe to it.”
There were parts of downtown Weehawken covered in 6 to 8 feet of water, and many of the Weehawken players live in that section of town, where buildings have been condemned and the damage is staggering.
Even before the players got back on the practice field, they were volunteering, collecting food and clothing, and helping to distribute it around town.
“It seems like a little thing, but it goes a long way,” said senior linebacker Steve Rodriguez, who leads the team with 67 tackles.
Now they’re in a position to give Weehawken something to cheer about.
The Indians have a strong offense led by Corredor, a candidate for The Record Offensive Player of the Year honors and one of the most dynamic performers in North Jersey. He goes into the game with 1,598 yards and 22 touchdowns in nine games, and it will be interesting to see what happens when he makes his first appearance on the big stage.
It would be a mistake, however, to label Weehawken a one-man show. Senior running back/defensive lineman Dante Cieri is a top two-way threat, piling up 785 yards and 11 touchdowns alongside Corredor in the backfield, while chalking up eight sacks in nine games on defense.
The Indians had one bad performance this season, and it came against unbeaten St. Mary, the best team on their schedule. Naszimento said they “ran into a buzzsaw” during the 51-19 loss last month, which means it will be interesting to see how this team responds to its first dose of playoff pressure.
“If the moment is too big for Weehawken and a little overwhelming, maybe we won’t be able to handle the pressure,” Naszimento said. “But if we just worry about Weehawken and play the way we know we can play, we’ll be in good shape.”
And that’s what everyone is counting on.
“I was at the parish center the other day when someone told me to tell coach Naz to save a good section of seats for them because they want to be there where the players can hear them,” Corredor said. “They want to be there for us.”