The ‘golden age’ of Eastside football appears to be upon the town of Paterson.
The Ghosts had three straight winning streaks for the first time since the early 1960s. Last fall, they went to their second all-time section final and tied the single-season program record for the wins, with an 8-4 record.
And, as he has highlighted throughout his four-year tenure, Coach James Magazine has also seen an improvement in classroom performance.
“We graduated a total of 11 seniors – eight went to college,” said the 1995 Eastside alum.
This included several of the top stars of the 2021 squad, led by twins Ahsin and Jahsin Jacobs (now at American International). Still, many capable players remain.
“I don’t think it will be a rebuilding year,” Magazine said. “We played a lot of kids last year. Many of them may have played in a way [either offense or defense]so they have that college gaming experience.
The Ghosts revival has also sparked more interest in the program, which includes a roster of 60.
“The numbers are extremely good right now,” Magazine said. “We expect the first year class to be around 15-16 kids right now, so that’s really good. … The energy is there.
Three of the 20 coaches in Eastside history have winning percentages over .500, and Magazine is the current leader at .621 (18-11 record).
The others — David Ross (.511 in six seasons) and Ron Frederick (.531 in four seasons) — both guided the Ghosts to a North 1, Group 4 championship in the pre-playoff era.
This fall will mark the 98th season of football at Eastside, which began in 1925. The most recent section title came in 1963 under Frederick, so ending the drought could become a talking point in the city.
Everywhere, that is to say, except in the changing rooms.
Keeping expectations on a level playing field is another area Magazine focuses on with its team.
“Everybody talks about going back to the state [sectional] finals, and that’s not how I work,” he said. “So we had a team meeting a few weeks ago, and I said, ‘I don’t want to hear that talk. Our focus right now is week 1, getting ready for Rancocas Valley.
The trip to Burlington County will be a first for Eastside as the northern and southern regions of the state open up to the idea of ”crossover” games with the NJSIAA set to crown true state champions for the first time in 2022.
Again, that topic is for another day. But Magazine thinks the 80-mile hike to Mount Holly for the opener is a good place to start.
“The camaraderie of a long bus ride like that, I love that,” he said. “And we don’t even start school until five days after the game.”
The Ghosts have reached the point where they expect to be contenders.
“I definitely think we’re a state qualifying team,” Magazine said. “Are we going to go back to their state finals? It depends on how much work we put into it.
Special teams work has been a priority this offseason. A regular placement could have helped Eastside avoid extra time with Passaic Tech, and it could have helped change the result in a one-point loss to Clifton in the North 2 Group 5 final.
Magazine has recruited a kicker from the school football team, which should help. The return of top pass thrower Nyreek Clyburn – who has several Division I offers – and two-way starter Carnell Goodwin (QB/DB) is good news for offense and defense.
“I think we could be a better team overall,” the coach said.
September 2: in Rancocas Valley (Mount Holly)
September 10: against Columbia (Maplewood)
September 16: against Clifton
September 23: in Passaic
October 1st : against Ridgewood
October 7: at Old Tappan
October 14: against Hackensack
21st of October : at Passaic Tech
November 23: against Kennedy