Hillside football preview – Comets out to improve upon last year’s improvement

HILLSIDE – Positive strides were made last year and reflected in the wins and losses columns as the Comets won three more games than they did the previous two seasons.

Hillside followed consecutive one-victory campaigns with a 4-6 record last season, winning four games for the first time in four years.

This year the Comets have their designs on producing a winning season and qualifying for the Central Jersey, Group 2 playoffs. Hillside has not achieved both goals since the 2008 campaign.

“Last year’s improvement was definitely big and helped our juniors from a year ago mature going into their senior seasons this year,” third-year head coach Kendall Ashford said. “Our seniors this year have provided leadership that’s helped our younger kids.

“We improved last year and this year we’re looking to improve upon everything we did a year ago – continued improvement so to say.”

Guiding the offense under center is first-year quarterback, senior Fazion Rock. He didn’t play last year after being the varsity backup signal-caller two years ago during Ashford’s first season at the helm.

“He can throw and can move well with his feet,” Ashford said. “He’s young, but capable of stepping it up at the varsity level.

“He’s a scrappy leader, very quick and doesn’t give up.”

Lost to graduation were quarterback Joey Straile, tailback Josh Wilkins, fullback Kenneth Bass and wide receivers Lewis Iheanacho and Ralph Roberts.

“We lost a lot of skill players,” Ashford said.

Last year’s backup quarterback, senior Roger Bryant, will look to be a key wide receiver.

“He’s a bright spot there,” Ashford said. “He’s kind of surprised us.”

Returning senior lineman Lawrence Price, the left tackle, is being recruited by several schools.

“He’s an excellent run-blocker,” Ashford said. “He’s one of our leaders.”

Senior fullback Tyron Charles is the lead running back.

“He’s one of our leaders as well, a captain,” Ashford said. “He’s a quiet kid who leads with his play on the field.”

Ashford said sophomore tailback Nasir Reese is another kid who has pleasantly surprised the Hillside coaching staff.

“He has the ability to get outside and doesn’t shy away from hits,” Ashford said. “He’s a power runner.”

Sophomore Shane Rodriguez, at left guard, started four games last year.

Helping lead the defense as returning starters at linebacker are senior Jonathan Acquaye and junior Danny Nunez.

“Acquaye is a big tackler and an extension of a coach on the field,” Ashford said. “Nunez started at defensive end last year. He welcomed the move to linebacker with open arms.

“He said, ‘whatever I have to do I will.’ He’s a great leader that way.”

Sophomore Siraj Abdul-Malik is at one of the cornerback positions. He started the final four games last year.

Hillside opens with home games against Dayton and Roselle and will also host Bernards, Cranford and Summit.



LT Lawrence Price, senior, (6-3, 285)

LG Shane Rodriguez, sophomore, (5-8, 242)

C Natez Winston, junior, (5-11, 260)

RG Jonathan Acquaye, senior, (5-9, 219)

RT Alex Joseph, sophomore, (6-1, 270)

WR Danny Nunez, junior, (6-0, 170)

WR Roger Bryant, senior, (6-0, 180)

TE Maxwell Asabor, senior, (5-11, 180)

FB Tyron Charles, senior, (5-8, 165)

TB Nasir Reese, sophomore, (5-8, 180)

QB Fazion Rock, senior, (5-7, 140)

PK Bruno Costa, senior, (5-10, 165)

Returning starters (4): Price, Acquaye,

Nunez, Rodriguez.



E Osa Omokaro, junior, (6-0, 185)

E Maxwell Adabor, senior, (5-11, 180)

T Lawrence Price, senior, (6-3, 285)

T Shane Rodriguez, sophomore, (5-8, 242)

LB Jonathan Acquaye, senior, (5-9, 219)

LB Danny Nunez, junior, (6-0, 170)

LB Joseph Stuckey, sophomore, (5-9, 165)

S Ijon Davis, senior, (5-7, 130)

S Roger Bryant, senior, (6-0, 180)

CB Siraj Abdul-Malik, sophomore, (5-6, 135)

CB Bernie Nerestant, sophomore, (5-9, 155)

P Bruno Costa, senior, (5-10, 165)

Returning starters (4):  Price, Acquaye,

Nunez, Abdul-Malik.



Head Coach: Kendall Ashford, since 2012.

A 1994 Weequahic graduate.

Third season: 5-15 (.250)

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division: Mountain

Section: Central Jersey, Group 2

Hillside’s last sectional title: 1985

2013: (4-6 and 1-4, fifth in Mountain Division)

Wood Field Stadium: Grass.

Ashford guided Hillside to a three-game improvement

last season, including wins in two of its last three

games. The Comets also had a two-game winning streak,

defeating Scotch Plains and Johnson back-to-back.



Sept. 13 Dayton, 2 p.m.

Sept. 20 Roselle, 1 p.m.

Sept. 27 at Rahway,  1 p.m.

Oct. 2 at Pingry, 2:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 Bernards, 1 p.m.

Oct. 18 Cranford, 1 p.m.

Oct. 24 at Johnson, 7 p.m.

Oct. 31 at DelawareValley, 7 p.m.

Nov. 8 Summit, 2 p.m.

Head coach: Kendall Ashford,

third season


2013 COMETS (4-6)

(H) Rahway 27, Hillside 13

(A) Hillside 28, Scotch Plains 24

(H) Hillside 30, Johnson 27

(A) WarrenHills 41, Hillside 35

(H) Gov. Livingston 49, Hillside 14

(A) Voorhees 35, Hillside 7

(A) Roselle 25, Hillside 7

(A) Hillside 29, Pingry 10

(H) Summit 39, Hillside 25

(H) Hillside 35, Somerville 17

Head coach: Kendall Ashford,

second season

Section:Central Jersey, Group 2

Conference: Mid-State 38

Division: Mountain 1-4, fifth

Record: 4-6

Home: 2-3

Away: 2-3

Points for: 213

Points against: 294

Shutouts: 0

Overtime: 0-0