CLARK, NJ – The Arthur L. Johnson High School football home-opener was a memorable game for junior fullback/linebacker Joe Turek. With a two-yard rush early the first quarter, Turek reached a milestone 1,000 career rushing yards.
“It’s a big accomplishment,” Turek said. “I don’t really look into the statistics, [but] knowing that I reached 1,000 yards in two years is a huge accomplishment for me.”
“I have to give it up to my offensive line, my team, the coaching staff,” he said. “They’ve put in great game plans for me. I’ve had a great coaching staff; they’ve been great and have taught me a lot.”
Turek went on to run for four touchdowns and a total of 172 yards, contributing to the Crusaders win over Bernards High School, 43-14.
The road to the milestone was paved by a major role he took on in his sophomore year. Then-senior Eddie Bergin missed all of November, 2015 due to injury. This left the team with a big hole to fill with the state playoffs around the corner, and into it stepped Turek.
“I definitely felt like I could do it,” Turek said. “I was confident that I was able to do what I did on the field. It stunk that Eddie got hurt because he was such a great running back, but I was confident in my ability and in my team that I definitely had a lot of production.”
In his sophomore year, Turek ran for 975 yards with 154 carries, recording 14 touchdowns.
Some Turek highlights during the Crusaders 2015 season:
- In week 9 at Somerville HS, he ran for three touchdowns and recorded 270 yards in a 40-29 win that helped to secure Johnson’s playoff spot.
- In the NJSIAA Central, Group 2 semifinals at Lincoln HS, he ran for three touchdowns and 207 yards, carrying the ball 39 times, keeping the Crusaders in the game.
- Five days after that, in the team’s Thanksgiving Day 21-17 win over Rahway, he scored two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 5:18 left in the fourth quarter. He ran for 131 yards.
“It’s great being teammates with Joe because he is such a good player. It’s great to have him on the team,” fellow player Joe Santangelo said.
Turek said his best memory of playing football at ALJ was the first-round playoff win last year at New Providence HS. The Crusaders beat the Pioneers by a score of 40-6 and he described it as a great experience for him and the team.
“I’ve grown up with Joe,” Johnson senior quarterback and co-captain Vin Crisafi said. “He’s always been a great football player. Growing up, he was one of the better guys on the team. He’s been a loyal teammate through it all, even in high school and Pop Warner as well. He’s a fun guy to be around, especially with gametime. He’s a great teammate to have on the squad.”
Turek credits his Pop Warner coach Joe Santangelo Sr. as a major contributor to his stellar career, saying that he was a great guy and great coach who taught him a lot.
He said his family has been incredibly supportive of him throughout the highs and lows of his athletic career. “They’ve been with me through it all,” Turek said.
“Every year he excelled and improved immensely, not only on the field, but off the field as well,” ALJ head coach Anthony DelConte said. “As a freshman, you knew he had a lot of potential, and he was a hard worker, a very coachable, talented young man and everything has fallen into place for him.”
“He’s a leader,” DelConte added. “A high-character individual, he’s tough, works his butt off and he cares about his teammates. To me, that’s the most important thing.”
With the personal milestone now achieved, Turek has his eyes set on the bigger picture for the Johnson Crusaders in 2016.
“I’m really looking ahead to the playoffs,” Turek said. “I think this team can go really far in the playoffs and we’ve got to have the mindset of ‘one game at a time.’ We’ve just got to beat every other team, one game at a time. I hope we win a state championship. That’s the main goal, that’s what I’ve always wanted as a freshman.”
Turek also passed along words of advice to high school football players who look at his career and want to be where he is right now.
“You’ve got to work hard,” Turek said. “You have to put in the work and do things that other people aren’t going to do to separate yourself from them.”
Outside of football, Turek plays track and field in the winter and baseball in the spring.
“Joey’s progress is really a natural progression that he was going to show,” Gus Kalikas, the athletic director of the Clark Public School District, said. “Joey was a great football player as a freshman, and then he ran with the role last year when one of our running backs was injured. He’s really just doing what we thought he’d be doing. He’s having a stellar year, being selfless, being a good teammate when getting the opportunity, and making the most of it.”
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