WAYNE, NJ – On the last Tuesday night of summer, under the dark blue sky of an early evening, beneath the bright lights of the Wayne Valley athletic field, and in front of a roaring crowd, the Wayne Hills boys soccer team faced their in-town rivals and escaped with a 1-0 victory.
Valley received their second yellow card and had to play a man down for the final twenty-three minutes of the match. It looked like this wasn’t going to make a difference as the two teams played an evenly matched game for the remainder of regulation and through the first ten-minute overtime period. But, Sebastian Samaniego, wearing number ten for Hills scored the only goal of the game just three minutes into the second and final overtime period.
“We played really hard and put our hearts into it,” Samaniego said, then adding with an emotional yell to his teammates: “This is our place. This is our town!” His teammates roared their approval.
Samaniego’s emotional shout stems from the strong rivalry shared between Wayne Hills and Wayne Valley in just about every sport the high schools play. Just three days earlier, Hills Varsity Football team defeated Valley 14-7, and a group of Hills students chanted this score as a taunt while the soccer match played.
Ryan D’argenio, the punter for Wayne Hills who had a 52-yard punt in the rivalry game was among the crowd of rowdy Hills fans: “It’s not a rivalry,” he said when asked about the yearly meeting of the two Wayne teams, “we win every time.”
Many members of different sports teams were in attendance. Angela Reyzelman, Captain and First Singles for the Hills girl’s tennis team said: “We played Valley yesterday and won in every position.”
Michael Rasa one of the captains of the Hills boy’s lacrosse team added: “I think we’re 4-0 against Valley the last two years and beat them three straight times in counties.”
An anonymous shout came from the group: “We beat them at everything!”
The Wayne Valley girls volleyball team would disagree. Valley freshman volleyball player Isabelle Borowinski who plays for varsity and as a floater for JV watched the soccer game with her friends. “We’re doing really good; we won every game, but one and every tournament that we’ve been to, so it’s a good season,” said Borowinski. Speaking about the Hills/Valley rivalry, Borowinski said: “Hills is always the game we look forward to the most. We played them yesterday and beat them in two sets.”
Monday was a good day for Valley sports.
“We beat Hills 4-0 yesterday. We really showed up,” said Arden Lembryk, one of the captains of the Valley varsity girls soccer team. When asked why the rivalry was so powerful between the two schools, Lembryk said: “When we were younger, we always played together in club and all know each other being from the same town. But, during that game, we’re not friends. We come here to win, and so do they.”
Jenna Vanas, also a captain of the Valley girls varsity soccer team added: “The whole town came to the game. It was so cray; so intense. This was the biggest game; the most hyped game; the one we looked forward to the most.”
Lembryk gets it right according to Wayne Valley Athletic Director and Assistant Principal David Drozjock. “During the girls varsity game yesterday, the two boys teams watched in a mixed group. They weren’t separated by schools.” Yet out on the field on Tuesday night the two teams played as hard as if it were the World Cup.
Wayne Valley coach Sam Roca warned his team about the emotions of the game during the pre-game meeting. “Don’t let the moment be bigger than you,” he told his team, but in his interview after he said: “There is always jitters when you play in-town rivals. It turns into a duke-it-out boxing match instead of a football match, and we saw some of that tonight.”
The word ‘fight’ was used often to describe this game. Hills coach Sammy Odjei spoke about his team: “They showed that they were fighters tonight and deserved this win.” And, about the rivalry, he said: “From the time the schedule came out, everyone knew this was the game.”
Two old friends, Jimmy Domalewski and Tom Dibianca sat next to each other at the soccer game. They grew up living near each other, but Domalewski moved to the other side of Wayne and went to Valley while Dibianca went to Hills. The rivalry wasn’t as big back then because the schools did not play against each other as often, but the two friends played against each other in the 2008 Hills/Valley State Championship game that Hills won 27-7. “And, we’re still friends,” said Dibianca.
Christine Schutze, who has two sons playing for Hills: Billy who is a senior, a captain and is the star keeper; and Ryan a sophomore starter at midfield states: “I love it,” referring to the game, but quickly adds: “I hate that they’re playing against each other because we’re all friends, but I love the excitement, the fans.” What about the rivalry? “This game on their schedule is the only one that matters; this is the game of the year.”
Carl Passaglia, whose daughter Lauren plays JV soccer for Valley watched the game with his wife. “Lauren’s boyfriend is the goalie Connor Gallo,” he said.
Passaglia sums it up nicely: “The rivalry is somewhat of a new phenomenon. We think it’s great. It gets the town together in a little bit of a friendly competition and I think it’s a wonderful thing. They all know each other,” he said, referring to the two teams out on the field, “but that’s all the more reason that they want to win.”
Valley Coach Sam Roca: “We have a strong group of young men, not only physically but mentally and I think this loss will be a motivator for them. It hurts to lose this way, down a man, but they fought through the whole game and this is just going to be a blip on the radar. They’ll bounce back by Thursday. I trust that they’ll be ready to take care of business then.”
Thursday Valley takes on Riverdale before facing another rival in Passaic Valley the following Tuesday. “We’re trending upwards. These guys have been with me since they were freshmen and sophomores and now, they’re reaching their peak as juniors and seniors. They have my full confidence this year,” said Roca.
Valley Athletic Director David Drozjock: “We’re looking to make a run in the counties and make it to the states. It’s a senior-dominated team and I expect them to do good things.
Hills boys soccer coach Sammy Odjei talking about taking over the boys soccer program: “Coach Graham did an amazing job, so my job is not hard. I come in and take over a successful program and bring my professional experience here, but Coach Graham has already done the hard work and I’m grateful for him and we all love him. He’s big to us." About the rest of the season: "I expect this win to turn-around our season for us. This win will pivot us moving forward."
Hills Keeper and Captain, Billy Schutze: “This win means so much to us. We had a rough start to the season, and this was our turn-around. We’re getting better every single day and it showed tonight. This was a big win that’s going to change a lot for us. It’s a phenomenal win, it means a lot to me, it means a lot to the boys, it means a lot to the coaches.”
Valley Keeper and Captain, Connor “Tank” Gallo: “We came out a man down in overtime and were giving up soft defensive plays toward the end, and they dribbled right through. We couldn’t clear the ball and ended up with the loss. We fought very hard all the way through the game, but in the end, it was a tough loss. I believe the rest of the season is going to go well. I believe we are shooting for the stars and are going for big things this season.”
The Passaic Valley Boys soccer team watched the game from the stands, scouting Wayne Valley for their game the following week. “For me, Valley is our biggest rival because they’re cross-road rivals; they’re right there,” said Matthew Sytsma a senior and captain on the PV team. “It’s always chippy, every year. It’s always chippy, but it’s all in good sport. It’s going to be a good game.”