As Jermain Johnson enters his second season as head football coach at Belleville High, he does with a lot of enthusiasm about the 2019 season.
Johnson, a young 46, loves the coaching staff he’s working with. He enjoys the youth and energy the staff interjects into its daily work with the team.
Among the newest coaches on the staff is Vin LoVerde, a 21-year-old rising college senior at Montclair State. LoVerde played for Johnson at Wayne Hills High, when Johnson was that program’s defensive coordinator.
“I’m so glad Vin wanted to coach,” said Johnson. “He’s a good man, and he’ll be a big plus for our players. Vin was a tremendous wide-out at Hills and he played college ball at Montclair State. He’s relating well to our players.”
LoVerde is pursuing a degree in Psychology. He decided to end his football playing career after an injury in 2018.
“I thought it was time to give up playing,” said LoVerde. “But I love the game and when Coach JJ gave me this opportunity, I thought it would be great.”
LoVerde was a fearless player at Wayne Hills. He helped the 2015 Patriots advance to the state sectional final, at MetLife Stadium, where it lost to Old Tappan.
“They were great times at Hills,” said LoVerde, who was a team captain in 2015. “I loved playing in that program. It has such a winning tradition, and I’d like to think our team, my senior year, helped get that program back on track. (Hills has subsequently won state sectional titles in 2016 and 2018).
“Even though we lost in the final in 2015, I have no regrets. I loved every minute of playing there.”
That passion for winning football should be a good lesson for Belleville, which is trying to turn the tables after a tough run of seasons, dating back to 2011.
LoVerde isn’t the only former Wayne Hills player on the Belleville staff. Eric Magrini was also a star wide receiver for the Patriots from 1995-1997, before going on to a Hall of Fame playing career at Montclair State. Magrini and Johnson later coached on the Wayne Hills staff, under head coach Wayne Demikoff, who ironically, began his teaching and coaching career, at Belleville High.
When Johnson was named Belleville’s head coach in 2018, Magrini would come on board as the Bucs’ offensive coordinator.
The Montclair State connection also includes Johnson, who had a tremendous playing career there, after starring at Bloomfield High, from 1987-1990.
“It feels good to have a guy like Vinny, who I coached at Hills, and have him on the staff here,” said Johnson. “He knows what it takes to succeed on the high school level. I’m glad he’s with us.”