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HS sports: Spring becoming Indian Hills’ tiime to shine

DARREN COOPER

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS COLUMNIST

Indian Hills has become the center of the North Jersey athletics universe.

The Braves’ baseball team is No. 1 in the most recent The Record Top 25 rankings, and if not for nationally-ranked Immaculate Heart Academy, the Lady Braves’ softball program would certainly be No. 1 in The Record softball rankings. The lacrosse programs and track teams are also strong.

“We have had an outstanding spring,” said Indian Hills athletic director Lorenzo Baratta. “There is not a team this spring that is at the bottom of the barrel and we have two on top.”

Today, the Indian Hills baseball faces St. Joseph in the Bergen County semifinals. The softball team meets Ridgewood in the Bergen County quarterfinals at IHA. Should the softball team prevail, it will play in the semifinals on its home field on Monday afternoon.

Both programs represent a model for public schools in North Jersey. The head coaches of baseball (George Hill) and softball (Joe Leicht) are involved in the feeder programs in all three towns — remember, kids can come from Oakland, Wyckoff and Franklin Lakes. A lot of kids are drawn to the non-public schools, but the best weapon public schools have is familiarity and friends. A lot of kids like to stay and play sports with the kids they have grown up with.

“When George took over the baseball program he worked like crazy to rebuild the feeder system,” said Leicht. “He constantly has coaching clinics for the kids. He worked and the results show.”

The same thing can be said about Leicht, who, despite coaching other sports, namely the Wayne Valley boys basketball program, has kept most of his roots at Indian Hills.

The two teams, of course, are fans of one another. Leicht said his girls got to watch some of the Braves’ baseball game with Paramus while practicing Thursday.

“Everyone is really enthusiastic in the school for both teams,” said Leicht. “It is somewhere unique that both teams are doing very well.”

Indian Hills has oftentimes been overshadowed by the success of its sister school, Ramapo, which has a tremendous track record in multiple sports.

And even though Baratta says there is nothing but good vibes between the two schools, you know it’s special that the Braves are here and the Green Raiders are not.

“There is no animosity between us and Ramapo,” said Baratta. “I think it’s awesome we have such a supportive communities in Wyckoff, Franklin Lakes and Oakland that produce such good sports programs. The coaches all get along. For me, from what I see, our goal and focus is to put the best programs we can on the field.”

KARCICH DINNER: Giants head coach Tom Coughlin is one of the featured speakers when former St. Joseph football coach Tony Karcich will be honored at a dinner at the Il Villaggio restaurant in Carlstadt on June 6. The ceremony begins at 7 p.m.

Karcich retired from coaching football at St. Joseph in December after leading the Green Knights to their third straight Non-Public Group 3 championship. He finished with 338 victories. He remains the school’s athletic director. For more information, contact Augie Hoffmann at Hoffmanna@saintjosephregional.org.

ALL-STAR REVIEW: The Bergen County Football All-Star Classic will be played June 14 at 7 p.m. at Vince Lombardi Field at Overpeck Park in Palisades Park.

“We are really excited to build on what was an excellent game last season and we know the kids are pumped up to play,” said Saddle Brook football coach/game organizer Leo Ciappina. “I’m glad we were able to bring back the tradition and I think this event is only going to get better.”

After a three-year hiatus, the game pitting teams from the North and South parts of Bergen County returned last June with the North squad scoring a late touchdown to prevail, 12-9.

Ciappina said the rosters are almost final and the teams will practice six times leading up to the game. Among those currently committed to play are Westwood quarterback and reigning North Jersey Player of the Year Craig Carmilani and St. Joseph’s quarterback Spencer Aukamp. Former Ridgefield Park coach Tony Gonzalez will lead the North squad, former Glen Rock coach Al Deaett will helm the South squad.

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