Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Senior Answers Waldwick's Call

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Senior Answers Waldwick's Call

Article excerpt

Anyone at the Waldwick/Midland Park semifinal playoff game heard the public-address announcer saying, "Joe LaMothe in on the tackle," but when they looked on the field, there was no No. 34.

It probably took a while to figure out he was wearing No. 50, but most in attendance don't know the story behind the switch of jerseys.

It started a week earlier, right after the Warriors had defeated North Warren in the North 1 Group 2 quarterfinals. During that game, left guard Greg Bulick was injured, severely enough that he was not going to be able to play in the semifinal contest with Pequannock.

As is the custom after games, the team and coaches gather at Nellie's restaurant in Waldwick. Coach Greg Grudzis was there, but he was in something of a somber mood. It was a mood that was going to change suddenly and unexpectedly.

"I had seen the trainer looking at [Bulick] after the game and it didn't look very good," LaMothe recalled. "I saw Coach at Nellie's, and I walked up to him and said, 'If Greg can't go, I'll play guard.' "

LaMothe had just run for a pair of touchdowns against North Warren, and the last time he took a snap as an offensive lineman was in the eighth grade -- and it wasn't at the left guard spot he would need to fill.

"I'm at Nellie's and he pulls me aside," Grudzis said. "We've just won our first playoff game; you would think I'd be happy but I'm depressed. I didn't know what we were going to do. I admit: He blew my socks off. It was phenomenal to see that kind of unselfishness."

Saying it in the euphoria of the moment is one thing, but getting down to the business of learning an entirely new position in a matter of days is another.

"It was a tough week for him," Grudzis said. "He had to learn everything on the fly. He was with the other linemen some nights; they went over film and went over rules. We kept him here at times. He studied his butt off all week. …

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