HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - NFL playing experience or not, there is nothing that will get you fired faster as the Hasbrouck Heights football coach than going 1-6-2 in your first season, unless it is losing to Wood-Ridge 62-6 on Thanksgiving Day.
That was the fate of 1960 new hire Bob Thurbon as the 1960s got off to a rocky start. The team was outscored 232-63, with their only win coming against a Westwood team that finished 0-8. Sure, Wood-Ridge was strong with a 7-1 record, but Hasbrouck Heights residents do not like losing to their neighbors to the south, never mind by 56 points.
Add in an opening day last that saw Lodi garner its first win over Hasbrouck Heights since 1941, and snap a 24-game losing streak, and it was evident there was a dark cloud all season over the Aviators.
The Joe Fedele era got over to a much smoother start, as the 1961 season opened with the Aviators defeating North Arlington 28-13 in the opener. The offense was improved, as was the defense throughout the season, as the Aviators outscored opponents 120-111. There were rough patches throughout the season, including a three-game losing streak to Fort Lee (14-0), Ridgefield Park (14-13) and at Dumont (49-0.) Thanksgiving, well a 7-7 tie was better losing, but not the win the Aviator fans were looking for.
Bob Leckie was named First team All BCSL at the end position.
1962 saw Hasbrouck Heights return to prominence, going 8-1, winning both the BSCL and North 1, Group 1, their only loss coming outside the league to Tenafly. The Aviators outscored their opponents 210-44. Hasbrouck Heights beat Wood-Ridge, 46-6 on Thanksgiving. Football fans in Hasbrouck Heights were happy again.
The season featured shutout wins against North Arlington (7-0), Fort Lee (46-0), at Ridgefield Park (26-0), and at Westwood (7-0.) Fedele was named Bergen Coach of the Year while Bob Leckie was named First Team All-State.
Post Season honors were also garnered by Jim Ciccarelli (First Team All-County), back Frank Rinaldi (Second Team All-County), Back John Buonomo (Second Team All BCSL), tackle Bob Graf (Second Team All-BCSL), center Doug Horan (Second Team All BCSL) and guard Carl Hockheiser (Second Team All BCSL).
1963 saw heavy loses to graduation, and while the defense was solid giving up 86 points, the offense struggled, scoring 108. A 13-0 loss on opening day foreshadowed what the season would bring. The Aviators traveled to Bogota for Week 2, and they put up 27 on the Bucs, while shutting Bogota out to even their record at 1-1.
That was the pattern, as the Aviators would lose one, win one, never going above .500 until the last game of the season, when the won on Thanksgiving, 14-13, over Wood-Ridge. The best thing about the season would be the emergence of Joe Corso, who was named Fourth Team All County. He was joined by three teammates in earning post-season honors, as tackle Tom Klein (First Team All BCSL), C Bob Kroncke (Second Team All BCSL) and Bob DiGirolamo (Honorable Mention BSCL.)
The 1964 team would earn Hasbrouck Heights another league and state title, going 9-0, while outscoring opponents by a 291-66 margin, recording three shutouts and dominating the BCSL. Aviator fans might have gotten a good feeling about the season early in the first quarter when guard Kent Hansen picked up a fumble by fullback Bob Roth on a hop and dashed 30 yards for a touchdown against North Arlington in a 19-0 win.
A trip to Westwood as Larry Tirone had three touchdown runs (67,68, 27) and Corso two (75,7) as the Aviators rushed for 350 yards in a 33-0 win. Tenafly broke the defense’s shutout string, but the Aviators rallied after being tied 7-7 at the half, for a 28-7 victory. Tenafly had come into the game at 2-0, but was outgained by the Aviators 302-129. Tirone had two more touchdowns in the victory.
Dumont (39-0) and Fort Lee (31-6) provided little challenge to the Aviators, who traveled to Ridgefield Park looking to go 6-0. Corso ran for two touchdowns and threw for a third, as the Aviators rolled to a 27-13 victory. Reserve back Dick Quigley suffered a season-ending broken leg during the game, when he has hit from behind while attempting a tackle.
Bogota was next, with the Aviators winning 38-21 in their toughest challenge of the season. The Aviators required 13 points in the fourth quarter to open up the margin of victory, with the Bucs trailing by four, 25-21, at the end of three quarters. Corso scored four touchdowns for the Aviators, who outgained Bogota, 385 to 197 yards. Corso was credited with 275 total yards on the evening.
Leonia fell 33-12, with Tirone’s 100-yard punt return the highlight. The Aviators also clinched the league title with the victory. Keying on Corso, Leonia was able to slow down Corso, but Roth chewed up the middle of their defense on the ground.
Thanksgiving saw Tirone run for 147 yards, with Corso adding 173, as Hasbrouck Heights defeated Wood-Ridge by a 40-7 score. Corso scored all 40 points for the Aviators, and wound up with 167 points, enough to lead the state in scoring.
Corso and guard Ed Mabel were First Team All-County selections, while Tirone was a Third team All-County choice with tackle Paul VanderValk. Tackle John Wilkins was Second Team All BCSL, Lineman Dennis DeAppolonio and quarterback Fred Zillian were Honorable Mention BCSL.
At a dinner honoring the team, Tirone and Zillian were named by Fedele as captains for next season. At the time no one would know that Fedele would not be there.
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