HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Despite some drama off the field, on the field the teams of the 1952 to 55 were among the most successful in the history of Hasbrouck Heights football. On the field, four consecutive North 1, Group 1 titles, two league titles were earned by numerous All League, and All County players, even the very first Record Athlete of the Week.
The 1952 season did not start on the best of note. A fumble by future Hasbrouck Heights Hall of Famer Ralph Redling at the goal line in the waning minutes of the season opener against Hawthorne allowed the Bears to hang on for a 13-7 win in a non-league game. It would be the only loss on the year for the Aviators, who captured their first league title in eight seasons.
Led by quarterback Dick McCullough and lineman John Maita (both Hall of Famers) the Aviators tore through the rest of the schedule, outscoring opponents by a 269-44 margin the rest of the way. After beating Park Ridge, 34-0, the Aviators dispatched Dumont, 26-13, to take control over the BCSL standings at 2-0. Redling scored three times in the win over Dumont, redeeming his early season fumble.
What followed was a 59-0 thrashing of Harrison in one of the Aviators rare road games of the year. Redling added three more scores for the Aviators. Westwood was next, as Redling scored three more touchdowns in a 28-6 victory over the Cardinals. The Aviators then knocked Bergenfield from the ranks of the unbeaten, with a convincing 21-7 win over the Mites. Jack Delaney had three touchdowns for the Aviators in the win.
Wins over Closter (27-12) and Fort Lee (26-0) set up Hasbrouck Heights for a game with Wood-Ridge on Thanksgiving. The Blue Devils came into the game with a record of 2-6, but were hopeful, having won their last two games. But the Aviators, behind a 24-point fourth quarter explosion, handily defeated the Blue Devils, 48-6, to improve their record to 8-1 on the season.
The win also improved the Aviators mark all-time against Wood-Ridge to 13-5-2.
Postseason individual honors followed the Group I champs as Maita(G) and Redling (B) were named first team All-County, while McCullough (QB) and Ted Ratcliffe (C) were named to the Second Team All-County squad. Charlie Orr (T) and Richie Pfieffer (E) were named to the Third Team. All were also named to the All-BCSL team, along with full back Jack Delaney (First Team), while running back Mike Delperico and end Bob Richardson were second team selections. Tackle John Kurzewnknable was named Honorable Mention.
Behind quarterback Danny Roche, the Aviators opened the 1953 season with a 13-6 win over Hawthorne, breaking a two-game skid against the Bears, and posting their ninth straight win. Next game the Aviators annual drubbing of Park Ridge, this time beating the Owls 34-0.
The Heights defense came up strong against rival Dumont, as the Aviators won a 12-0 battle. Delaney and Roche scored for Hasbrouck Heights in the win. The Aviators rolled over Harrison, 32-7, and looked like their offense was quickening. Games against Westwood and Bergenfield would prove differently.
A scoreless tie with an undefeated Westwood squad ended the Aviators win streak at 11 games, and pushed Hasbrouck Heights a half-game behind Westwood in the BCSL standings with a 2-0-1 record in the league. Westwood, with the tie, was 3-0-1 in league play. A chance at the league title however was forfeited the next week when the Aviators lost Bergenfield, 6-0. Delaney had to miss most of the game after being injured in the first quarter, and the Aviators offense could not generate offense.
The Aviators closed out the rest of the season on a winning note, beating Closter, 20-6, and Fort Lee, 28-7 before beating Wood-Ridge, 20-0, in Wood-Ridge.
Delaney and Delpercio were named to Second Team All Bergen County squad while center Don Freimark, tackle Kurzenknabe, and end Bob Rosenfeld were named to the Second Team BCSL squad. Pete Haupt (G), Bob Latawiec (E), and Sy Schwartz (B) were named to Honorable Mention.
The team would be North 1, Group 1 champs until Rosenfeld would be named ineligible, and all the games he appeared in would be forfeits.
The 1954 team would go down as one of the best in Hasbrouck Heights history, scoring 330 points in nine games (averaging 36.7 per game) and recording eight shutouts in nine games, and capturing both the BCSL and North 1 Group 1 title.
The Aviators opened up with an easy 31-0 victory over Hawthorne, with Schwarz scoring two touchdowns for the Aviators in front of scouts from Dumont taking a look at the team.
Dumont was next, and the Aviators defense pitched another shutout, and it was needed. Schwartz did not score until there was 30 seconds remaining in the game, as the Aviators narrowly defeated Dumont, 7-0. It would be the only game they were challenged all year.
A short trip to East Rutherford saw Hasbrouck Heights play East Rutherford for the first time in 17 seasons. East Rutherford scored the first, and only, points of the season against the Aviator defense, as Hasbrouck Heights won, 33-6. The Aviators were banged up from the Dumont game the previous week, with guard Al Dunlap and Kunzenknabe being out of the lineup.
(Dunlap would later in life be the high-profile CEO of Sunbeam, known as “Chainsaw Al” for his carving up companies and selling off businesses.)
The Aviators would fly right through the rest of the competition, beating Westwood (44-0), Bergenfield (33-0), Closer (47-0), Fort Lee (47-0), Park Ridge (47-0) before beating Wood-Ridge 41-0.
Three Aviators, Schwartz (B), Kurzenknabe and Latawiec were All-County, and a total of 13 players received post-season honors in deference to their domination.
1955 was a stormy year for the Aviators, yet still wound up in a Group 1, North 1 title.
Hasbrouck Heights opened the defense of their league championship with a rain-soaked 6-6 tie to Hawthorne, which was salvaged when Hasbrouck Heights end Phil Robinson blocked an extra point attempt in the fourth quarter.
A trip through Wood-Ridge High School cost the Aviators at Dumont in Week 2, as head coach Andy Kmetz had six players, including four regulars, missing from the game. 29 seniors, including the six players, marched through the halls of Wood-Ridge High School as a prank. Unable to sustain an offense with the reserves, the Aviators were shutout, 6-0 by Dumont.
The team bounced back with a five game win streak, defeating East Rutherford (20-7), Westwood (14-0), Bergenfield (19-13), Northern Valley (formerly Closter, (38-0), and Fort Lee (39-6.)
A game against Hackensack, a Group III power at the time, did not work out well for the Aviators, as the Comets blasted Hasbrouck Heights, 33-0, for their second loss of the season. The Aviators end the season with a 38-0 win over Wood-Ridge on Thanksgiving, giving them a 6-2-1 mark on the year. The NJSIAA (whose logic was never disclosed) musthave discounted the Aviators loses to Dumont, (a Group 2 team, missing four starters) and Hackensack (A Group 3 team), plus the tie with Hawthorne (opening game played in the rain.) in pickinmg Heights as North 1, Group 1 champion.
Guard Billy Linnell was named First Team All-County, despite missing the Dumont game due to suspension. End Bob Garrett was Second Team, and Richard Jones and Jerry Dinalllo was Fourth Team. Dunlap was Second Team All BCSL, and Robinson was named Honorable mention at end.
Kmetz resigned at the end of the 1955 season, after refusing to sign his contract due to his dissatisfaction with the pay after 17 seasons with the Aviators.
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