HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - There was a changing of the guard of sorts in Nick Delcalzo’s second year at Hasbrouck Heights. The 1986 team was missing several all-star defenders from a season ago, but once again, the Aviators defense was a strong point all season.

The Aviators opened with shutouts over Weehawken (33-0) and at Ridgefield (21-0.) Running back Randy Riordan rushed 10 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns in the opener, and added two more against Ridgefield.  

Wallington, however, shocked the Aviators at home, upsetting the Aviators 12-7. Mike Mastria scored to get on the board first, but the Panthers shut down Hasbrouck Heights the rest of the way.

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The defense made sure that the Aviators did not lose two in a row with a 26-0 win at Emerson. Quarterback Matt D’Amato threw two touchdowns to split end Bob Richmond, and Bob Carcich returned the second half kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown.  Marc Sonzogni's two-yard run with a recovered fumble was the final Hasbrouck Heights score. The win sent them into a match-up with undefeated Park Ridge at Depken. 

The Aviators handed the Owls their first loss of the season, a come-from-behind, 28-21 score, which saw the defense come through with a sack by linebacker Dean Gavitt to end Park Ridge’s final threat of the game. The Owls jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but D’Amato and Riordan led the Aviators back to a 14-14 halftime tie, with Riordan scoring two of his three touchdowns. Riordan’s third touchdown, a pass from D’Amato, was the game-winning score.

The win dropped Park Ridge into a three-way tie for the BCSL Olympic division with Hasbrouck Heights and Wood-Ridge at 4-1.  

The Aviators defense led Hasbrouck Heights to a 10-3 slugfest win over Bergen Tech, in a game that the media made more of Bergen Tech’s first ever field goal than the D’Amato-to-Sonzogni game winning score.   

The defense continued to excel shutting down Bogota (27-0) and St. Mary (42-0) to record their fourth and fifth shutouts of the season.  D’Amato threw three touchdowns, and Riordan gained 107 yards and scored twice, once from D’Amato, once on the ground to lead the offense against Bogota. Carcich had a 70 yard scoring reception to open the scoring.

Carcich had two long touchdown runs, 70 and 50 yards, as the junior wingback led the Aviators offensive explosion.  Riordan scored on a 60 yard reception from D”Amato as the Aviators clinched a spot in the playoffs over Wood-Ridge by one quality point.   

The fourth seeded Aviators traveled to Mahwah as significant underdogs against the Thunderbirds.  Riordan, hobbled by a sore ankle most of the second half of the season, blasted the Mahwah defense for three long touchdown runs (39, 25, 70 yards) as the Aviators upset the top seed 36-15.  The D’Amato-to-Carcich connection hooked up twice on scoring strikes, (12 and 9 yards) to supplement Carcich on the ground. The Aviators would face New Milford, who upset Becton, in the next round.  In between, however, was Wood-Ridge on Thanksgiving.

The Blue Devils, disappointed by missing out on the playoffs due to their loss to Bergen Tech, were playing for the BCSL Olympic title.  Hasbrouck Heights was focused on the state playoffs. Wood-Ridge held the Aviators to just 25 yards rushing, and Tom Sarlo had an 81 yard to give the Blue Devils a lead they never lost, defeating the Aviators, 24-8.  The Blue Devils captured their first league title in 15 years with the win, and it was the first time since 1970 that Wood-Ridge had captured the Thanksgiving Day matchup.

New Milford was able to jump out to a 13-0 lead, before the Aviators cut the lead to 13-7 before halftime when Jim Montlebano recovered a fumbled punt deep in New Milford territory.  D’Amato hit Bob Richmond for a 13-yard touchdown pass, to cut the lead. Both teams defenses controlled the second half, with New Milford turning away a dramatic last minute drive, as New Milford escaped with a 13-7 win.

Five Aviators were named First Team All BCSL-Olympic, as offensive lineman Rich Baker and defensive lineman Dave Palmieri were joined by Carcich (WR), Riordan (RB) and Sonzogni (TE.)  D’Amato was the Second Team quarterback, joined by offensive lineman Brian Fitzgerald. Gavitt and Richman were named Honorable Mention.

After two straight trips to the finals, there was bound to be a down period for the Aviators. In 1987, it had arrived. Not to say that the Aviators were bad, but 5-4 is not what fans of the Aviators were used to. 

Hasbrouck Heights still had a good defense, giving up 111 points, up from 88 the year before. The offense scored 188 points, down from 245 the year before.

Weehawken finally scored against the Aviators, as Hasbrouck Heights defeated the Indians in Weehawken 28-3.  The Aviators needed a pair of defensive touchdowns, an interception return from linebacker Brian Fitzgerald, and a fumble return by defensive lineman Al Gyenes, to put away the Indians.  Riordan carried 28 times for 120 yards, while Carcich carried 10 times for 70.

The Aviators narrowly beat Ridgefield, 14-10, in a come-from-behind victory as junior defensive tackle Keith Schmitt recovered a Royals fumble in the end zone in the third quarter to give Hasbrouck Heights the lead.  Carcich scored the other touchdown, on a 45-yard pass from quarterback Steve Syslo.

Wallington was next, and paid a price for the upset from a season ago, with a 40-0 victory over the Panthers,  Riordan and Carcich each had two touchdowns to lead the onslaught.

What followed was a three game losing streak that took the Aviators from being on a path to third straight playoff bid to a .500 record.  Emerson took advantage off five Hasbrouck Heights turnovers on the way to a 14-10 upset of the Aviators. Park Ridge, rallied from a 14-6 deficit, spurred on by a bad snap over punter Rocky Minichiello’s head for the second straight week, this time resulting in a safety, cutting the lead to 14-8. Park Ridge scored on a drive following the free kick for a 15-14 victory.

Bergen Tech scored 40 points, the first time the Aviators had given up 40 points since 1961 (Dumont), beating the Aviators 40-27, and dropping the Aviators back to 3-3 on the season.

Minichiello saved the Aviators in their next game, a 7-6 win over Bogota, as he intercepted a pass late in the fourth quarter to preserve the win.   St. Mary was up next, and soundly beaten, 34-0, as the Aviators got back to putting points up on the scoreboard. That momentum was short-lived, as the Aviators were shutout, 23-0, on Thanksgiving, to finish at 5-4.

Carcich (WR) and Minichiello (P) were named to the First Team BCSL Olympic Team.  Gyenes (DL), tight end Jim Kadel and Montlebano (guard) were Second Team choices while Alan Hacket and Scott Vella were named Honorable Mention.


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