HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Once again, the 1988 season saw a fast start from the Aviators, jumping out to a 4-0 start. Keith McKenna scored two touchdowns, as the Aviators cruised to a 42-0 victory over St. Mary in the season opener.
The Aviators traveled up to Park Ridge, handing the Owls a 20-10 loss. McKenna added two more touchdowns, a 60-yard reception from quarterback Chris Dinallo for the game’s first score, and an 80-yard run for the game’s final score. The Aviators recovered from a 10-7 deficit for the win. Dan Vecchio’s 30-yard interception return gave the Aviators the lead.
McKenna continued his outstanding start, rushing 17 times for 195 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown run, as Habsrouck Heights slipped by Wallington, 20-18 at Depken Field. Dinallo threw two touchdowns, one to Keith Messery the other to Vecchio, as the Aviators improved to 3-0.
McKenna scored four more times against Emerson in a 47-7 victory over the Cavos. Dinallo was 16 of 22 for 314 and three touchdowns, and Messery scored twice as the Aviators crushed Emerson to improve to 4-0, and sat atop the BCSL Olympic in a three-way tie with Cresskill and Bogota.
Bergen Tech upset the Aviators at Depken Field, 22-20, dropping the Aviators out of first place. Dinallo threw two touchdown passes in the second half, but it was not enough as the Hasbrouck Heights rally fell short.
Despite three interceptions by sophomore linebacker Scott Slutzker, the Aviators dropped a 10-7 decision to Cresskill. But the Cougars intercepted Dinallo six times, forcing the Aviators defense to keep them in the game. Slutzker’s 15-yard return of his first interception for a touchdown was the only score in the game for the Aviators.
Needing a win and some help to get back into the conference race, the Aviators got neither, losing a 7-6 decision to Bogota at Depken Field. Mistakes killed Hasbrouck Heights in this tight game, as a bad snap on the extra point attempt and a fumble inside the Bogota 25 in the final minutes proved to be the difference.
Ridgefield would qualify for the state playoffs by handing the Aviators their fourth straight loss, 16-13, in Ridgefield. Dinallo hit Slutzker for one touchdown, and the sophomore returned an interception for the Aviators other score on the day. It was the fourth straight loss for Hasbrouck Heights, by a cumulative total of nine points.
The defense, which had been playing good football all season, recorded its second shutout of the season, a 27-0 win over Wood-Ridge on Thanksgiving. McKenna scored three touchdowns to lead the Aviators offense, as Hasbrouck Heights broke their four game losing streak as well as their two game losing streak against Wood-Ridge. McKenna finished the game with 111 yards, and broke the 1000 yard mark on the season.
Dinallo (quarterback), McKenna (running back) and Vecchio (tight end) were named First Team All BCSL-Olympic. Defensive lineman Dave Kadel, defensive back Brian Regan, Messery (WR) and Slutzker (TE) were named Second Team.
The stingy defense of 1988 (90 points allowed) was even better in 1989, as Hasbrouck Heights allowed just 62 points on the season.
The Avaitors started the year with a new opening day opponent, Wallington, and won a 12-0 contest in Wallington. Messery was the man on offense, scoring two touchdowns for the Aviators. Messery and Dinallo connected for an 80-yard touchdown in the second quarter and scored on a 20-yard run for the other score.
The Aviators defensive line, keyed by seniors John Valenti and Rob Riordan, led the way for Hasbrouck Heights. The shutout was the fifth of the 1980s’ in the season opener.
Messery scored twice, but Park Ridge scored 21 as the Owls upset the Aviators, 21-13, at Depken Field. The Aviators season took a hit with the loss, but a bigger one during the week, when Dinallo, the returning All-League quarterback, injured his knee, thrusting sophomore Sean Ring into action with just one day’s prep.
With a week’s preparation, Ring and the Aviators handed St. Mary (Rutherford) a 45-0 thrashing in Rutherford. The Aviators led 32-0 at the half behind four touchdowns from Messery, who also had three extra points for the Aviators.
Behind two more Messery touchdowns (now 10 in four games) and six sacks with the defense, the Aviators improved to 3-1 with a 26-7 victory over Ridgefield. Ring was 6-of-9 for 112-yards as the Aviators scored in each quarter for the win,
A trip back to Bogota, however, ended any dreams the Aviators had of the state playoffs, as the Bucs won a 6-0 slugfest. The Aviators almost pulled the game out with a last second drive, but a fumble in the final seconds cost Hasbrouck Heights a chance at a miracle comeback. Both Bogota (Jason Cue) and Hasbrouck Heights (Dinallo) were without their senior quarterbacks in a game that was anticipated earlier in the year to be an offensive battle of the two top quarterbacks in the league.
Needing win to salvage any chance at a league title, the Aviators and Cresskill battled to a 20-20 tie in Week 6. Despite two touchdown passes to Slutzker from Ring, and 133 rushing yards and a touchdown from Messery, it took Messery's block of the game-winning field goal attempt to salvage the 20-20 tie for the Aviators. Hasbrouck Heights had been up 20-6 before allowing Cresskill to tie the game.
(Ed.Note: Since original publication, numerous people have been in contact to say it was Rob Riordan who blocked the kick, and that it was incorrectly reported at the time. )
The defense shut down Bergen Tech (18-0) and Emerson (26-0), picking up their third and fourth shutouts of the season. Messery amassed 322 yards of total offense and two touchdowns to lead the way against Bergen Tech. Messery added four more touchdowns in the Aviators win over Emerson. The junior had help in opening up the running lanes from Ring and Slutzker. Ring threw for 161 yards, and Slutzker had five receptions for 95 yards to spur the offense.
At 5-2-1, the Aviators missed the playoffs, but still had Wood-Ridge on the schedule. The Aviators prevailed on Thanksgiving, 16-8, in a tight game at Wood-Ridge. Actually, the game was on Saturday, as bad weather caused almost the entire slate of Thanksgiving games to be postponed.
Ring threw for one touchdown (Slutzker) and ran for another (1 yard) to give the Aviators a 16-0 lead at the half. Wood-Ridge kept Messery out of the end zone, limiting him to 82 yards on the grounds.
Slutzker was named First Team All County at tight end, while Messery was named Third Team All County at running back. Defensive lineman Mike Bischoff was named First Team All BCSL-Olympic, where he was joined by Regan and Ring. Guard Len Altamura was joined by Valenti (DL) on the Second Team, while Tom Lambe and Tony Mille were named Honorable Mention.
TAPinto Hasbrouck Heights/Wood-Ridge/Teterboro is Hasbrouck Heights, Wood-Ridge and Teterboro’s free daily news source, and is the official newspaper of the Hasbrouck Heights Board of Education and Hasbrouck Heights Borough Council.
Sign up for our FREE daily eNews.