HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - After losing to New Milford in a pair of heart-breaking Group 1 championship games in 1985 and 1986, Hasbrouck Heights had settled into an existence as an average high school program. They were 37-25-1 over seven seasons, with no trips to the playoffs, and were coming off their first losing season since 1965.
So the 1994 season was looked upon with anxiety. Where had the mighty Aviators gone?
A 7-0 loss to Park Ridge in the season opener, did not inspire confidence going forward. The Aviators could not get any offense going against the Owls defense, and a fumble recovery set up the Park Ridge scoring drive.
Week Two, a new name emerged, as Steve Sul rushed for 274 yards on just 18 carries, leading the Aviators to a 27-0 victory versus Emerson. Sul’s dynamic day included a 83-yard scoring run. Mike Russo scored twice for the Aviators, once on a 10-yard run, the other on 23-yard touchdown pass from Steve Mathe. Brian Visotsky scored on a 17-yard run to give the Aviators their first score of the game (and season.)
Sul continued to be a one-man rushing machine, running for 235 yards and three touchdowns as the Aviators defeated Wallington, 35-7, to get back over the .500 mark. Sul scored from 55, 29 and six yards, as Hasbrouck Heights accumulated all of its 361 yards of total offense on the ground. The Panthers were held to just 29 yards rushing and 102 yards passing, as the Aviators defense, led by defensive linemen Brian Bistoski and Brian Ille shut down the Panthers.
The next test for the Aviators was Cresskill, a team which historically had given Hasbrouck Heights problems, going 5-0-1 versus the Aviators in their last six games. Adding to the Aviators' task, the game was on the road.
Mike Llauget threw for 130 yards, but it was the running of Sul and Russo that allowed the Aviators to break the losing streak, with a 16-14 win over Cresskill. Sul ran for 185 yards and one touchdown while Russo had 85 yards and the other touchdown for the Aviators, who held a 9-0 lead going into the half.
The win pushed Hasbrouck Heights into the fourth spot in the state power point rankings, ahead of fifth place Cresskill.
Weehawken was up next, and was no match for the Aviators, who put up a 61-0 victory over the Indians. Sul had 88 yards and four touchdowns, on just 13 carries, to lead the offense. Jim Ciccarelli scored twice, and had 123 yards of total offense. Sophomore running back Wayne Lustberg rushed for 83 yards on nine carries, including a 31-yard run.
Bogota fared little better against the Aviators a week later, as Hasbrouck Heights lit up the scoreboard once again in a 42-14 win over the Bucs. Sul, all of 5-8 and 160 pounds, continued his onslaught of opposing defenses in the game, with a four touchdown, 189-yard performance that put him over 1,000 yards on the season. Sul had sat out the previous season with a knee injury, and was wasting no time making up for it. With Russo and Ciccarelli, Hasbrouck Heights had three running backs to worry about, with a talented offensive line led by Jeff Werner and Bill Van Jura, and an experienced quarterback in Llauget.
St. Mary (Rutherford) “limited” Sul to just 121 yards rushing but it was the passing game Llauget and Visotsky that carried the Aviators to a 26-12 win over the Gaels. Llauget, who had also missed his junior year due to injury, and Visotsky hooked up five times for 183 yards and two touchdowns. Sul had a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown for Hasbrouck Heights as the team kept their push towards the state playoffs.
After being tied at 6-6 at the end of the first quarter, the Aviators scored two touchdowns in the second quarter, and added one in the third to pull away to a 26-6 lead. The win left Hasbrouck Heights at 6-1 on the season, while dropping St. Mary to 5-2.
Winless Bergen Tech stood between Hasbrouck Heights and a state playoff bid. Sul rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns, and the Aviators defense recorded eight points as the Aviators jumped out to a 28-0 lead and cruised to a 35-13 victory. Corey Lange had a pick six and Visotsky had a safety for the defensive scores.
The playoff seeding was a good news, bad news scenario for Hasbrouck Heights. A state playoff bid and a # 3 seed were good news, but also brought the bad news of a trip to Glen Rock to start the playoffs. Glen Rock had been the number one seed most of the regular season, only to be bypassed by Becton the last week.
Five lead changes in the game had fans from both teams on the edge of their seats the entire game. Sul gave the Aviators the initial lead, scored from five yards in the second quarter for an early 6-0 lead. Glen Rock took the lead, at 7-6, on a touchdown pass, and successful conversion on the last play of the first half, which lifted the spirits of the home team and their crowd, while shocking Hasbrouck Heights.
Glen Rock had shut down the Aviators running game early, forcing Hasbrouck Heights into a three-receiver set and abandoning the Wing-T.
The opening possession of the second half saw the Aviators drive down and re-take the lead, 9-6, on Bobby Woods 26-yard field goal.
But Glen Rock took the lead back (lead change #4) on a 39-yard scoring pass from Justin Schwartz to Jim Kurz in the fourth quarter.
With the season in the balance, it was the running game that got the Aviators back in the lead. But it was not Sul, but Llauget’s legs who made the difference. Llauget scrambled 21 yards to keep a drive going on third and six, and scored from six yards out the next play for a 16-13 lead for the fifth and final lead change. The North 1, Group 1 Finals awaited, as Hasbrouck Heights would play North Arlington, who had upset undefeated Becton to also advance.
But first, Thanksgiving weekend and Wood-Ridge awaited. It took everything Hasbrouck Heights had to put the Blue Devils away. But thanks to three touchdowns from Russo and another strong defensive effort, the Aviators pulled the game out. Lange set up one touchdown with an interception, while the defensive line came up with a defensive stand (first and goal at the three) to save another, as they defeated Wood-Ridge 28-15.
A Friday night under the lights at Giants Stadium had North Arlington facing Hasbrouck Heights with the North 1, Group 1 title on the line. Behind a defense which had been overshadowed by the early season heroics of Sul and the offense, the Aviators pounded out a 14-6 win over North Arlington.
The Aviators got on the scoreboard first when Llauget tossed a two-yard scoring pass to Ciccarelli for a 7-0 lead in the second quarter. Sul added a one-yard run in the third quarter for a 14-0 lead, and the Aviators defense held on for the victory. North Arlington scored in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard pass from Ed Campbell to Dave Fritzsky.
Kevin Muller had an interception for the Aviators early in the third quarter that protected the 7- 0 lead at the time.
First Team All County recognition was given to Ille (DL), Sul (RB), and Visotsky (WR). Werner was named to the Second Team All-County squad. Linebacker Rob Frangella was First Team All BCSL-Olympic team. Llaguet (QB), Van Jura (OL) were Second Team. Lange and Russo were named Honorable Mention.
This was the first of head coach Nick Delcalzo's state championships.
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.
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