HASBROUCK HEIGHTS - The jump in fortunes that started in 1996 continued in 1997 in big way, as the underclassmen from a year ago continued to improve, and set the foundation for a strong season.  

The Aviators opened at home, thrashing Becton 41-12 behind two touchdowns by senior tailback Ray Meyer and a 79-yard run by quarterback Dave Menne as the Aviators ground game tamed the Wildcats.  Junior Joe Sentipal scored on 26-yard run in the third quarter for the Aviators. 

Meyer rushed for a career high 226 yards, and Menne rushed for three touchdowns as the Aviators defeated Harrison 34-0 in Week 2.  Meyer scored from 53 yards, while Menne ran in from 3, 34 and 15 yards, while Tom Mansfield added a 19-yard touchdown yard run in fourth quarter for the game’s final score.

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The Aviators defense and special teams showed up big in their 13-0 win at Secaucus Week 3.  Frank D’Amico caused a fumble on the opening kickoff, which Mike McDermott recovered. One play later, Menne hit Chris Ferdinand with a 30-yard touchdown pass, for a quick 7-0 lead.  Neither team’s offense would generate any offense the rest of the first half. 

Rich DeFeo ran back the second half kickoff 95-yards for a 13-0 Aviator lead. Hasbrouck Heights defense, which recorded its second straight shutout, did not allow Secaucus inside the Aviators’s 20 yard line, was led by defensive tackle Steve Rinaldi’s 10 tackles. 

Back at Depken, Wallington was no match for the Aviators, as Hasbrouck Heights recorded a 36-0 win. The Aviators jumped out to 20-0 first quarter lead behind Menne’s two yard touchdown run and a 15-yard touchdown pass to Ferdinand.  Ferdinand picked up a Wallington fumble caused by Sentipal and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown. 

Sentipal was a beast on both sides of the ball, rushing 23 times for 177 yards, and recorded 13 tackles, including the forced fumble, on defense.

A trip to Weehawken did not prove challenging to the Aviators, or their defense, who recorded its fourth straight shutout with a 47-0 win over the Indians.  Sentipal carried six times for 60 yards and three touchdowns, Meyer gained 52 yards on four carries as the Aviators' offense had its way with Weehawken.

DeFeo returned a punt 35 yards for a touchdown, while Pete Santana and Joe Colangelo added fourth quarter touchdown runs.  The only problem for the Aviators was the kicking game, as Rinaldi was three of six on extra points.  

The win left the Aviators at 5-0, and on their way to face 5-0 St. Mary in the showdown for first place in the BCSL-Olympic in Rutherford.  

Pushed to Sunday due to bad weather on Saturday, St. Mary defeated the Aviators 14-7, to take control of the division and put the Aviators shot at the state playoffs in peril.  St. Mary scored both of its touchdowns in the first half, breaking the Aviators’ streak of 16 straight quarters without allowing a point.  

Sentipal scored on a nine-yard run in the third quarter, but the Aviators could not break through. The weather was also a factor in the game, as the second half was played in a downpour, after a relatively dry first half. 

The Aviators bounced back at home just five days later, with a 27-6 win over Lyndhurst.  Sentipal, at linebacker, made back to back plays that stoned the Bears offense during a goal line stand, leading 14-6 late in the third quarter.  First he threw Lyndhurst tailback Joey Fabiano for a two-yard loss on third and goal at the one. Then on fourth down, he stopped Lyndhurst quarterback Mike Keating on a roll out, making a hit that changed the game’s momentum.

The Aviators then marched 97 yards down the field, scoring on Menne’s five yard run to make the score 21-6.  Rinaldi scored on a 10-yard return of a fumble for the game’s final score. Meyer rushed for 194 yards and the game’s first two touchdowns for the Aviators.

Playing in the rain for the third time in three weeks, the Aviators running duo of Meyer and Sentipal overpowered North Arlington, 32-6, at Rip Collins Field in North Arlington. Meyer scored the game’s first two touchdowns for the Aviators, and Sentipal powered his way for the next two, before Meyer finished off the scoring in the romp.  

North Arlington opened the scoring when the Vikings returned the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown.  The Aviators then ripped off 26 points in a row to take a 26-6 lead at the half. The win clinched a spot in the playoffs for the Aviators, who had to wait and see how everything else would shake out. 

When the dust settled, or more appropriately, the mud, the Aviators were the second seed at 7-1 behind an 8-0 Cresskill team.  Bogota at 8-1, would travel to Hasbrouck Heights as the third seed to face Hasbrouck Heights in the opening round of the playoffs. (Lyndhurst was the fourth seed.)

The Aviators season ended with a 33-27 loss in double overtime, the third time the Aviators had lost in the post-season in overtime in coach Nick Delcalzo's tenure.  What had been expected to be a low-scoring affair, especially since part of the field had been underwater just hours before the game, turned into a shootout.

Menne ran for a touchdown (one yard) and threw for one (60 yards to Tom Mansfield) for the Aviators, while Sentipal rushed for one in regulation (47 yards) and one in the first overtime (4 yards.)  A failed extra point in the first overtime cost the Aviators, who survived to the second overtime when Bogota missed their extra point attempt.

Bogota scored in the second overtime, and the Aviators attempt to tie or win the game fell short when Bogota picked off a deflected pass to end the game.

Hasbrouck Heights routed Wood-Ridge 40-0 to win a share of the BCSL Olympic Title.  Meyer rushed for 1,063 yards on the season, and scored on a 40 yard touchdown early in the game. Heights led 7-0 at the half, before exploding for 33 second half points.  The Aviators, St. Mary and Lyndhurst were co-champions, going 8-1 in league play.  

Sentipal, for his dominating play at linebacker, as named First Team All County.  D’Amico (G), Ferdinand (DL), Menne (QB), Meyer (RB) were joined on the First Team All BCSL-Olympic team by center Mark DiPisa.  Mike Colaneri Jr. (DB), Doug Petrie (TE) were named Second Team All BCSL Olympic while Mike Pussilano and Steve Rinaldi were granted Honorable Mention status.


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