HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - Bob Ducatte stumbled out of the blocks, going 1-7-1 in the 1965. Unlike Bob Thurbon, however, he survived to his second season.  Then again, Ducatte was taking over a team that while it had lost its top player (Joe Corso) to graduation, and a football scholarship with the Auburn Tigers.

Offensively challenged, Ducatte’s team was outscored 162-72, by the opposition, and had a 24-7 loss hung on them by Wood-Ridge, despite the return of all BCSL running back Larry Tirone (First Team) and quarterback Frank Zillian.    

They were shutout by North Arlington and at Bogota, and managed to tie Fort Lee.  The worst losses were to Ridgefield Park (26-7), Wood-Ridge (24-7), and Leonia (23-7). 

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1966 showed that Hasbrouck Heights was correct in not firing Ducatte, as the Aviators bounced back with a 7-2 record, outscoring their opponents 221-141.  

The Aviators opened up the season 4-0, defeating North Arlington (33-0), Fort Lee (18-14), Cresskill (24-0), and Westwood (33-27), setting up a game with Pompton Lakes in Hasbrouck Heights in a battle of undefeated teams.

The Cardinals jumped out to a 13-0 first quarter lead, and traded scored with the Aviators in the second quarter, for a 25-13 lead at the half.  The Aviators scored again in the third quarter to cut the lead to 26-20. But the Pompton Lakes defense was able to repel the Aviators attempts to take the lead, and added an insurance score in the fourth quarter for a 32-20 Cardinals victory.

Following a win over Bogota, the Aviators dropped their second home game of the season to Emerson, 19-7.  The Aviators, missing quarterback Barry Slavsky and left halfback Lou Gaurino due to emergency appendectomies (three hours apart), did not have the firepower to mount an effective offense against Emerson. Using up to five substitutes on offense, the Aviators were unable to come back. With the win, Emerson clinched the league title.

Hasbrouck Heights finished up the season with wins over Leonia (35-18) and Wood-Ridge (19-18) in one of the more dramatic Thanksgiving matchups between the two schools.  Wood-Ridge’s Peter Christiana scored two touchdowns, while Hasbrouck Heights fullback Jack Clancy scored two for the Aviators. But it was the play of safety Steve Rhodes two blocked extra points, and defensive back Tony Toronto (who broke up the conversion pass on Wood-Ridge’s final touchdown in the final minutes) that was the difference.

The only good conversion play was a John Lombardo pass to Joe Cordo to give the Aviators a 19-12 lead earlier in the second half.

Clancy, the fullback who managed to make it through the season without being injured, was rewarded with Second Team All-County recognition, along with center Rich Favata.  Ends Paul Dykstra (First Team BCL) and George Spae (Second Team BCSL.) 

Things were looking up for the Aviators until a shock came in June, when Ducatte resigned to become a coach and administrator at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.  Ducatte had a 9-8-1 record in his two years as the Aviators head coach. 

Hasbrouck Heights was once against on the lookout for a new coach, the fourth of the decade. The search ended with Peter LaBarbiera, a Paramus assistant coach. With 10 lettermen returning for LaBarbiera, the Aviators appeared to be in a good place to continue their success.  If they only knew.

Next:  The LaBarbiera Era Begins

 

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