HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - While the Pete LaBarbiera era started with a bang, it ended in a with a five-year championship drought. While going 32-12-1 over five years is something most schools would sign-up for in a heartbeat, after the blistering start, LaBarbiera had it definitely represented a “lull’.
The 1977 season started well for the Aviators, with wins over North Arlington (20-0), Secaucus (26-6), and Palisades Park (14-13), the Aviators stretched their consecutive games without a loss to 26-0, games (a tie with Becton is in there), before dropping a 28-22 decision to Rutherford. The sprained ankle of quarterback and defensive back Dave Musto played a major part in that loss.
The Aviators had jumped out to a 22-0 lead, and the defense was shutting down the Bulldogs before Musto’s injury. With the First Team All County defensive back out of the lineup, Rutherford was able to score 28 straight fourth quarter half points for the come-from-behind victory, picking on the spot in the secondary that Musto would have been.
Backup quarterback Robbie Robertson led the Aviators past Leonia, 18-14, but Hasbrouck Heights was shutdown by Becton in a 24-0 loss to fall to 4-2. Musto returned to the starting lineup a week later by rushing for three touchdowns in a 37-0 win over Cresskill.
A 14-13 loss to Emerson ended all chances of the Aviators defending their titles. Both scored in the fourth quarter, but when the Aviators cut the lead to 14-13, LaBarbiera went for two, knowing that a tie would do the Aviators no good in the race for the post-season. They were unsuccessful.
The season ended with a 13-0 win over Wood-Ridge on Thanksgiving.
Musto was once again an All-League choice, but this time as the punter due to his time missed due to injury. He was joined by linebacker Bill Bischoff, defensive lineman Rick Castiglione, defensive back Greg Mayfield, guard George Scalone, and end Greg Smith.
Linebackers Jim Miller and Joe Vernaglia were named second team while Brian Kane was honorable mention.
The following year would be more of the same, as the Aviators finished with an identical 6-3 mark, as they stumbled out of the blocks in 1978, losing at North Arlington, 8-6 to open the season. A shutout win, 24-0, over Secaucus, made it look like the Aviators had righted the ship, but a second loss, 7-6, at Palisade Park, put the Aviators at 1-2 early and out of post-season contention.
The Aviator defense continued it strong play (as it would all season, holding opponents to only 53 points in nine games) in wins over Rutherford (7-0) and Leonia (22-0.) But the offense once again stumbled in a loss to Becton, 13-6.
The Aviators would finally get their offense rolling in a come-from-behind, 36-19 victory over Cresskill, with running back Dave Marrie running for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Pete Lohrmann rushed for two, including 54-yard run in the fourth quarter that gave the Aviators some insurance points. Lohrmann and Marrie each scored a touchdown and a conversion in Hasbrouck Heights 16-point fourth quarter.
The Aviators kept the momentum going with a 16-0 win in Emerson, before defeating Wood-Ridge, 28-0, at home on Thanksgiving. The Aviators defense recorded four shutouts in nine games on the season.
Linebacker Andy Cuomo was a second team All-County choice, while Marrie, center Jim Quigley, defensive lineman Robert Trautz, and defensive back Mark Vernaglia were first team selections in the BCSL-National. Guard Vin Risalvato was a second team BCSL National selection along with defensive lineman Ben Whipper. Lohrmann was an Honorable mention selection.
The Aviators continued their string of good, but not great seasons in 1979, going 6-2-1, as Hasbrouck Heights continued to be stingy defensively, but once again struggled to score, recording only 116, while giving up 91.
A three game win streak opened the season, as the Aviators opened with a 15-12 win on the road in Bogota. They followed that up with a 19-0 shutout win behind rushing touchdowns from Eric Bischoff, Ken McAvoy and Lohrmann.
Palisades Park was next, and the Aviators prevailed in another low-scoring game, 14-8, over the Tigers. The defense stumbled in the next game, failing to hold a 14-0 lead, with Rutherford storming back with a second half rally and a 14-14 tie.
The Aviators picked up a win with a 14-8 victory over Leonia in the next game, as Lohrmann broke the 100 yard mark with 106 yards on 26 carries, including the game winning score in the fourth quarter.
Back-to-back losses to Becton (24-3) and Cresskill (13-7) dropped Hasbrouck Heights to 4-2-1 on the season, and dashed all hopes for a post-season bid.
The Hasbrouck Heights defense pitched a shutout, 6-0 over Emerson before the Aviators ended the season with a 26-12 win at Wood-Ridge on Thanksgiving.
Vernaglia was named First Team All-County at defensive back, while Keven Kiel was a Second Team choice on the defensive line. Guard Mike Collins was a Third team choice. Center Glenn Ruroede was named to the First Team All-BCSL National time, while running backs Bischoff and Lohrmann were named to the Second Team, along with linebacker Bob Wagner. McAvoy was an Honorable Mention selection.
The Aviators offensive woes continued in 1980, scoring 130 points in nine games, while allowing 109.
The Aviators opened with a 7-0 shutout win over Bogota which saw the Aviators hold the Bucs under a 100 total offense. Eric Bischoff was responsible for 110 of Heights 140 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown in the second quarter.
The Aviators offense exploded the following week in a 37-6 win over Secaucus. Bischoff and Bob Wagner each had two touchdowns as the Aviators dominated the Patriots.
Three straight nail-biters followed, as the Aviators defeated Palisades Park (9-7), Rutherford (7-6), and at Leonia (13-8.) Evan Morgan’s field goal with 23 seconds left gave the Aviators the win over the Tigers, and the extra point following Bischoff’s score to give Hasbrouck Heights the win over Rutherford.
At 5-0, the Aviators set up for a matchup with Becton. The Wildcats John Tsiolas scored four touchdowns and threw for another as Becton defeated Hasbrouck Heights 39-6. Any hope of making the post-season ended the following week, as Cresskill defeated the Aviators 21-15.
A Jim Pepe-to-Greg Palmieri five yard touchdown pass lifted Hasbrouck Heights to a 10-0 win over Emerson to get the Aviators back into the win column.
Thanksgiving saw the Aviators prevail over Wood-Ridge, 28-22, despite falling behind 22-0 in the first quarter, for Hasbrouck Heights 11th straight win in the rivalry game. Joe Cannorazzi ran an interception back 12 yards to give Hasbrouck Heights the lead late in the fourth quarter. Palmieri from Scott Sybel started the Aviator comeback, while Pepe threw to a scoring pass to Morgan, and ran for another score in the comeback.
Defensive lineman Glenn Ruroede was named Second Team All County. Linebacker Jim Callan, guard Jerry Morano were joined by Morgan (kicker) and Sybel (defensive back) on the BCSL -National First Team. Morgan was also named to the Second Team at tight end, while Wagner was Second Team at running back. Mike Luberto was awarded Honorable Mention.
1981 was more of the same for the Aviators, who jumped out to another quick start on the season, only to stumble as the calendar hit November. The offense had improved, up to 171 points, while the defense gave two fewer, at 107.
Opening on the road, the Aviators snuck out of Bogota with a 14-12 win due to the efforts of Ruroede, who was playing fullback on offense after being an offensive tackle the year before. He rushed for 70 yards and threw two touchdown passes to lead the Aviators to victory.
Secaucus was next, a 14-6 win, with Ruroede picking up over 100 yards and scoring on a one-yard plunge to give Hasbrouck Heights an early lead. Palisades Park was held to 40 yards offense as the Aviators improved to 3-0 with a 34-0 victory.
The Aviators pulled out a 15-14 win at Rutherford, with the Aviators going for two, down 14-13 in the final moments. The Aviators pulled to within one when Ruroede hit Sybel with a 32-yard touchdown pass. Sybel then ran for the two-pointer and the win.
Allen Agretta rushed for two touchdowns and 102 yards as the Aviators defeated Leonia, 13-7, and moved into the top spot in The Record’s Group 1-2 poll. Ruroede rushed for 214 yards, and Sybol scored the game winning touchdown with 5:30 remaining to push the Aviators to 6-0 heading into November.
Cresskill would once again jump up and beat the Aviators 14-8, as the Hasbrouck Heights offense could not get going until the second half. Cresskill’s defense was able to stop the Aviators, as the moved to 6-1 in defeating the Aviators.
Emerson cruised to a 34-8 win, eliminating the Hasbrouck Heights from both the league and state playoff picture. At one time the favorite, with two losses, Hasbrouck Heights only had Thanksgiving left in their season.
The Aviators picked up what would be the final win of the LaBarbiera era with a 44-8 thrashing of the Blue Devils. Ruroede had 108 yards rushing, two touchdowns on the ground, and threw for his fourth touchdown of the year.
Ruroede repeated his First Team All-County honors at defensive line, while Sybel was named Second Team All-County at defensive back, while picking up Second team All-BCSL-National as a punter. Defensive lineman Agretta was a Second team All-League selection, joined by guard Pat Rafferty. Mike Shustyk was named Honorable Mention.
On March 28, 1982, LaBarbiera accepted the position of head football coach at Nutley High School.
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