HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ -  The Peter LaBarbiera era as coach of Hasbrouck Heights football was an era of success that defined Hasbrouck Heights football. LaBarbiera would go 109-25-4 in his 15 seasons in Hasbrouck Heights, winning five state championships.   Not only were great teams created, and championships won, but out of it spun people who are synonymous with Hasbrouck Heights football. 

The 1967 team, after the surprising resignation of Bob Ducatte at the end of 1966’s 7-2 season, did not miss a beat, repeating the 7-2 mark.  The running of senior running back Joe Cordo made sure the transition was smooth, as he rushed for three touchdowns in LaBarbierra's first victory, a 24-6 victory over North Arlington under the lights at Depken Field. 

But Cordo was not alone in the Aviators powerful attack.  Quarterback John Lombardo and powerful fullback Bill Samartine were joined in the backfield by two sophomores during the year, speedy running back Rich Manfredi, and quarterback Mike Fanuzzi.  

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The Aviators under their new coach jumped out to a 7-0 record, including a 58-0 win over Westwood and a 49-19 win at Saddle Brook.  But while a league title was captured in their 20-7 win over Emerson, the Aviators saw their shot an unbeaten season vanquished with a 18-6 loss at Depken Field to Leonia.

The season ended on a sour note, as LaBarbierra’s squad lost to Wood-RIdge, 19-13.  The Aviators were without six “topline” players who had been suspended by LaBarbierra, and Fanuzzi was injured during the game, which was played on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.  The games were postponed due to weather.

The Aviators finished the season with a league title, having outscored opponents 223 to 91.  Cordo was Second Team All-County at back, while tackle George Gelewski was Fourth Team All-County.  Linemen Tom Agresto, Bob Aimone, and Bob Bell were named Honorable Mention All-BCSL National. 

1968 would not see a second half slump, as the Aviators posted an 8-1 season, scoring a then school record 344 points, while giving up only 53.  The North 1, Group 1 state champs set about on a path of destruction few teams have laid out.

The Aviators started with a dominating 44-0 victory against North Arlington, and then added another shutout, this time 40-0 over Fort Lee to start the season. Observers were not sure which unit was better, the offense who scored 84 points in two games, and at least once in each quarter played, or the defense, which had two shutouts and yet to give up a 100 total yards on the season in total.  

Cresskill, also unbeaten, provided a challenge for the Aviators, but Hasbrouck Heights prevailed 28-20, as Fanuzzi threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third. Westwood was next, and was the third shutout victim of the season, 28-0, at Westwood. 

The offense kicked it back up the following week, as Hasbrouck Heights thrashed Saddle Brook, 60-6. Two reserves added their names to the score sheet that week, running backs Greg Toal and Nick Delcalzo.  

The power running of Samartine led the Aviators to a 27-7 win at Bogota, while four touchdowns by Fanuzzi led the Aviators to a 42-6 victory over Emerson.  It also led to the second league title in two years, and the second year that the Aviators opened up 7-0.  

It would also be the second straight year that Leonia would trip up the Aviators, capturing a 14-0 triumph in Leonia.  The Lions finished 5-2-2 on the season. The Lions defense, which had produced four shutouts on the season, was able to keep the high flying Aviators in check.

If there was any fear of a late-season collapse similar to the year before, Manfredi put those fears to rest early, as the Hasbrouck Heights star ran for over 200 yards and four touchdowns, plus threw for another in a 75-0 romp over Wood-Ridge on Thanksgiving. (The game is still the school record for biggest spread in a game.)  The Aviators scored 11 touchdowns in the game against the winless Wood-Ridge squad. 

Agresto. Manfredi and Samartine were all First Team All-County selections.  Defensive Ends Dennis Calacione and Joe McKenna, linebacker Lombardo, defensive back Dick Sabonjian and tackle Phil Salinardi were First Team BCSL National.  Somehow, Fanuzzi was left off the honor roll. That would change in 1969.

Unlike New York's Jets and Mets, the Aviators championship run in 1969 was not a surprise. Having won the last two years, good was to be expected.  What they got was something that Bergen County had not seen before.  (And if teams did not like the fact that the Aviators did not let up in scoring points in 1968, the 1969 team made even fewer friends.)  

It is in the argument for one of the five best teams ever in Hasbrouck Heights football.  By year's end, they were ranked in the top 10 teams around, not in Group 1, not in the state, but nationally.  

Westwood was stomped 65-14 in an opening day win, with the Aviators putting up 640 yards of total offense. Manfredi had three touchdowns, Fanuzzi ran for two and threw for two touchdown in the romp

Fort Lee was next, with Fanuzzi throwing three touchdowns and ran for two more, as the Aviators rolled over the Bridgemen, 57-6.  Fort Lee’s only score came on a kickoff return in the first quarter.    

They followed up the following week with a 34-0 win at Emerson to go to 3-0.  The following week saw six Aviators score, led by Manfredi and Toal with two rushing each, as the Aviators crushed Cresskill, 66-8.  

Bogota was the victim of a 40-0 shutout at Depken Field, the Aviators second of the year. Barry Musto scored twice for the Aviators, while Fanuzzi threw two and rushed for a third to lead the offense.

Saddle Brook provided the stiffest challenge to date, with the Aviators winning 36-6. The fired up Falcons, who were critical of LaBarbierra the year before for running up the score, held the Aviators somewhat in check.  Musto scored twice on the ground, and Fanuzzi threw for a touchdown and ran for another to lead the charge.

Palisades Park, however, was not so fortunate, getting run over 66-0, putting the Aviators at 7-0 for the third straight season, and were hosting Leonia next.  Leonia had ended their two previous unbeaten seasons. The game, scheduled for Friday night at Depken Field, was postponed to Saturday, due to wet grounds.  

The wait, was worth it.  Fanuzzi rushed for two touchdowns to increase his lead in the County scoring race, and Manfredi rushed for four touchdowns, as the Aviators avenged their previous upset losses with a 78-20 victory.  With the 78 points, Hasbrouck Heights set a new county record for points in a season, with 442, eclipsing the 1949 Lyndhurst record of 408, with one game left to play.

Fanuzzi also eclipsed the 2,000 yard mark on the season in the game. 

All that remained was Thanksgiving and Wood-Ridge.  Fanuzzi made sure there were no slip-ups. Carrying 15 times for 248 yards and three touchdowns, the Blue Devils fought the Aviators all the way, but fell 36-8.  The 28 point differential was the smallest margin of victory for the Aviators on the year. 

Fanuzzi and Manfredi would be named First Team All County at quarterback and running back respectively.  Center Mario D’Agostino and linebacker Greg Toal were named to the Second Team. Guard Joe McKenna and running back Musto were named to the First Team BCSL-National Team.

The first three seasons of the Peter LaBarbiera reign as the head coach of the Aviators were one of the more successful stretches in Hasbrouck Heights history.  

Up next : The Early 1970s


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