HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, NJ - This was supposed to be the story that celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Hasbrouck Heights football, as the assumption was that the first year of Hasbrouck Heights football occurred in 1919. But you know happens when you assume. (if you don’t, look it up on YouTube).
In researching the 1919 season, by pulling the 1919 High School yearbook, there was much talk about how the 1918 football team had eclipsed all the previous Hasbrouck Heights football teams accomplishments under their coach Mr. Martyn. So much for that.
But rather than abandon the idea of 100 years of Hasbrouck Heights football as a story, we are going to use the 1918-1919 season as a starting point for a few reasons.
That is the year that the NJSIAA was formed, so football now had a ruling body. It can be presumed that all games were played under the same rules, eligibility rules were the same, and while very different from what we see on the field today, it at least has semblance of order to it.
The records pre-dating 1919 are almost impossible to make anything coherent out of. Maybe the yearbook writers were being hyperbolic when they raved about the accomplishments having eclipsed all previous accomplishments.
This series is intended to shine some light on football from 100 years (or so) ago up today to celebrate its history. If I find out anything further back, I will share it in the future, I promise. But we need a place to start.
With that being said, let’s take a look at that 1918 season.
First, a look at Hasbrouck Heights in 1918 for some prospective. The Mayor was George H. Webb. The Newsletter was the newspaper for Hasbrouck Heights, and Woodrow Wilson was the President of the United States. The United States was deeply involved in World War I.
1918 Hasbrouck Heights Football Team, Head Coach James Martyn
|October 4||E. Rutherford||W||12-0|
|October 8||Park Ridge||W||6-0|
|October 19||Park Ridge||W||32-0|
|October 21||Ridgefield Park||Canceled|
|October 23||Union Hill||W||6-0|
From what was written in the yearbooks of the times, Hackensack was the major rivalry for Hasbrouck Heights in that era (Wood-Ridge did not have a high school yet.) The Orange and Black (the teams were not referred to as the Aviators yet) played each of their games in Hasbrouck Heights, except for the Thanksgiving Day game, which was held in Hackensack.
Off to a fast start, the defense gave no points in its first three games, in defeating Dumont, East Rutherford, and Park Ridge by shutout. Leonia, a 1-0 win, may have been a forfeit.
The schedule featured games against bigger schools, as Hackensack, Englewood, and Union Hill had much larger enrollments than Hasbrouck Heights. The Orange and Black defeated Park Ridge twice by shutout during the season, outscoring the soon to be Owls 38-0. There was also, what appears to be a month long break between the Union Hill game, won 6-0 by Hasbrouck Heights, and the loss to Hackensack on Thanksgiving.
1919 Record: 5-3 Head Coach Francis J. Scarr
In scanning The Newsletter Archives from 1918 you can see how much times have changed. There were no game stories, no talk of the successful season, or many happy activities going on in town, as much of the coverage dealt with World War I. Advertisements and what would now be called advertorials promoting not only the war effort, but fund-raising to pay for the war dominated the pages.
With the war ending in November of 1918, the pages of The Newsletter were a little cheerier, but still nearly devoid of football coverage. The yearbook lists the Orange and Black's record at 5-3 for the 1919 season, losing to Passaic, Englewood, and on Thanksgiving, once again, Hackensack. Details of the season are limited, as the yearbook was a smaller version, and only had a small write up of the team.
Hackensack was the first "hated" rival of Hasbrouck Heights football. There would be more to come.
That team was coached by Francis J. Scarr. The following members of the Class of 1920 were awarded their “‘block letters” were team captain Stephen Daniels, Theodore Ruckert, Michael Bilas, William Bridgewater, Russell Gokey, and James Gastney.
After their first two years of NJSIAA football, Hasbrouck Heights had proven itself to be one of the top teams in North Jersey, regularly moving outside its class to play bigger schools. It also had a reputation for being an aggressive, hard-nosed team that often gave up weight to its opponents, yet did not give up ground.
There were no league or state championships won or awarded, but 100 years ago, the NJSIAA was just starting, leagues were just forming. It is the only decade Hasbrouck Heights did not win a league title. There would be plenty of time for that.
Editors Note: Research for this series was made possible by the Hasbrouck Heights Public Library, as well the Hasbrouck Heights Board of Education, and Athletic Director Michael Scuilla. Reference materials include the school's yearbooks, as well as the archive of the Newsletter and Observer on file at the Hasbrouck Heights Public Library.
Part Two: The Roaring Twenties
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