SPARTA, NJ – Part reunion, part celebration the banquet room at Skyview gold club was overflowing with smiles, laughter, hugs and handshakes at the induction ceremony for the first class of Sparta High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

On Thursday night fifteen athletes, coaches and teams were honored with plaques, speeches and applause.

“This is a trip down memory lane,” Inductee, Sparta High School alumna, coach and Hall of Fame Committee member Cathy Wille said.  “This has brought an incredible smile and eve tears to my eyes.”

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Wille played on the undefeated basketball team in the1985-1987 season.  The coach of that team was Fred Geffken also an inductee in the first class.

“I’m humble,” Geffken said.  “I was gifted with the best team in the history of Sussex County.  What an honor.”

“The induction of the inaugural class into the SHS Athletic Hall of Fame was a wonderful success.” Sparta High School Principal Janet Ferraro said.  “The teams, coaches, and athletes we honored as well as the community that came out to support them celebrated together with pride.”

“I’m really honored to be here,” Inductee Greg Baty said. “Sparta was such a great launching pad for college.  When I look back at my time at Sparta High School, I think I had the most fun.  More than in college or in the pros.  It’s really special, great to be here with old team mates.”

Baty went on to play football at Stanford University.  He was then drafted to play with the New England Patriots.  In his eight seasons in the National Football League Baty played for the Los Angles Rams and Miami Dolphins.

“This is wonderful.  When I was asked to be on the [Hall of Fame nominating] committee I jumped on it,” Inductee and committee member Lou Seville said.  “Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would turn into this.  [The Hall of Fame] is very positive for the school and the town.”

Alumni may be nominated through the Sparta High School website.

“It was amazing to be at the hall of fame induction ceremony and have the opportunity to meet the individuals who paved the way for what Sparta High School athletics has become today,” Sparta High School Athletic Director Steve Stoner said. ”The traditions and expectations that the 15 coaches, teams and players established during their time at the high school are still present and followed to this day by our current student athletes.  The hall of fame will be a showcase for the rich athletic history that is Sparta High School.”

Ferraro said. “It took us a full two years of planning to get this off the ground, and it felt good to see the efforts pay off.  The atmosphere of the room was that of family.  It takes a special place to make that happen, and I am proud to be a part of the Spartan Family.”

Inductee tennis coach Jeff Hughes said, “It is a wonderful event. I'm honored to be among the fifteen inductees.”

Hall of Fame Committee Chairman and guidance counselor, Tim Librizzi said, “The induction ceremony was a very special night for the Sparta community.  We heard wonderful stories from coaches, teams and players who have now finally secured their place in Sparta athletic history by being recognized as the inaugural class of our Athletic Hall of Fame.  The Hall of Fame Committee did an amazing job in putting together such an historic night.”

"[It] was an absolutely amazing event,” Superintendent Dr. Michael Rossi said. “The expressions of pride, tradition and kinship is hard to put in to words.  What an amazing group of inductees including the two teams; their accomplishments rival any school, in any town, in any state.

The inductees for the inaugural year, 2017:

Coaches:

Richard “Dick” Cassels- Football Coach (Posthumous)-

  • 1959 - 1977, Record: 125-33-7, Eight Skyline Conference Titles , Coached SHS First Undefeated Football Team 1968, Cassels Football Field Named in Memoriam
  • First Sparta High School Athletic Director 1959

Manny Reis - Boys Soccer (Posthumous)

  • 1960-1980,“Father of Sparta Soccer”, Record: 194-72-20, 8 League Titles, 1 State Sectional Title

Ron Earl- Football

  • Coached 1959-1989, Record: 76-27-3,Three State Championships: 1979,1980 and 1982, Four SCIL Championships ,Two Undefeated seasons 1980 and 1982

Gene Mendes- Football Coach, Baseball

  • 1979-2008, Baseball Head Coach 15 Years, Football Asst 28 Years, Two SCIL Baseball Titles: 1981 & 1983, 11 Total SCIL Titles
  • 5 NJSIAA State Sectional Titles; Four in Football, One in Boys Basketball

Fred Geffken- Girls Bball Coach

  • Coached 1980-2012, Record: 693-166
  • Three State Championships,Twelve Sectional Championships,18 SCIL Championships, 14 County Festival Championships, Six Undefeated Regular Seasons

Jeff Hughes- Boys and Girls Tennis Coach

  • Boys Tennis 1978-2005, Record: 429-121, 17 SCIL, 11 SCIL Tournament Championships, First Team All Area Boys Tennis Coach 2004
  • Girls Tennis 1976-2017, Record:  629-163, 23 SCIL, 16 SCIL Tournament Championships, NJSIAA Sports Award 2001, NFICA NJ Girls Coach of the Year 1995

Robert “Bobby” Cannon- Golf coach

  • 1978-1994
  • Golf Head Coach
  • Assistant Wrestling Coach
  • Bobby Cannon who led the Spartans to 24 league titles, including 17 in a row in the SCIL from 1978-1994, eight regional championships and a state championship in 1978

Athletes:

Greg Baty- Boys Football 1982

  • 1978-1982 ,State Championships 1980, 1982, Undefeated Season 1980, 1982
  • Football Captain 1982, All-State Selection Tight End and Defensive End, NJ Top 25 Players 1982
  • First 1000 Point Scorer for SHS

Chris Jent- Boys Basketball 1988

  • 1984-1988, SHS and SCIL All Time Career Points Leader - 2,287
  • Parade All American, Top 50 High School Seniors
  • 1st Team All State, 3 Time All West Jersey, Street and Smith All American, Converse All American

John Place- Football, Wrestling 1983

  • 1979-1983, District 3, Region 1 Champion Wrestler 1982 & 1983, NJ State Champion Wrestler 1983, Undefeated at 188 lbs; 1982-83 Season
  • All State Group II Football Champion, Football State Championship 1980, 1982, Athlete of the Year 1983

Kevin Rogers - Football

  • 1965-1969, First Undefeated Football Season at SHS 1968, State Championship 1968
  • All County Football, Baseball, All-State Baseball, MVP Baseball, Two-time District Champion Runner-up Wrestling

Louis Seville-Football, Baseball 1983

  • 1979-1983, Football and Baseball Captain 1983
  • Two State Championships: 1980, 1982, SCIL All-Time Career Rushing and Scoring Record, Only Player Selected to NJ North/South All-Star Game in Two Sports, 1983
  • First Team All-Area, All-SCIL, All-State, All-Group, Played on 6 Championship SCIL Teams

Catherine Wille- Girls Basketball, Track 1986

  • 1982-1986, Basketball Undefeated 1985-86 seasons, All SCIL 1985-86, SHS MVP 1985-86, MVP State Championship Game 1985, 1st Team Group II 1985 and 1986
  • North I, Group II Track Champions 1985, SHS Athlete of the Year 1986

Teams:

1985 Girls Basketball Team

  • Captains: Helene Geissel (Reigstad) and Diana Seville
  • Undefeated 29-0,SCIL, Sectional and Group 2 State Champions , Sussex County Festival Champions, First Female Team in Sussex County to Win a State Championship
  • Three 1,000 Point Scorers; One 1000 Rebounder
  • Six Division I Collegiate Players

1978 Boys Golf Team

  • Captain: Mark Kehoe, Record: 18-0, SCIL Champions, North Jersey Sectional Champions, Sparta Quadrangular Champions, District 7 Champions, NJ All Group State Champions

“My fondest take away is the sincere sense of love expressed and felt by everyone in the room,” Rossi said.  “Kudos on a tremendous effort, and congratulations to the entire Sparta community.  I am humbled to be on the team.”  

The nominating committee includes:

  • Librizzi - President,
  • Steve Stoner – Treasurer, Athletic Director,
  • Ferraro – Principal,
  • Rory Ritzgerald – Assistant Principal
  • Steve Schels – Assistant Principal,
  • Sam Slobodzian – teacher and coach,
  • Gerry Carter – teacher and coach,
  • Andrew Lowery – teacher and coach,
  • Lou Seville – community member,
  • Dee Passerelle – community member,
  • Catherine Willie – teacher and coach

The Hall of Fame is to be located outside the main gymnasium at the high school.  Additionally, three plaques commemorate donors for their financial support for the hall of fame.  Donations can be made through the Sparta High School website.

“I would like to congratulate the inductees one last time, and thank the committee for all of the hard work,” Ferraro said.