Friday, September 9, 2011

EBHS Football, the First 50 Years: Part I, the 1960s

Tonight, at 7:00, the 51st season of East Brunswick High School football kicks off at Jay Doyle Field in East Brunswick, a home game vs. Monroe.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Bears' varsity football debut, I present the complete record. Starting with the first decade.

In the chart below, "H" means a home game, "A" means away.

1961: 4-4, .500
September 23 A Carteret Won 7-0
October 7 H Middlesex Won 32-0
October 14 H Bridgewater Lost 0-14
October 21 A Highland Park Lost 0-25
October 28 H Union Lost 6-28
November 4 A South River Lost 0-26
November 11 H Piscataway Won 19-0
November 18 A Sayreville Won 27-0

For the first 2 seasons, the football coach was James F. "Jay" Doyle, who was also the school's first athletic director and first wrestling coach.

The first game was won in the last 4 minutes, on a 2-yard quarterback sneak by Bill Gruver. For the first 5 seasons, EBHS played on a field at the high school, which had opened in 1958, located behind the gym, where what my generation of EBHS students knew as "the practice field," but after renovations is no longer.

Between the 9/23 and 10/7 games, Roger Maris broke the single-season home run record with 61. The week of the 10/14 game, the Yankees won the World Series. In the following off-season, the Mets made their debut.

At the time, EBHS was a Group III school, and was playing schools that were, at the time, roughly the same size in terms of enrollment. Some of these schools, like EBHS, got bigger; others got smaller, and as a result were regrouped into leagues, some later into Divisions of the Greater Middlesex Conference, where they faced mostly schools in their same Group.

South River had been the school to which most high school students from East Brunswick had been sent, and became our first arch-rival. "Middlesex" is Middlesex Borough, not Middlesex County College in Edison, which hadn't been founded yet and has never had a football team. "Bridgewater" is Bridgewater-Raritan H.S., the Golden Falcons. In 1966 they became Bridgewater-Raritan West, or "B-R West," when B-R East, the Minutemen, were formed. B-R East was the school that hosted the 1986 Central Jersey Group IV basketball championship game, which EB won, beating Franklin. The two schools were reconsolidated in 1995, as B-R West, the old BRHS, became the new BRHS, with new colors and a new mascot, the Panthers. B-R East became a middle school.

1962: 2-7, .222
September 15 H Carteret Lost 0-13
September 22 A Somerville Lost 7-28
October 6 A Middlesex Lost 6-8
October 13 A Bridgewater Won 12-7
October 20 H Highland Park Lost 6-7
October 27 A Union Lost 7-27
November 3 H South River Lost 13-32
November 10 A Piscataway Lost 0-19
November 17 H Sayreville Won 13-12

The Yankees won the World Series the week of the 10/20 game. The 10/27 game was played during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

1963: 5-2-2, .667
September 28 H Union Tied 0-0
October 5 H Somerville Lost 13-33
October 12 A Hamilton Won 20-6
October 19 H Bridgewater Won 27-21
October 26 A Millville Lost 20-24
November 2 H Woodbridge Won 26-12
November 9 A South River Tied 6-6
November 16 A Madison Won 41-15
November 28 H Sayreville Won 13-12

Ron "Rock" Gonier becomes EBHS football coach, as Doyle cuts back to being just AD and wrestling coach.

Hamilton, to the east of Trenton, is also known as Hamilton West. The town now has 3 high schools, the others being Steinert, a.k.a. Hamilton East, and Nottingham, a.k.a. Hamilton North.

Millville, in Cumberland County, remains EBHS' longest-ever roadtrip: 95 miles. EBHS has never played a team from outside the State of new Jersey. The same day that this game was played, Madison Township High School, the forerunner of the school now known
as Old Bridge, was in its first season of varsity football, and played Edison at EBHS, due to their own field not being ready.

The 11/28 game had been scheduled for 11/23, but was postponed due to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy the day before. As a result, for the first time, EBHS played football on Thanksgiving Day. Jay Doyle was against the idea of Thanksgiving football.

1964: 6-3, .667
September 26 A Woodbridge Won 20-6
October 3 A Perth Amboy Lost 0-14
October 10 H Ewing Won 12-8
October 17 A Bridgewater Won 34-0
October 24 H Madison Lost 14-20
October 31 H Edison Won 29-0
November 7 H South River Won 14-7
November 14 H New Brunswick Lost 0-19
November 21 A Sayreville Won 19-7

The EBHS football schedule begins to resemble the kind we're used to, as Perth Amboy and Edison appear for the first time, as Woodbridge and Madison/Old Bridge did the year before.

The 10/31 game was the first time EB played on Halloween. The next game, the first time that we beat South River, was played the week that President Lyndon B. Johnson was elected to a full term.

1965: 6-3
September 25 A Steinert Lost 12-13
October 2 H Perth Amboy Lost 6-14
October 9 A John F. Kennedy Won 21-13
October 16 H Bridgewater Won 13-6
October 23 A Madison Won 13-20
October 30 A Edison Won 28-13
November 6 A South River Won 21-12
November 13 H New Brunswick Lost 7-33
November 20 A Sayreville Won 27-13

Now a Group IV school, EBHS is placed in what is then known as the Greater Jersey Group IV Conference, Central Division II, and wins its first Conference Championship.

The 11/13 game was played the week of the Great Northeast Blackout, a.k.a. The Night the Lights Went Out. Of course, in those days, no Middlesex County high school had lights at their football field except for Memorial Stadium in New Brunswick, and the blackout happened on a Tuesday night, so by the weekend it wasn't going to be a problem.

Woodbridge was in the process of building its 2nd high school when JFK was killed, and so they named it after him, much as EB was building its first junior high school when United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold was killed in a plane crash, and named it after him. So JFKHS in Woodbridge didn't have a name before JFK was assassinated.

1966: 7-1-1, .833
September 24 H Madison Won 35-6
October 1 A Woodbridge Tied 0-0
October 8 H South River Lost 0-27
October 15 A Edison Won 34-12
October 22 A Perth Amboy Won 13-6
October 29 H Essex Catholic Won 32-14
November 5 H John F. Kennedy Won 26-0
November 12 A New Brunswick Won 31-21
November 19 H Sayreville Won 33-0

A 4,000-seat stadium opened for this season, and in the first game, EB beat Madison. Interestingly, when that stadium, later renamed Jay Doyle Field, got its lights, the first night game was against the same school, by then named Madison Central; and when it got its artificial surface, the first game was against the same school, by then named Old Bridge.

I talked to an EBHS player whose father played in the 10/1 game, and he said his father told him that it poured that day, and that Woodbridge Stadium (now Nicholas A. Priscoe Stadium) was practically a field of soup.

The next game was a foreshadowing: EB had Dave Wohl at quarterback, and he would go on to become the first (and still only) EBHS graduate to play in the NBA; South River's quarterback was senior Joe Theismann (then pronounced "THEEZE-man," it was at Notre Dame where it was changed to "THIGHS-man" to rhyme with the Heisman Trophy he ended up not winning), and his top receiver was sophomore Drew Pearson, who succeeded him as SRHS quarterback, and then opposed Theismann in some classic Washington Redskins vs. Dallas Cowboys games.

In spite of this rough start, EB won the rest of their games, winning the Conference Championship and, due to their record, winning a share of their 1st Central Jersey Group IV Championship. Our first "State Championship." That 11/19 clincher against Sayreville was played the same day as the Michigan State-Notre Dame contest that was labeled "The Game of the Century."

1967: 6-3, .667
September 23 A Madison Won 27-0
September 30 H Woodbridge Won 14-0
October 7 A South River Lost 14-25
October 14 H Edison Won 9-8
October 21 H Perth Amboy Won 18-13
October 28 A Princeton Lost 13-20
November 4 A John F. Kennedy Lost 14-18
November 11 H New Brunswick Won 20-6
November 18 A Sayreville Won 41-0

Three straight Conference Championships. The 10/21 game was played on the day of a major antiwar demonstration in Washington that included the supposed "levitation" of the Pentagon. It was also the day of the famous photo of the guy in the sweater sticking a flower down the barrel of a soldier's rifle.

1968: 6-3, .667
September 28 H Madison Won 18-6
October 5 A Woodbridge Won 19-13
October 12 H South River Lost 14-48
October 19 A Edison Won 26-7
October 26 A Perth Amboy Won 35-14
November 2 H Princeton Won 20-13
November 9 A John F. Kennedy Lost 14-18
November 16 H New Brunswick Won 20-6
November 23 A Sayreville Won 41-0

Ron Gonier resigned as coach to concentrate on teaching (math), and assistant coach Mel Caseiro (who also taught science, and whose brother John was a vice principal) became head coach. He kept the program strong, winning a fourth straight Conference Championship. He also gave us our first helmet design, putting green stickers with the player's uniform number on each side. Previously, the helmets were blank white with a green stripe down the middle. The 11/9 game was played the week that Richard Nixon was elected President.

1969: 6-3, .667
September 27 A Madison Won 30-13
October 4 H Woodbridge Lost 8-14
October 11 A South River Lost 6-24
October 18 H J.P. Stevens Lost 20-27
October 25 H Perth Amboy Won 33-8
November 1 A Cedar Ridge Won 64-0
November 8 H John F. Kennedy Won 19-0
November 15 A New Brunswick Won 42-8
November 22 H Sayreville Won 37-0

Five straight Conference Championships. With the addition of John P. Stevens H.S. in Edison (Stevens was President of the Edison Board of Education, and as such his name appears on the dedication plaques of both the school named for him and crosstown Edison H.S.) and Cedar Ridge (a 2nd school for Old Bridge), the EBHS football schedule begins to look even more familiar to those who attended in the 1970s and (in my case) '80s.

The 10/11 game was played the day of Game 1 of the World Series; the Mets won the Series on 10/16. The 11/1 game remains both the most points EB has ever scored in a football game and the biggest winning margin. The 11/15 game was played on Mobilization Day, when 500,000 people attended an antiwar demonstration in Washington.

Part II will follow later today.

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