Friday, September 9, 2011

EBHS Football, the First 50 Years: Part II, the 1970s

1970: 6-2-1, .722
September 26 H Madison Tied 14-14
October 3 A Woodbridge Lost 7-32
October 10 H South River Won 39-0
October 17 A J.P. Stevens Lost 14-29
October 24 A Perth Amboy Won 24-6
October 31 H Cedar Ridge Won 29-0
November 7 A John F. Kennedy Won 28-9
November 14 H New Brunswick Won 18-10
November 21 A Sayreville Won 24-6

Six straight Conference Championships. And a 2nd Halloween Bowl.

1971: 5-3-1, .611
September 25 A Madison Tied 14-14
October 2 H Woodbridge Lost 12-14
October 9 A Cedar Ridge Won 33-0
October 16 H J.P. Stevens Won 27-6
October 23 H Carteret Lost 6-27
October 30 A Elizabeth Won 22-18
November 6 A South River Won 27-0
November 13 A New Brunswick Won 58-0
November 20 H Sayreville Lost 20-22

This was the first season of the Middlesex County Athletic Conference (MCAC). JFK won the first Conference Title.

The Conference Championship streak ended in ignominious fashion. My sophomore English teacher was Bill Munyan, longtime EBHS football statistician. He told me that the first time we ever lost to Sayreville -- and it would be the only time we would lose to them in our first 30 seasons of football -- was on a safety caused by a bad snap on a punt attempt.

Elizabeth H.S. was known as Thomas Jefferson H.S. until 1979. After a 2009 restructuring by their Board of Education, their high school, the largest in the State by enrollment, has been split up into campuses, and the former TJHS building has been converted into their arts and performing arts campus.

1972: 7-1-1, .833
September 30 H Madison Won 37-6
October 7 A Woodbridge Won 19-13
October 14 H Cedar Ridge Won 27-11
October 21 A J.P. Stevens Won 27-7
October 28 A Carteret Won 46-6
November 4 H Elizabeth Won 20-6
November 11 H South River Lost 14-35
November 18 H New Brunswick Tied 0-0
November 25 A Sayreville Won 41-14

This was the first season that the block EB logo appeared on our helmets. The 11/11 game was played the week that President Nixon was re-elected. The 11/25 game clinched EB's 1st MCAC Championship and 2nd Central Jersey Group IV Co-Championship. It would be a long, agonizing, gut-wrenching wait for another. Students and graduates of schools that won "State Championships" from 1974 onward would remind EB people that, "You've never won a State Championship." What they meant was, we'd never won a State Championship under the Playoff format.

Athletic director and wrestling coach Jay Doyle died at the end of the calendar year. When the new season began, the stadium was named in his memory.

1973: 6-3, .667
September 22 H Perth Amboy Won 39-8
September 29 John F. Kennedy Lost 14-18
October 5 A Cedar Ridge Lost 0-21
October 13 H J.P. Stevens Lost 23-28
October 20 A New Brunswick Won 41-0
October 27 A Madison Won 6-0
November 3 A Essex Catholic Won 20-0
November 10 A South River Won 13-6
November 17 H Sayreville Won 33-0

A strange season on the field. The 10/5 game was the first time we ever lost to Cedar Ridge, which took an undefeated season into their final game, on Thanksgiving, against Madison at Madison's stadium, by now renamed Vince Lombardi Field for the legendary Packer coach. (Not sure why: Although he coached a high school team in Kearny, his wife was from Red Bank and they are buried in Middletown, he appears to have had no connection to the town now known as Old Bridge.) But Cedar Ridge needed a last-minute field goal to win 17-15 to clinch their undefeated season, the MCAC Title, and the last Central Jersey Group IV Championship before the Playoff system was put into place. It was a little embarrassing, as Madison, the older school, had not yet won any championship. Nor had they had an undefeated season. (Then again, we still haven't.)

Further strangeness: Within 2 weeks of each other, on 10/13, EB set a school record (which we have since broken) for most points scored, but still losing; and then, on 10/27, we set a school record (which still stands) for fewest points scored, but still winning.

It was also a strange season off the field. Due to East Brunswick's large Jewish community, observing Yom Kippur, the game scheduled for 10/6 was moved to 10/5; on 10/6, Egypt began the Yom Kippur War that took up much of the month before Israel won. On 10/10, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned due to a criminal conviction and the Mets won the National League Pennant. On 10/20, President Nixon ordered what became known as the Saturday Night Massacre; on 11/17, at a press conference during a "working vacation" at Disney World, Nixon told the media, asking him about Watergate, "I welcome this sort of an examination, because people have gotta know whether or not their President is a crook! Well, I am not a crook!" By the time EBHS played another varsity football game, Gerald Ford would be President.

1974: 6-3, .667
September 28 A Perth Amboy Won 39-7
October 5 A John F. Kennedy Lost 14-16
October 12 H Cedar Ridge Won 21-20
October 19 A J.P. Stevens Lost 22-28
October 26 H New Brunswick Won 27-8
November 2 H Madison Won 26-21
November 9 A Brick Township Lost 8-21
November 16 H South River Won 8-7
November 23 A Sayreville Won 13-12

This was the first season that the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) held Playoffs to determine State Sectional Champions. EB's loss to Brick was no fluke: In the first high school playoff game ever held in New Jersey, on a shortened field at what's now called Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, Brick came from behind to beat Camden and finish a 12-0 season.

1975: 4-5, .444
September 20 H Sayreville Won 12-6
September 27 A Cedar Ridge Lost 14-22
October 4 A Madison Central Lost 13-19
October 11 H Colonia Lost 13-14
October 18 A South River Won 39-14
October 25 A Edison Won 14-6
November 1 H Brick Township Lost 10-14
November 8 H Perth Amboy Won 28-0
November 15 A John F. Kennedy Lost 11-15

First losing season in 13 years, since EBHS football was still effectively an "expansion team." This was the year the NJSIAA expanded its Playoff system to include the top 4 teams in each section: North Jersey Section I (the Counties of Sussex, Passaic, Bergen and Hudson), North Jersey Section II (Warren, Morris, Essex and Union), Central Jersey (Hunterdon, Somerset, Mercer, Middlesex and Monmouth) and South Jersey (Ocean, Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland, Atlantic and Cape May). These sectional boundaries would latter be redrawn.

This was also the year that Madison Township, tired of being confused with Madison Borough in Morris County, changed the name of the town to the Township of Old Bridge. But they didn't change the name of their original high school: Instead of making it "Old Bridge High School" at this time, they made it "Madison Central High School." At any rate, this was the only season that both Old Bridge high schools beat EB in the same season. It was also the only season, besides, 1973, that Cedar Ridge ever beat Madison on Thanksgiving.

The 10/11 game was played a few hours before the series premiere of Saturday Night Live. The 10/25 game was played the week the classic 1975 World Series ended, with Carlton Fisk waving his arms in the hopes that his drive down the left field line would stay fair, and it hit the foul pole to win Game 6 for the Boston Red Sox, before the Cincinnati Reds won Game 7 the next night.

The 11/1 game was played the week of 2 weird events in New York City: President Ford refused a federal bailout of the City's desperate finances, leading the Daily News to print its most famous headline: FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD. After the City government made some concessions, Ford decided they were serious, and he changed his mind, but the headline stuck in people's minds, and Ford lost the State of New York a year later, one of several things that cost him a very close election.

A few days later, the New York Rangers made 2 big trades: Sending Jean Ratelle and Brad Park to the Boston Bruins for Phil Esposito, and sending goalie Eddie Giacomin to the Detroit Red Wings. As fate would have it, the Rangers' next game was at home against Detroit, and fans chanted Eddie's name during pregame introductions and cheered his every save and the Wings' win.

1976: 2-6-1, .278
September 18 A Colonia Lost 8-20
September 25 H Madison Central Lost 0-12
October 2 H Edison Lost 6-17
October 9 H Cedar Ridge Won 17-6
October 16 H John F. Kennedy Tied 6-6
October 23 A Woodbridge Lost 0-38
October 30 A Brick Township Lost 0-29
November 6 A J.P. Stevens Lost 14-27
November 13 A Sayreville Won 25-6

EB's worst season yet, not counting its "expansion" years. Coach Mel Caseiro took the fall, and was fired, although he remained a science teacher at EBHS until retiring, and was hired to coach the linebackers at Rutgers University.

This was also the year that the MCAC's smaller schools broke away and formed a new league with other similarly-sized schools. Because it was America's 200th Anniversary, the league became known as the Bicentennial Athletic Conference (BAC). Never again would EB play former arch-rival South River -- not in football, anyway; there would be meetings in other sports, and even then mainly in County Tournament play. Nor would we play New Brunswick again, with (so far) one exception.

The 11/6 game was played the week that Jimmy Carter was elected President.

1977: 5-2-2, .667
September 17 H Sayreville Won 35-0
September 24 H Colonia Won 14-8
October 1 A Madison Central Won 28-0
October 8 A Edison Won 20-0
October 15 A Cedar Ridge Won 41-7
October 22 A John F. Kennedy Tied 6-6
October 29 H Woodbridge Tied 0-0
November 5 H Brick Township Lost 7-13
November 12 A J.P. Stevens Lost 0-14

George Tardiff was hired as head coach, and it looked like a great hire: The teamwon its 1st 5 games, and was undefeated in its 1st 7. The failure to kick an extra point against JFK, get any kind of score against Woodbridge, find a 2nd touchdown against mighty Brick, or beat a Stevens team that ended up winning the MCAC and CJ Group IV Championships, doomed EB to miss the Playoffs. Had the current system, with 8 teams making it from each section, been in place, we would have made it.

The 10/22 game was played the week the Yankees won the World Series for the first time in 15 years, thanks to Reggie Jackson's 3 home runs in Game 6.

1978: 7-2, .778
September 23 A Perth Amboy Lost 0 8
September 30 H Madison Central Won 9 0
October 7 H Cedar Ridge Won 9 0
October 14 A Woodbridge Won 14 6
October 21 H Carteret Won 21 6
October 28 H Edison Won 20 0
November 4 A Brick Township Won 14 7
November 11 H J.P. Stevens Lost 13 31
November 23 A Colonia Won 15 10

This was the first season of EB's best-ever helmet design, with the bear-paw prints. It was also the first time we played a regularly-scheduled Thanksgiving game, and we won it. Why Colonia? Just about everybody else in the MCAC already had a Thanksgiving rival, including the other 2 Woodbridge schools, Woodbridge and JFK, who played each other. That left Colonia with nobody to play with, so we filled the gap. Unfortunately, it was our last game of the season, because our loss to Stevens (who again won the MCAC and CJ IV titles) left us on the outside looking in as far as Playoff qualification was concerned. Again, had the current system been in place, we would have made it.

At the time, in addition to Woodbridge-JFK, the rivalries were: Perth Amboy vs. Carteret, Highland Park vs. Metuchen, Edison-Stevens, St. Thomas Aquinas of Edison (which became Bishop George Ahr in 1984) vs. St. Pius X of Piscataway (which was closed in 1991), North Brunswick vs. South Brunswick, South River vs. Sayreville (SR's former T-Day rivalry with New Brunswick having been ended) and Madison Central vs. Cedar Ridge. Today, of these rivalries, only Amboy-Carteret, Edison-Stevens and North & South Brunswick are still played on T-Day.

The 9/30 game was played 3 days before the Yankees and Red Sox played the Playoff game remembered for Bucky Dent's home run. The Yanks would win the World Series the week of the 10/21 game.

1979: 3-5-1, .389
September 22 H Perth Amboy Lost 6 8
September 29 A Madison Central Lost 0 31
October 6 A Cedar Ridge Won 18 6
October 13 H Woodbridge Won 24 7
October 20 A Carteret Tied 7 7
October 27 A Edison Lost 17 26
November 3 H Brick Township Lost 0 21
November 10 H J.P. Stevens Won 7 2
November 22 H Colonia Lost 14 20

The 11/3 game was played the day before Iranian revolutionaries stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took hostages.

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