Friday, September 23, 2011

Happy 50th Anniversary, EBHS Football

September 23, 1961, 50 years ago today: A football game was played at Walter B. Overholt Jr. Stadium in Carteret, New Jersey.

Overholt was a Carteret native and a Carteret High School graduate, who was killed in World War II.

The stadium, the only high school football stadium in Central New Jersey with an overhanging roof, still stands, and Carteret has had its moments. When I was at East Brunswick High School in the mid-1980s, they couldn't buy a win. They were absolutely atrocious.

Within a few years, they had rebuilt, and were in the Central Jersey Group II Playoffs nearly every season, including a few Championships. Overholt Stadium became such a tough place to play, it was nicknamed The Pit. The Ramblers' games against such old rivals as South River, New Brunswick, Highland Park, Metuchen, and Perth Amboy, the team they've played every Thanksgiving (or shortly thereafter due to inclement weather) since 1927, became massive events.

On Septmeber 23, 1961, Carteret was in Group III, and they hosted East Brunswick, which had opened 3 years earlier, on September 8, 1958, with grades 6 through 9, and now had 9 through 12, and was playing its first ever varsity football game, also as a Group III school. By 1964, EB would be in the largest enrollment classification, Group IV, and has been there ever since.

As far as I know, no film survives of this game. The photographs that survive show the EB Bears, despite being the visiting team, in solid green jerseys with plain white helmets and rudimentary facemasks, while host Carteret wore all white except for their blue helmets.

Despite the lack of experience, EB won 7-0. The account in the Daily Home News -- one of 2 papers that would later form the current Middlesex County newspaper, the Home News Tribune -- the only scoring game in the last 4 minutes, as EB quarterback Bill Gruver led a long drive that he capped himself with a dive over the goal line on a quarterback sneak, and then he finished the job by converting the extra point.

After a week off, EB played its first home game, beating Middlesex, then another relatively new school, 32-0, on the spot now occupied by the rebuilt baseball field. Not until 1965 would EB open the stadium that would, in 1973, be renamed Jay Doyle Field, after the school's first athletic director, first football coach and first wrestling coach, who died at the end of the previous year, just 41 -- eek, the same age I am now.

EB played only 8 games in that first season, instead of what was then the 9-game standard for New Jersey high school football, splitting them, 4-4. After beating the Ramblers and Blue Jays, they then hosted Bridgewater and lost to the Golden Falcons (now the Panthers), went to Highland Park and lost to the Owls, hosted Union County power Union and lost to the Farmers, visiting neighboring South River and lost to the Rams, hosted Piscataway and beat the Chiefs (yes, as a brand-knew school we beat PISS-cataway -- of course, they were relatively new, too), and closed the season by visiting neighboring Sayreville and beating the Bombers.

And, 475 games later, we are scheduled to play John P. Stevens High School of Edison, at Doyle Field, although the rain may push that game back to tomorrow or Sunday.

Since 1961, we have won 12 Conference Championships, made the State Playoffs 11 times, and won 4 Central Jersey Group IV Championships: 1966, 1972, 2004 and 2009.

This season, we are already 0-2, having lost to the Monroe Falcons at home and the Edison Eagles on the road. The Playoffs look unlikely, and as long as we're in the Greater Middlesex Conference, Red Division with Piscataway, a Conference Championship looks unlikely. And this EB-Stevens matchup certainly won't carry with it the Playoff and Conference implications that the matchups of the late 1970s and all through the 1980s did.

But, presuming we're dry, it could be fun. GO BIG GREEN! And Happy Anniversary to DA BEARS!

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