By Dick Engelhardt
Fair Lawn graduate and star
player, Amir Saadah, became the 11th Fair Lawn High School Football Coach in
2011. His fourth season, 2014, the 72nd in the history of Fair Lawn High, was a
disappointing one but the lessons learned in sportsmanship, teamwork and
overcoming adversity and the friendships formed will be with these CUTTERS as long as they live!
The season started out with a
bang! The FIGHTING MUSTANGS of
Clifton High were looking forward to the CUTTERS
of Fair Lawn High inaugurating their new field turf in football just as they
had Fair Lawn’s new field turf last year. However it became apparent the field
and CLIFTON SCHOOL STADIUM
renovations would not be ready and the game was switched to Fair Lawn’s SASSO FIELD. Our heroes shocked the FIGHTING MUSTANGS 22-0 and Fair Lawn
fans were ecstatic about the prospects for a good season.
Alas, Fair Lawn
suffered through 6 straight losses. That streak ended in dramatic style as
our CUTTERS demolished the INDIANS of Passaic 39-7, keeping them
winless. The 39 points equaled those in the 39-38 Fair Lawn playoff win in
2009. Stan Myles’ CUTTERS led 32-6
at halftime and the INDIANS roared
back in the second half. The game replaced the 1980 playoff game at GIANTS STADIUM in which Fair Lawn
trailed 7-0, 12-0, 12-7 and 18-7 and roared back to win 27-18, as the most
thrilling in FLHS history. In that
’09 playoff game, on 4th down, with 5 seconds on the clock and Passaic out of
timeouts, Fair Lawn QB Travis Kubasta took the snap and ran 21 yards backwards
taking a knee as the clock expired. Whew!
season ended with a 34-7 loss to JFK of Paterson in Big North Conference (BNC) crossover action and a 38-0 loss
to the INDIANS of Wayne Valley in
the Consolation Game. Fair Lawn is 8-7
(.533) in Consolation games since they started in 1998. This was a historic
season in that, for the first time ever, Fair Lawn fell below .500. The
1943-2014 record is 319-323-14 (.497). This
is the result of hard times in the 1970s, 1990s, 2000s and 2010s cumulatively.
Fair Lawn started out in 1943 with a remarkable record of 4-1-1 (.800) under
Coach Marty Fischbein and did not have a losing season until 1950. The 50s, 60s
and 80s were highly successful decades. Old time Fair Lawn fans will never forget
the 22 game non-losing streak 1964-66 that was broken by a shocking 40-34
Ridgewood upset on Thanksgiving Day 1966 before 13,000 fans at SASSO FIELD.
A word about the schedule. Once again the BNC scheduled Fair Lawn against a
parochial behemoth; this time the PALADINS
of Paramus Catholic. The PALADINS
found an out-of-state opponent but Fair Lawn was forced to find another game
and wound up traveling over 60 miles to New Canaan, Connecticut to play the STORM of St. Luke’s. This should stop!
And a modest BNC realignment would
give Fair Lawn a chance to compete for a Division title. The BNC Liberty Division has Clifton,
Eastside, Fair Lawn and Passaic Tech. The BNC
Freedom Division, with which we cross play, has Hackensack, Kennedy, Passaic
and Ridgewood. A much more competitive alignment would have the Liberty
Division include Eastside, Fair Lawn, Kennedy and Passaic and the Freedom
Division include Clifton, Hackensack, Passaic Tech and Ridgewood.
The return of a
number of players next season and the freshmen group moving up could see our CUTTERS improve. I enjoyed being “The Voice of the Cutters on the Gridiron”
for the 18th season and working with my spotter, Shawn Kerestes. For many years
before that my twin brother, Bill, and I were the “spotters” for long time
popular Fair Lawn announcer Joe Hausmann, who now announces for the HIGHLANDERS of Northern Highlands and
the IRONMEN of Don Bosco. I can
hardly wait for next year! Until then, GO
THE GRIDIRON 14-2014
By Dick Engelhardt
The CUTTERS of Fair Lawn High and their fans, especially old timers,
had plenty of rooting interests in State Playoff Finals action involving
present or former foes. Let’s look at some of these games.
In North Jersey, Section 1, Group V, Fair Lawn’s Big North
Conference (BNC) 5 time champion BULLDOGS of Passaic County Technical
Institute were beaten 26 -14 by the MOUNTIES
of Montclair. The BULLDOGS won
sectional titles in 1998 and 2001. They are 5-0 (1.000) over our CUTTERS 2010-14. The loss closed out
the BNC Liberty Division 2014 record
against outside opposition at 11-19 (.367).
In Group IV, the INDIANS of
Pascack Valley beat the SPARTANS of
Paramus 22-6. PV Coach Craig Nielsen was an assistant at Fair Lawn under Pete
Natale 1980-85. He was the architect of the great Fair Lawn passing attack on
the 1980 Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League (NNJIL) tri-championship team (with Clifton and Passaic Valley) that
beat Passaic in the States at GIANTS STADIUM
and lost to Passaic Valley in the finals. Craig’s offense led the way again in
1984 as Fair Lawn took the Northern Bergen Interscholastic League (NBIL) Division 1 title in our first
season back in the league and in 1985 when the NBIL Division 1 champs lost a 36-26 thriller to Passaic in the
States. Nielsen was a star running back for the BEARS of Bergenfield in the ‘70s. Pascack Valley took the 1955-56,
1984-85 and 1988-2008 NBIL rivalry
with Fair Lawn 14-10-1 (.583). During 1962-83 and 2010-11 in NNJIL and Big North Conference (BNC) action, the SPARTANS of Paramus went 14-10 (.583) against our CUTTERS.
In Group III, the GOLDEN HAWKS
of River Dell were beaten 31-23 by the SPARTANS
of Sparta, who defended their title. In 1958, brand new River Dell, with Bill
Parcells at running back/QB, beat our CUTTERS
26-13 in the only game ever played between the schools before Fair Lawn left
the NBIL for the NNJIL in 1959. Ironically River Dell
leaving the NBIL in 1984 opened the
door for Bergenfield, which had left the then Bergen-Passaic Interscholastic
League (B-PIL) in 1949, Fair Lawn
and Ramsey to come back in!
In Group II, the CARDINALS
of Westwood beat the WARRIORS of
Waldwick/Midland Park 21-7. During 1943-44 independently and 1984-85 in the NBIL, our CUTTERS went 3-1 (.750) against the CARDINALS. Westwood Coach Vito Campanile grew up in Fair Lawn and
was an assistant coach here under Greg Tanzer along with Anthony and Nick. The
Campanile family, headed by Mike, was huge in the Fair Lawn Football
Association and at FLHS.
Next week we’ll wrap
up 2014 with a look back at the season. Until then, GO CUTTERS GO!!!
PLAYOFF FINALS IN FLHS GRIDIRON HISTORY - 2014
The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) instituted playoffs in 1974.
Before that, sectional and group championships were awarded using power points.
Now they are decided on the GRIDIRON.
Power points only come into play in making the playoffs and in seeding in them
and in seeding Consolation Games.
In 1980 Pete Natale’s CUTTERS shared the Northern New Jersey
Interscholastic League (NNJIL) title
with the FIGHTING MUSTANGS of
Clifton High and the HORNETS of
Passaic Valley. They beat the HORNETS
7-6 during the season but were beaten 20-7 by the FIGHTING MUSTANGS who in turn were beaten by the HORNETS. The tri-champions all had 8-1
(.889) NNJIL records. In the opening
round of the States in North Jersey, Section 1, Group IV action, the CUTTERS
played one of the most exciting games in their history. Trailing the INDIANS of Passaic and the Passaic
Valley Conference (PVC) 7-0, 12-0,
12-7 and 18-7 at GIANTS STADIUM they
roared back to win a 27-18 thriller. In the finals at GIANTS STADIUM, the HORNETS
of Passaic Valley avenged the regular season loss with a 20-0 championship shut
out victory. Those 1980 CUTTERS were
the first team in FLHS history to
win 9 games, going 9-2 (.818). The
others were Natale’s 1985 and 87 Northern Bergen Interscholastic League (NBIL) Division 1 champion and playoff
bound CUTTERS who went 9-1 (.900).
THE GRIDIRON 13-2014
By Dick Engelhardt
In State Playoff Semi-Final
and Thanksgiving Day action, Fair Lawn fans had plenty of rooting interests.
Let’s look at some of the games.
In North Jersey, Section 1, Group
V, the BULLDOGS of Passaic County Technical Institute, 5 time champions of
Fair Lawn’s Big North Conference (BNC)
Liberty Division, beat the SOARING EAGLES
of Union City 12-6. The BULLDOGS are
5-0 against Fair Lawn. In North Jersey Tri-County Conference (NJTCC) crossover action in 2009, our CUTTERS shot down the SOARING EAGLES 42-14. The COMETS of Hackensack were beaten 24-7
by the defending champion MOUNTIES
of Montclair. Hackensack leads the 1959-82, 2000 and 2010-14 rivalry with our CUTTERS 28-7-1 (.800).
In Group IV, the INDIANS of Pascack Valley blasted the GOLDEN KNIGHTS of Northern Valley/Old
Tappan 37-14 and “the little engine that could,” SPARTANS of Paramus shocked the GAELS of Roxbury 21-0. Pascack Valley coach Craig Nielsen, a great
guy, was an assistant under Pete Natale at Fair Lawn 1980-85. P V took the
1955-56, 1984-85 and 1988-2008 Northern Bergen Interscholastic League (NBIL) rivalry with Fair Lawn 14-10-1
(.583). Paramus took the 1962-83 and 2010-11 rivalry with Fair Lawn 14-10. Our CUTTERS took the 1984–2008 NBIL rivalry against the GOLDEN KNIGHTS 15–10 (.600). Stan
Myles’ CUTTERS were beaten 42-7 by
Roxbury in the 2009 semi-finals after having edged the INDIANS of Passaic 39-38 in the 1st round.
In Group III, the GREEN RAIDERS of Ramapo were edged 10-7
by the GOLDEN HAWKS of River Dell.
Ramapo coach Drew Gibbs is a class act. His son, Brian, now on his staff, was
an assistant on Fair Lawn coach Amir Saadah’s staff last year. In Fair Lawn’s
only game ever against River Dell, a 26-13 loss in 1958, a fellow named Bill
Parcells ran wild for the GOLDEN HAWKS!
Ramapo took the 1956-58 and 1984-2008 NBIL
Division 1 rivalry with Fair Lawn 17-11 (.607). The THUNDERBIRDS of Mahwah were beaten 42-19 by the defending champion SPARTANS of Sparta. During 1999-2001
and 2007-2008 our CUTTERS went 4-1
(.800) over the THUNDERBIRDS in NBIL interdivisional action.
In Group II the CARDINALS of Westwood, coached by Fair
Lawn’s own Vito Campanile, shellacked the PATRIOTS
of Lenape Valley 48-6. During 1943-44 independently and 1984-85 in NBIL interdivisional action, our CUTTERS went 3-1 (.750) against the CARDINALS.
In Group I, the WILDCATS of Becton Regional were
shutout 22-0 by the HILLBILLIES of
Verona. In independent action 1950-53 the WILDCATS
of then East Rutherford High, went 2-1-1 (.667) against Frank Bennett’s CUTTERS.
On Turkey Day Fair
Lawn’s BNC Liberty Division saw its
winless FIGHTING MUSTANGS of Clifton
High beat the also winless Freedom Division INDIANS of Passaic 20-14. Our CUTTERS
administered Clifton’s 1st loss 22-0 on opening day and kept Passaic winless
39-7 on November 1st. I saw the BNC
Liberty Division GHOSTS of Paterson
Eastside get shutout 26-0 by the Freedom Division KNIGHTS of JFK. Before Fair Lawn High opened in 1943, most Fair
Lawn students attended Eastside with Radburn area students attending Ridgewood
High and Lincoln Avenue area students attending Hawthorne High. I rooted for
Eastside for that reason and as payback for JFK coach Ron Jackson passing for a
TD with 9 seconds on the clock instead of taking a knee in the 34-7 Kennedy win
over Fair Lawn this year! The BNC
Liberty Division went 2-1 (.667) against outside opposition bringing its 2014
record to 11-18 (.379) with 1game to go.
Next week we’ll look at playoff finals action of interest to Fair Lawn
fans. Until then, GO CUTTERS GO!!!
THE GRIDIRON 12-2014: THANKSGIVING DAY MEMORIES
By Dick Engelhardt
Thanksgiving Day football
games have largely disappeared but Fair Lawn fans enjoyed Turkey Day action
1943-2008. Coach Marty Fischbein found an opponent for his new CUTTERS that initial 1943 season in the
TERRIERS of Holy Trinity High School
of Westfield. Our CUTTERS started
their Thanksgiving play with a 19-0 victory on what is now the Center Rec Field
before the football field was built along Fairclough Place. The present SASSO FIELD, named after the venerable
athletic director, teacher, coach and vice principal, Virgil G. Sasso, who
served 1944-79, was laid out in 1956 as the gold colored “B Wing” high school
addition was being built and took that space. The current home stands were constructed
In 1944, Fischbein’s CUTTERS began a 40 year Turkey Day
rivalry with the MAROONS of
Ridgewood which ended in 1984 when Fair Lawn left the Northern New Jersey
Interscholastic League (NNJIL) to
return to the Northern Bergen Interscholastic League (NBIL), that Fair Lawn and Ridgewood had left in 1959. Ridgewood
took the 1944-83 annual classic 26-11-3 (.703).
In 1984, back in the NBIL, our Cutters began a 10 year
1984-93 Turkey Day rivalry with the PATRIOTS
of Wayne Hills that wound up 5-5 (.500). The teams continued to play during
the season. Wayne Hills took the 1984-2009 overall rivalry 20-5 (.800).
In 1994 the Thunderbirds of
Mahwah joined the NBIL, which they
had left in the 1960s for the new Bergen-Passaic Scholastic League (B-PSL). They wanted to play their old
Turkey Day foe, Ramsey. The reshuffling of the Turkey Day NBIL rivalries enabled Fair Lawn to pick up the BEARS of Bergenfield. Fair Lawn took
the 1994-2008 Turkey Day rivalry 11-4 (.733) and the 1945-48 and 1962-2008
overall rivalry, the longest in either school’s history, 35-16 (.686).
Fair Lawn’s 66 season
Thanksgiving Day record during 1943-2008 is 28-35-3
(.444). It ended with Fair Lawn’s 42-0 victory over Bergenfield. There were
some great memories along the way. In 1947, our CUTTERS shared the then Bergen-Passaic Interscholastic League (B-PIL) championship with the GOLDEN BEARS of Lyndhurst. Coach Frank
“Mac” Bennett was the New York Daily News North Jersey “Coach of The Year.” The
CUTTERS beat the MAROONS 7-6 for the first Fair Lawn
victory. Ridgewood led the series 3-1 (.750). In 1953 Bennett’s B-PIL champion CUTTERS shared the North Jersey, Section 1, Group III title with
the COMETS of Hackensack. They beat
Ridgewood 26-6. Star running back Dave Sime would become “The World’s Fastest Human!” Ridgewood led the series 6-4 (.600). Bennett’s
’55 B-PIL champion CUTTERS beat Ridgewood 19-7. My twin
brother, Bill, and I were “Water Boys” on that team! The MAROONS led the series 7-5 (.583).
Bennett’s ‘59 CUTTERS almost took the title in their maiden NNJIL season. Ridgewood’s 13-7 upset
victory in which the Maroons injured Fair Lawn’s star running back, Bob Wright,
who went on to play for Army, gave Hackensack the title by half a game even
though our CUTTERS had beaten the COMETS 27-6. Ridgewood led the series
Ed Sheehy’s ‘64 CUTTERS tied Ridgewood 6-6. Sheehy died
after the season and Frank Devens’ NNJIL
champion CUTTERS went 8-0-1 (1.000)
in ’65 and beat Ridgewood 13-6 on Turkey Day. They remain the only FLHS team in history to go undefeated!
Ridgewood led the series 12-8-2 (.600). Devens’ 1966 NNJIL champion CUTTERS brought
a 24 game non-losing streak into the game. Sensational running back, Bruce
Jankowski would go on to star at Ohio State and play for the Kansas City CHIEFS in the National Football League
(NFL) and the Shreveport STEAMER in the World Football League (WFL). He and ’59 star, Bob Wright,
along with coaches Bennett and Devens and the late AD, Virge Sasso, were in the
initial group inducted into the Fair
Lawn High School Athletic Hall Of Fame in 2006. Coach Fischbein and the
original “cutters” were inducted in ‘09 along with this writer. Before a crowd
of 13,000 at SASSO FIELD on that Thanksgiving
Day in ‘66, Ridgewood upset Fair Lawn in a 40-34 barn burner, breaking “the
streak.” The MAROONS led the series
memories there are of FLHS in action
on Thanksgiving Day! Next week we’ll look at playoff action interest to Fair Lawn
fans. Until then, GO CUTTERS GO!!!
TURKEY DAY IN FLHS HISTORY
Years Ending In 4
By Dick Engelhardt
1944 – Marty Fischbein’s brand new CUTTERS brand new CUTTERS began the Turkey Day tradition
with a 19-0 victory over the TERRIERS
of Holy Trinity of Westfield in 1943. Now they would begin a 40 year Annual
Classic with a 27-0 loss at the hands of the MAROONS of Ridgewood. Both games were independent affairs. Our CUTTERS, under new coach Frank Bennett,
would join the Bergen- Passaic Interscholastic League (B-PIL) in 1945 and take the title in their 1st year!
1954 – Frank
Bennett’s CUTTERS fell 20-6 to the MAROONS in B-PIL action. Ridgewood led the Annual Classic 7-4 (.636).
1964 – Ed
Sheehy’s CUTTERS tied the MAROONS 6-6 in Northern New Jersey Interscholastic
League (NNJIL) action beginning a 19
year run at what is now SASSO FIELD.
Ridgewood’s facilities were inferior then but are now better including Field
Turf. The MAROONS led the Turkey Day
rivalry 12-7-2 (.632).
1974 – Al
Reinoso’s CUTTERS were beaten 24-15
by the MAROONS in NNJIL action. Ridgewood led the Turkey
Day rivalry 20-9-2 (.690).
1984 – Pete
Natale’s CUTTERS celebrated their
return to the Northern Bergen Interscholastic League (NBIL), which they had left in 1959, by beating the PATRIOTS of Wayne Hills 33-6 and taking
the NBIL Division title. Their
championship repeated their inaugural season 1945 title in the B-PIL, which was renamed the NBIL in 1956.
1994 – Mike
Alberque’s CUTTERS began a 15 season
Turkey Day rivalry with the BEARS of
Bergenfield with a 39-20 victory in NBIL Division 1 action.
2004 – Greg
Tanzer’s CUTTERS edged the BEARS 19-18 in NBIL Division 1 action. Fair Lawn took the overall 1945-48 and
1962-2008 series 35-16 (.686) and the 1994-2008 Thanksgiving rivalry 11-4
(.733). State mandated realignment ended the 51 season series that remains the
longest in Fair Lawn or Bergenfield football history.
Fair Lawn’s 1943-2008
Thanksgiving Day games ended as more and more Thanksgiving Games were dropped
because of realignment and the preference given playoff games. Our CUTTERS went 28-35-3
(.444) on Turkey Day in those 66 seasons.