Gridiron's Fair Lawn Cutters Football Season Recap
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Week 15 of The GRIDIRON
by Dick Engelhardt
Amir Saadah became the 11th coach in FLHS Gridiron history following Marty Fischbein 1943-44, Frank Bennett 1945-60, Ed Sheehy 1961-64, Frank Devens 1965-71, Al Reinoso 1972-74, Rich Szura 1975-77, Pete Natale 1978-87, Mike Alberque 1988-2001, Greg Tanzer 2002-06 and Stan Myles 2007-10.
After good scrimmages including a 33-0 shutout of the BLUE BEARS of Barringer High of Newark, our CUTTERS had high hopes for a successful season. A harbinger of things to come, however, was the loss of star player Dan Prigge for the season to a concussion in that Barringer scrimmage. Star running back Corey Carlson was sidelined a good part of the season by appendicitis.
Our heroes faced the INDIANS of Passaic to begin their Big North Conference (BNC) Liberty Division title quest. The 46-14 Passaic victory at BOVERINI STADIUM was a shock.
Fair Lawn would face its 1956-58 and 1990- 2008 Northern Bergen Interscholastic League (NBIL) and 2010 BNC Crossover foe, the NORSEMEN of Northern Valley/Demarest, at SASSO FIELD next. Fair Lawn led the rivalry 13-10 (.565) and our CUTTERS and their fans hoped for a victory. The 48-10 loss to the NORSEMEN was a first class stunner! John Fass and Pete Gilmartin broadcasted the game on WGHT Radio (1500 AM) ghtradio.com.
Next, our CUTTERS went up against the BULLDOGS of Passaic County Technical Institute and fell 49-9 to the eventual BNC Liberty Division repeat champs who would go 5-0 in Division play. Then came the COMETS of Hackensack, who administered a 41-0 shutout in BNC crossover action. Hackensack coach Mike Miello retired at the end of the season. One piece of his career he once told me he doesn’t like to remember was losing all 4 games to Fair Lawn coach Pete Natale 1984-87 when he coached the GREEN RAIDERS of Ramapo!
The CRUSADERS of Bergen Catholic would have been next but they asked if they could play the KNIGHTS of Friendship Collegiate Academy of Washington, D.C. instead and Fair Lawn said, “Go right ahead!” The New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) may exempt Bergen Catholic and Don Bosco from the requirement to play 70% of their games against New Jersey teams so public schools won’t be forced to play these parochial behemoths.
If that fails, these powerhouses could be put into their own league. A good start would be adding the GREEN WAVE of Delbarton, the MARAUDERS of St. Peter’s Prep and the PIRATES of Seton Hall Prep to the BNC United Division. With 8 teams, this would be a super parochial conference and its teams could fill out their schedules with 2 games against out of State powerhouses and NJ teams willing to play them.
If anyone told me Fair Lawn would win only 1 game this year and that would be against the FIGHTING MUSTANGS of Clifton High, I would have told them they were crazy! That’s exactly what happened as our CUTTERS edged Clifton 13-12 in a thriller. I was privileged to be the “spotter” at five Clifton games and to announce the Clifton High School MUSTANGS Marching Band, the “Show Band of the Northeast,” at four games, including that Fair Lawn game!
Losses to the SPARTANS of Paramus, the GHOSTS of Paterson Eastside and the KNIGHTS of Paterson Kennedy followed. In State Consolation action, the PANTHERS of Bridewater-Raritan beat our CUTTERS 41-12 closing out the season. Fair Lawn is 7-4 (.636) in Consolation Game action since these games began in 1998.
Our CUTTERS finished the season 1-8 (.111) bringing their 1943-2011 record to 315-298-14 (.514). The BNC Liberty Division final standings were: Passaic County Technical Institute 5-0 (1.000), Clifton and Eastside 3-2 (.600), Kennedy 2-3 (.400) and Fair Lawn and Passaic 1-4 (.200).
At this writing Fair Lawn players have received a number of honors. Boris Lifshits and Kevin Osback made 1st Team All-BNC Liberty Division and George Alexandris, Kris Burger and Steve Tatekawa made 2nd Team. Honorable mention was given Kevin Benjamin and John Pagios. Lifshits, Nick Hickey and Osback received honorable mention All-Bergen County!
The Eastside game, the last regularly scheduled home game, was poignant as seniors soon to end their participation in the football program were honored and introduced. We said goodbye and wished the best to: Benjamin, Andy Chorlian, Hickey, Lifshits, Prigge and Tatekawa and their escorts. The return of a number of players next season and freshmen moving up could see our CUTTERS improve. Until then, GO CUTTERS GO!!!
2011 Fair Lawn Cutters Football Schedule
|Sept. 17||Northern Valley Regional
|Sept. 24||Passaic County Tech||49-9 (L)
|Oct. 27||@ Eastside||28-7 (L)|
|Nov. 11||@ Bridgewater-Raritan||41-12 (L)|
Big North Conference–Liberty Division
|Team||Division Record||Overall Record|
|Passaic County Tech||5-0||6-4|
"GRIDIRON," a column by Dick Engelhardt
GRIDIRON is a recap of each week's games
Click the link to download a Microsoft Word version of each week's Gridiron
12/05/11 - Week 14
11/28/11 - Week 13
11/21/11 - Week 12 - Thanksgiving Day Memories
11/14/11 - Week 11
11/07/11 - Week 10
10/31/11 - Week 9
10/24/11 - Week 8
10/17/11 - Week 7
10/10/11 - Week 6
10/03/11 - Week 5
9/26/11 - Week 4
9/19/11 - Week 3
9/14/11 - Week 2
9/07/11 - Week 1
"This Week in FLHS Gridiron History," a column by Dick Engelhardt
This Week in FLHS Gridiron History takes readers on a walk down memory lane to see what was going on in FLHS Football history on a given week in the past
Click the link to download a Microsoft Word version of each week's "This Week"
11/28/11 - Playoff Finals in FLHS Gridiron History
11/21/11 - Turkey Day in FLHS History
11/14/11 - Second Round Playoffs in FLHS History
11/7/11 - First Round Playoffs in FLHS History
10/24/11 - Week 8
10/17/11 - Week 7
10/10/11 - Week 6
10/03/11 - Week 5
9/26/11 - Week 4
9/19/11 - Week 3
9/14/11 - Week 2
9/07/11 - Week 1
Dick Engelhardt's GRIDIRON Special Editions:
"The Origin of the Cutters of Fair Lawn High"
It all started September 13, 1943 when FLHS opened without seniors, who stayed at Paterson Eastside, Hawthorne and Ridgewood to graduate in 1944.
Coach Marty Fischbein led the CUTTERS to a fine 9-4-2 (.692) record in independent action in 1943 and '44 after starting up with three JV games.
Some called the new team the COMETS because they scored quickly in their first game, a 7-6 loss to the RAMS of Lodi, and others called them theCLIPPERS. The Lodi loss was followed by a 12-6 victory over the MAROONS of Ridgewood.
It’s been said that some team members would leave school early to visit Doc Gurney, after whom Gurney Terrace is named, for taping, and disappear for a time forcing Coach Fischbein to wait for the arrival of these "cutters" before he could run a full practice.
And then, before the Leonia game, team co-captain Jack Van Olden led Tony DiNegri, Art Jaeggi, Jack Knowles, Al Livingstone and Bill Perkins on a sneak trip to the Rivoli Theater in Paterson to see a movie during school hours.
The miscreants were caught and coach Fischbein kept those “cutters” out of the game. With the LIONS up 12-0, he put our heroes in and Fair Lawn roared back to win 13-12.
Livingstone, who passed away, in 2008, took a pass from Van Olden, who passed away in 1992, and ran it 43 yards for a TD. In the 4th quarter, he ran 20 yards for a TD and plunged for the extra point winning the game.
The student body, having chosen Crimson and Gray as the school colors, said “The Cutters won the game!”
They insisted that the athletic teams be known as “The CUTTERS of Fair Lawn High.” And so it still is in Fair Lawn’s 69th season!
The “original” 1943 CUTTERS were inducted into the Fair Lawn High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009 along with this writer. Van Olden had been inducted individually in 2007.
Marty Fischbein’s brand new 1943 CUTTERS followed those 3 JV games with a 4-1-1 (.800) record in varsity action in a truly remarkable first season!
"10 Best FLHS Football Teams"
Fair Lawn High school opened in 1943. Here are my nominees for the best 10 Football teams in FLHS GRIDIRON history, which was requested by graduate Joe Toronto:
1. 1980 - Pete Natale's CUTTERS went 9-2 (.818) and shared the Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League (NNJIL) crown with Clifton and Passaic Valley. They won a 27-18 first round playoff thriller in GIANTS STADIUM before losing 20-0 to Passaic Valley in finals.
2. 1965 - Frank Devens' CUTTERS went 8-0-1 (1.000) and took the NNJIL title. Their 12-12 tie with the COMETS of Hackensack was the only thing between them and a perfect season.
3. 1966 - Devens' CUTTERS went 8-1 (.889) and took the NNJIL title. The wonderful Bruce Jankowski years come to an end and the 24-game non-losing streak (including a 6-6 tie with Ridgewood in '64 and that Hackensack tie in '65) was broken when Ridgewood upset Fair Lawn in a 40-34 shootout on Thanksgiving Day before 13,000 fans at SASSO FIELD.
4. 1953 - Frank Bennett's CUTTERS went 7-1 (.875) and took the then Bergen-Passaic Interscholastic League (B-PIL) title. The B-PIL became the NBIL in 1956. They shared the North Jersey, Section 1, Group III title with the COMETS of Hackensack. The team featured Dave Sime, who became the "World's Fastest Human," and went on to be an ophthalmologist in Florida (serving the Miami Dolphins). His daughter is married to former NY GIANTS and Denver BRONCOS receiver Ed McCaffery. Dave was inducted into the New Jersey Sports Hall Of Fame.
5. 1985 - Natale's CUTTERS went 9-1 (.900) and took the NBIL Division 1 title. They lost a 36-26 thriller to Passaic in the States.
6. 1987 - Natale’s CUTTERS went 9-1 (.900) and took the NBIL Division 1 title. They lost a 12-6 heartbreaker playoff game against the BEES of Bayonne in gale force winds.
7. 1955 - Bennett's CUTTERS, with myself and my twin brother, Bill, as managers (or "water boys") went 7-1 (.875) and took the B-PIL title.
8. 1947 - Bennett's CUTTERS went 8-1 (.889) and shared the B-PIL title with the GOLDEN BEARS of Lyndhurst. Their 7-6 Thanksgiving Day victory over the MAROONS of Ridgewood was the first in the 1944-83 rivalry, which Ridgewood took 26-11-3 (.703).
9. 1989 - Mike Alberque's CUTTERS went 8-3 (.727) and took the NBIL Division 1 title. They lost a heartbreaking 19-14 game against the RED WINGS of Hoboken in the States after beating the BRUINS of North Bergen 14-7 in the first round.
10. 1946 - Bennett's CUTTERS went 6-3 (.667) and shared the B-PIL title with the BUCCANEERS of Bogota.
There were other fine teams as well. I think of new coach Pete Natale's 1978 CUTTERS turning the program around and going 6-3 (.667). They beat Ridgewood 15-7 on Thanksgiving on a 25-yard Richie Graff to Steve Jubelt TD pass as time expired, ending an 8-year Turkey Day losing streak. The game ended with screams of, “He caught it! He caught it!”
Natale’s ‘79 CUTTERS went 7-1-1 (.875) and shut out Clifton 21-0 during the season before losing 30-0 to the FIGHTING MUSTANGS in the States.
Then there is Frank Bennett's 1959 team that nearly took the NNJIL title in Fair Lawn's first year in the "big league." The 6-0 loss to the TIGERS of Tenafly in a hurricane and 13-7 to Ridgewood on Thanksgiving ruined this and Hackensack, though beaten 27-6 by Fair Lawn, took the title by half a game. Bennett began his 1945-60 coaching career at Fair Lawn taking our CUTTERS to a 4-3-2 (.571) record and the B-PIL title in his first year.
Mike Alberque's 1988 CUTTERS made the States losing 20-6 to the KNIGHTS of JFK High of Paterson. His 2000 team made the States and gave nationally-ranked Hackensack a battle before losing 14-6.
Ed Sheehy’s 1964 CUTTERS lost their first 2 games and then went 6-0-1 (1.000) beginning that 24 game non-losing streak of 1964-66.
"FLHS Football Coaches: A History"
1943-44, Martin “Marty” Fischbein, 9-4-2 (.692). Marty’s brand new team went 2-1 (.697) in JV action to get started and then posted 4-1-1 (.800) and 5-3-1 (.625) records in those first 2 seasons. After some players cut class before the Leonia JV game, he kept those “cutters” out of the game for the 1st half. With Fair Lawn trailing 12-0, he put the miscreants in for the 2nd half and they won the game, 13-12. “The CUTTERS of Fair Lawn High” were born! Marty and those original CUTTERS were inducted into the FLHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.
1945-60, Frank Bennett, 71-55-6 (.564). Frank’s CUTTERS won Bergen-Passaic Interscholastic League (B-PIL) titles outright in 1945, '53 and '55, and shared the ’46 title with the BUCCANEERS of Bogota and the ’47 title with the GOLDEN BEARS of Lyndhurst. He was NY Daily News “Coach of the Year" in ’47. His ’53 CUTTERS shared the North Jersey, Section 1, Group III title with the COMETS of Hackensack. Bennett was one of the original inductees into the FLHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.
1961-64, Ed Sheehy, 19-15-1 (.559). Ed’s short career was ended when he died from cancer at a young age. In his final season, 1964, his CUTTERS went 6-2-1 (.750) and notched the first 7 games of the fabulous 24 game non-losing streak 1964-66.
1965-71, Frank Devens, 39-23-1 (.629). Frank’s CUTTERS notched the final 16 games of “The Streak” that ended on Thanksgiving Day 1966 before 13,000 fans at what is now SASSO FIELD, as the MAROONS of Ridgewood upset our CUTTERS, 40-34. His 1965 team went 8-0-1 (1.000) and remains the only Fair Lawn team to date that batted 1.000! His ’65 and ’66 CUTTERS were Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League (NNJIL) champs. Frank was one of the original inductees into the FLHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006.
1972-74, Al Reinoso, 7-18-2 (.280). Al played for the GRAY BEES of St. Benedict’s Prep of Newark who went 2-1-1 (.667) against Fair Lawn during 1954-57. He came to Fair Lawn from Abraham Clark High in Roselle, in Union County, where he coached the RAMS whose Red and Gray colors match the Crimson and Gray of our CUTTERS.
1975-77, Rich Szura, 6-21 (.222). Although Rich had a disappointing tenure as Head Football coach, this long time popular teacher was a successful head coach in Baseball, Girls Basketball, and Boys and Girls Volleyball.
1978-87, Pete Natale, 58-36-1 (.617). Pete came to Fair Lawn from Ridgefield Park where he had led the SCARLETS to numerous Bergen County Scholastic League (BCSL) American Division and State titles. He remains the only coach to take the CUTTERS to 9 wins and he did it 3 times, in 1980, 85 and 87. His 1980 CUTTERS were tri-NNJIL champs with the FIGHTING MUSTANGS of Clifton High and the HORNETS of Passaic Valley. His 1984, '85 and '87 CUTTERS were Northern Bergen Interscholastic League (NBIL) Division 1 champs and his CUTTERS made the playoffs in 1979, 1980, 1985 and 1987, going 1-4 (.200). The win was a thrilling come-from-behind 27-18 opening round victory over the INDIANS of Passaic at GIANTS STADIUM in 1980. That was the most exciting football game played to date in FLHS GRIDIRON history! Pete was inducted into the New Jersey Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1988 and the FLHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2007.
1988-2001, Mike Alberque, 71-61-1 (.538). Mike’s CUTTERS took the Northern Bergen Interscholastic League (NBIL) Division 1 title in ’89. His CUTTERS made the playoffs in ’88, ’89 and ’00, going 1-3 (.250). The win was 14-7 over the BRUINS of North Bergen in ’89.
2002-06, Greg Tanzer, 14-36 (.280) Although Coach Tanzer, the 1stFLHS grad to take the helm, did not lead the CUTTERS to a league title or the playoffs, his CUTTERS went 4-1 (.800) in State Consolation games.
2007-10, Stan Myles, 20-21 (.488). Stan took the CUTTERS to the playoffs in ’09, going 1-1 (.500). His CUTTERS led the INDIANS of Passaic 32-6 at halftime in the ’09 playoffs 1st round and hung on to win a 39-38 thriller that replaced that 1980 GIANTS STADIUM game against Passaic as the most exciting in FLHS GRIDIRON history! Stan’s CUTTERS were 1-2 (.333) in State Consolation games. The win was 38-3 over the WILDCATS of High Point in 2007. Stan resigned after the 2010 season to spend more time with his young family.
2011-, Amir Saadah, 1-5 (.167) Saadah, a 2000 Fair Lawn High graduate who played for Mike Alberque’s CUTTERS from 1997-99 was hired as the 11th Head Football Coach in FLHS history. He comes to Fair Lawn from Hawthorne where he was an assistant coach on the BEARS team that reached the North Jersey, Section 1, Group I playoffs and lost 35-7 to the HERD of Mountain Lakes. The then LAKERS were the first varsity opponents of the brand new CUTTERS of Fair Lawn High in 1943 and our CUTTERS shut them out 13-0!
The total Fair Lawn High School Football Record 1943-2010 is 314-290-14 (.520)