The Gridiron: 2013 Season Wrap-Up

The Fair Lawn Cutters went winless this season.

"Gridiron" columnist Dick Engelhardt
"Gridiron" columnist Dick Engelhardt

By Dick Engelhardt

Fair Lawn grad and star player, Amir Saadah, became the 11th Fair Lawn High School Football Coach in 2011. His third season, 2013, the 71st 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.

I became especially close to the historic and poignant 1959 Cutters who were inducted into the Fair Lawn High School Athletic Hall of Fame this year. Despite beating the Comets of Hackensack 27-6, they saw Hackensack take the Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League (NNJIL) title by half a game as the Tigers of Tenafly beat Fair Lawn 6-0 in a hurricane, refusing to call the game off, and the Maroons of Ridgewood upset Fair Lawn 13-7 on Thanksgiving while Hackensack had that loss to Fair Lawn and a tie with Ridgewood. It was Fair Lawn and Ridgewood’s maiden season in the league and our Cutters had hoped to help legendary coach Frank Bennett duplicate his success when his 1945 Cutters took the Bergen-Passaic Interscholastic League (B-PIL) title in their first season in the league and his first as coach. Fair Lawn played independently in 1943-44.

The disappointment in coming so close remains just as searing in the hearts of those valiant ’59 Cutters 54 years later as is the disappointment in the hearts of our 2013 Cutters in becoming only the fourth team in FLHS history to suffer a winless season. The first, 1960, was the 16th and last season for Coach Bennett whose picture adorns the wall outside the Frank Bennett Gymnasium. His 1945-60 Cutters went 71-55-6 (.564) and won 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. Frank was NY Daily News “Coach of the Year” in ’47. His ’53 Cutters shared the North Jersey, Section 1, Group III title with those Comets of Hackensack. Bennett was one of the original inductees into the FLHS Athletic Hall of Fame in 2006. His 0-9 season followed that historic and poignant ’59 season.

The 1976 Cutters of Coach Richard Szura also went 0-9. Although Rich had a disappointing 6-21 (.222) tenure 1975-77 as Head Football coach, this long time popular teacher was a successful head coach in Baseball, Girls Basketball and Boys and Girls Volleyball.

In 1982 Pete Natale’s Cutters went 0-9. 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 our Cutters to 9 wins and he did it 3 times, in 1980, 85 and 87. His ‘80 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 1980 victory over the Indians of Passaic at then Giants Stadium. That was the most exciting football game played to date in FLHS Gridiron history. During 1978-87 Pete’s Cutters went 58-36-1 (.617). Pete was inducted into the New Jersey Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1988 and the FLHS Athletic Hall of Fame in ’07.

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 17th 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 Cutters GO!!!

FLSPIRIT December 16, 2013 at 07:02 PM
Not so much as a wrap up on this season. Other than the Cutter History of the past there were a number of players that were awarded 1st team all league, 2nd team all league, MVP etc that were not mentioned in this article. These players should have been brought to the attention of the readers for the HARD WORK during their season. What happened in the past is just that, acknowledgement of the "CURRENT" players HARD WORK should be FIRST PRIORITY.


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