By Dick Engelhardt
The undefeated Maroons of Ridgewood made the Cutters of Fair Lawn High their sixth victim Friday night in Big North Conference (BNC) crossover action, cruising to a 53-6 victory.
Captains Thomas Koike, Richard Marchese, Mike Nieman and Nick Perez won the coin toss and Fair Lawn received. Anthony Nesmith ran the kick off to the 40 but the drive stalled and the Maroons scored on their first possession and led 6-0. Our “never-say-die” Cutters played hard and with the score 33-0 QB Dillon Rinaldo uncorked a picture pass to Koike who electrified the crowd going 57 yards for a TD. The Maroons led 53-6 at the half and showed good sportsmanship putting subs in for a scoreless second half.
Nesmith made two TD saving tackles, Dan Morganstein made another and Ryan Milnes broke up a pass. Matt Spinatto made a hellacious hit and Nieman and Gal Harari (Who finished up at QB) and others made nice plays. Losing to the Ridgewood juggernaut was nothing to be ashamed of. The Maroons are 6-0 and have outscored their opposition 307-48 for an average 51-8 win.
It was the 42nd game in the long rivalry. Ridgewood took the 1944-83 Thanksgiving Annual Classic 26-11-3 (.703) and won last year’s game 38-0. Perhaps the most thrilling and, at the same time disappointing game in the series was in 1966 when Fair Lawn, led by Bruce Jankowski who went on to star for Ohio State and make the cover of Sports Illustrated, brought a 24-game non-losing streak into the game. With 13,000 fans packed into what is now Sasso Field, the Maroons upset our Cutters 40-34 and broke the streak. And then there was 1959 when the 13-7 upset by Ridgewood kept Fair Lawn from winning the Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League (NNJIL) title in our maiden season in the league. That historic and poignant ’59 team was inducted into the FLHS Athletic Hall of Fame this year.
There was nostalgia attached to this game. Fair Lawn fans had not sat in those Ridgewood stands since 1983. The Thanksgiving game had been played at Fair Lawn 1964-82 because of our superior facilities but Ridgewood wanted its home game back. Fair Lawn’s 1984 return to the Northern Bergen Interscholastic League (NBIL) that we left in ’59 ended the rivalry until it was renewed in the BNC in 2012.
Fair Lawn’s BNC Liberty Division went 1-1 (.500) against outside opposition. While Fair Lawn lost, the defending champion Bulldogs of Passaic County Technical Institute beat the Knights of JFK of Paterson 14-6. The Division is 7-10 (.412) against outside opposition. In Division action the Ghosts of Paterson Eastside surprised the Fighting Mustangs of Clifton High 22-18.
On Friday at 7 p.m. our Cutters travel to Ringwood to take on the Lancers of Lakeland for the second time. Last year the Lancers shutout our Cutters 43-0. Lakeland is 5-2 (.714) and has outscored the opposition 263-137 for an average 36-20 win. Fair Lawn is 0-6 and has been outscored 242-52 for an average 40-9 loss. Like they say about a certain lottery, “Hey, ya never know!” This could be payback time. Let’s say, Fair Lawn 20 – Lakeland 14. GO Cutters GO!!!