Annual George Zanfini Memorial Scholarship Fund Dinner, on Thanksgiving Eve, could have some extra juice to it this year, after an exciting ‘return’ of the Belleville-Nutley football game


The fourth annual George Zanfini Memorial Scholarship Fund Dinner will be held Thanksgiving Eve, Nov. 21, at the Chandelier in Belleville, starting at 6:30 p.m.

Phil Agosta, a Belleville High graduate, has worked hard to keep the dinner’s theme alive and thriving, with the focus always on the fabled Belleville-Nutley football rivalry. The dinner has had many formats, and has always been held on Thanksgiving Eve. The Fiorente Club hosted it for many years. When the Belleville-Nutley game was played on Columbus Day weekend, the dinner looked back on that year’s game.

Former Belleville High football coach John Senesky (right) was a guest speaker at a recent dinner. He was also a regular back when he was the team’s head coach. Senesky is joined in photo by Phil Agosta. (Click on photo for larger image)

In 1984, the football rivalry was moved to Thanksgiving Day, so the dinner on the night before had extra significance, as former Belleville and Nutley players would reminisce, and the current coaches would speak on the game’s importance.

The rivalry was moved back to Opening Day, in 2012 and discontinued after the 2015 game. However, the dinner has continued to thrive and this year, with the teams meeting on the gridiron on Nov. 3, there should be some extra energy, as Nutley won an exciting game, 20-13.

George Zanfini was a special man in Belleville and is missed today.  (Click on photo for larger image)

Zanfini was always a popular figure at the dinner, and never missed the event. Sadly in August 2015, the Township of Belleville was stunned by the passing of Zanfini, himself a coaching legend and a Belleville High graduate.

The varsity baseball field had been named after Zanfini since 2008. Zanfini was also a tremendous football coach. He and John Senesky had some tremendous freshman teams at Belleville for six years.

A collage of photos during Zanfini’s days as head baseball coach at BHS. (Click on photo for larger image)

After Zanfini’s passing, at the age of 72, the dinner was renamed in his memory.

“We started a scholarship fund in George’s name, which benefits students from Nutley and Belleville High,” said Agosta. “Mr. Zanfini was a teacher and coach at Belleville for 40 years. He always loved this dinner and was a regular on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.

When George retired as a teacher in 2007, I wrote a long feature on his career. When he died in 2015, his family presented me with that article, which George had framed and kept in his Belleville home. (Click on photo for larger image)

“We’re hoping for another good turnout. The George Zanfini Scholarship is something we’re all very proud of.”

Tickets for the event are $50 per person, which includes a full buffet dinner, with beer, wine, soda and dessert. Tickets can be purchased on the night of the event.

Full tables of 10 can be reserved in advance by contacting Agosta at 973-980-5190.



By mike051893

76th Belleville-Nutley football game is set for Nov. 3, at the Oval; Here are plenty of facts and figures to get you ready for the game

Belleville and Nutley will meet for a 76th time on the gridiron on Nov. 3, at the Oval, in Nutley, starting at 1:30 p.m.

As with any series, there are plenty of key statistics and nostalgia which comes with the game itself. Here are some interesting tidbits for the fans, as they prepare for this years’ renewal.

Nutley leads the series, which began in 1924 and was  played continuously from 1944-2015, 52-19-4. The Raiders are 26-4-2 against Belleville since 1984, including 18 wins in the last 19 games and  an 11-game winning streak (1997-2007), the longest in the series.

For nearly 40 years, the game was played on, or around Columbus Day. In 1983, it was moved to Opening Day and the following year, the Belleville-Nutley game was moved to Thanksgiving, where it stood for the next 28 seasons. In 2012, it was moved to opening day and was Nutley’s season opener through 2015.

Belleville’s longest win streak in the series was six in a row from 1978 through 1983. Belleville’s 44-7 win in 1952 was its largest margin of victory in the series while Nutley’s 62-12 victory in 2015 was its largest margin of victory.

There have been 31 shutouts in the series, with Nutley accounting for 22. Among those shutouts was a scoreless tie in 1975, despite the fact that Belleville appeared to score two touchdowns, but both were called back because of penalties in a driving rainstorm at the Oval.

Guy Albanese turns upfield for good yardage in a game against Belleville, in 1975. The game ended in a scoreless tie, at the Oval, in a driving rain. (Click on photo for larger image) 

In 2009, the scoreboard almost exploded in a game won by Nutley, 58-36. Among the marks broken in that contest were most combined points in a game (94) and most points scored by the winning and losing team in a game.

There are four ties in the series, including back-to-back stalemates in 1992 and 1993. There has also been one overtime game in the rivalry, back in 1997, which Nutley won, 20-14.

Belleville will play at the Oval this year, seeking its first win there since 1983.

Former Belleville head coach, Chris Strumolo, played football at Nutley from 1988-1991, where he was 3-1 against Belleville and coached the Bucs from 2008-2010, where he was 1-2 against his former school. Rich SanFillipo played at Belleville from 1964-1966 (he was 1-1-1 as a player) and later coached the Raiders from 1990-1997, where he was 4-2-2 against his alma mater.

Belleville’s John Senesky has the most wins in the series as a head coach from either program. Senesky was 9-9-2 against the Raiders in 20 seasons. As a player for the Bellboys from 1960-1963, Senesky was 1-3 against his rival. When Belleville beat Nutley, 33-12, in 1962, Senesky scored a touchdown. In his senior year, 1963, Senesky broke his leg in the game against Nutley, but didn’t know it was broken for two weeks and continued to play.

Nutley’s Sandy Phillips was 8-1-1 against Belleville from 1955-1964.

Jim Kelly never lost against Belleville. A former Nutley player from 1973-1976, where his teams were 3-0-1 against the Bellboys, Kelly was 6-0 as a coach against the Bucs from 1998-2003.

Mario Cocchiola was also unbeaten as a coach against Belleville, compiling a 4-0-1 mark from 1973-1977.

Steve DiGregorio, played for the Raiders from 1975-1978 (he was 2-1-1 against the Bellboys and Bucs) and was 7-1 against Belleville as a Nutley head coach from 2004-2011. DiGregorio returned as head coach in 2017 and will look to tie Phillips as the all-time winningest Nutley coach in the rivalry, this Saturday.

Tom Basile was 4-0 against Belleville as a head coach, from 2012-2015.

Belleville’s last win the series came in 2008, when Strumolo, a first-year head coach, guided the Bucs to a 22-12 victory at Doc Ellis Field.

This season, Belleville head coach Jermain Johnson will coach in his first game in the rivalry.

Here are the scores of the first 75 Belleville-Nutley games.

1924: Nutley 7, Belleville 0.

1928: Nutley 12, Belleville 7.

1930: Nutley 2, Belleville 0.

1944: Nutley 6, Belleville 0.

1945: Belleville 7, Nutley 6.

1946: Nutley 7, Belleville 0.

1947: Belleville 7, Nutley 0.

1948: Nutley 37, Belleville 13.

1949: Belleville 7, Nutley 0.

1950: Belleville 6, Nutley 0.

1951: Nutley 7, Belleville 2.

1952: Belleville 44, Nutley 7.

1953: Belleville 12, Nutley 0.

1954: Nutley 26, Belleville 0.

1955: Nutley 21, Belleville 6.

1956: Nutley 13, Belleville 0.

1957: Nutley 13, Belleville 0.

1958: Nutley 19, Belleville 7.

1959: Nutley 7, Belleville 0.

1960: Nutley 34, Belleville 0.

1961: Nutley 20, Belleville 0.

1962: Belleville 33, Nutley 12.

1963: Nutley 19, Belleville 12.

1964: Nutley 6, Belleville 6 (tie).

1965: Belleville 14, Nutley 7.

1966: Nutley 13, Belleville 7.

1967: Nutley 38, Belleville 7.

1968: Nutley 14, Belleville 0.

1969: Nutley 33, Belleville 13.

1970: Nutley 23, Belleville 8.

1971: Belleville 7, Nutley 6.

1972: Nutley 7, Belleville 0.

1973: Nutley 21, Belleville 8.

1974: Nutley 7, Belleville 3.

1975: Belleville 0, Nutley 0 (tie).

1976: Nutley 14, Belleville 0.

1977: Nutley 7, Belleville 0.

1978: Belleville 31, Nutley 0.

1979: Belleville 7, Nutley 0.

1980: Belleville 13, Nutley 7.

1981: Belleville 26, Nutley 0.

1982: Belleville 10, Nutley 3.

1983: Belleville 12, Nutley 6.

1984: Nutley 19, Belleville 6.

1985: Nutley 14, Belleville 0.

1986: Belleville 27, Nutley 16.

1987: Nutley 14, Belleville 0.

1988: Nutley 38, Belleville 13.

1989: Nutley 6, Belleville 0.

1990: Belleville 21, Nutley 6.

1991: Nutley 28, Belleville 6.

1992: Nutley 7, Belleville 7 (tie).

1993: Belleville 14, Nutley 14 (tie).

1994: Nuitley 14, Belleville 6.

1995: Nutley 34, Belleville 0.

1996: Belleville 20, Nutley 0.

1997: Nutley 20, Belleville 14 (OT).

1998: Nutley 28, Belleville 0.

1999: Nutley, 17, Belleville 3.

2000: Nutley 28, Belleville 13.

2001: Nutley 14, Belleville 12.

2002: Nutley 41, Belleville 6.

2003: Nutley 34, Belleville 9.

2004: Nutley 27, Belleville 0.

2005: Nutley 44, Belleville 9.

2006: Nutley 28, Belleville 13.

2007: Nutley 15, Belleville 10.

2008: Belleville 22, Nutley 12.

2009: Nutley 58, Belleville 36.

2010: Nutley 29, Belleville 22. 
2011: Nutley 49, Belleville 14.
2012: Nutley 17, Belleville 12. 
2013: Nutley 45, Belleville 0. 
2014: Nutley 42, Belleville 0.

2015: Nutley 62, Belleville 12.



No. 10-1971, Belleville 7, Nutley 6: Joe Lotriglio scored the Bellboys’ only touchdown in the first half and Belleville hung on for a 7-6 victory at the Nutley Oval.

No. 9-1983. Belleville 12, Nutley 6: After a generation of playing this rivalry on the third week of the season, it shifted to week five of the 1982 campaign, then on to opening weekend in 1983. The Bucs were in the midst of a dominant run in the rivalry. having won five straight from 1978-1982. In this game, Belleville opened a 12-0 lead into the fourth quarter before the Raiders cut the lead in half. Belleville went to a 12-6 victory.  Nutley would actually have a better overall season in ’83, qualifying for the playoffs for the first time in school history, under second year head coach Pete LaBarbiera. The Bucs had a solid season, finishing 6-3, but missed the playoffs.

This win by Belleville in ’83 marked the last time, to date, that the Bucs have beaten the Raiders at the Oval.

No. 8-1980, Belleville 13, Nutley 7: The Bucs were the heavy favorites in the first-ever night game between the two rivals, but the Raiders played really well in this week three contest. The game was tied at seven in the fourth quarter before Belleville quarterback John Melillo ran 45 yards for the winning score. The ’80 Bucs actually started slowly that season, but ended up with a nine game winning streak and a berth in the state sectional final at Giants Stadium. Many fans will recall that this game actually got the Bucs off and running.

No. 7-1975, Belleville 0, Nutley 0 (tie): A tremendous week three game in a steady downpour at the Oval ended up in a scoreless tie. Belleville had the better scoring opportunities, including what appeared to be a punt return for a touchdown by Anthony ‘Chipper’ Biafore, but the score was called back because of a clipping penalty. Nutley had a late chance to score, but the Bellboys defense held. This would be the only scoreless tie in the series’ history.

No. 6-1990. Belleville 21, Nutley 6: The Bucs’ offensive line would dominate this game, as Belleville snapped a three game losing streak to Nutley, at Doc Ellis Field. Carmen Spina was named Belleville’s MVP. The big play occurred in the first quarter, when Belleville blocked a punt and Billy Salvatore returned it for a touchdown. The ’90 Bucs would finish the season at 6-3. No Belleville team has won six games since.

No. 5-1996, Belleville 20, Nutley 0: In John Senesky’s final game as head coach after a record 20 seasons at the helm, Belleville played a solid game and beat Nutley for the first time in six years. The number 20 had a lot of meaning here, in that it was Senesky’s 20th season, with 20 seniors, in a 20-0 win.

No. 4-1986, Belleville 27, Nutley 16: The Bucs beat Nutley for the first time, ever, on Thanksgiving, as Jeff Spilsbury and Jim Dunphy paced the way to an impressive win. The Bucs led 27-0 at one point before Nutley scored two fourth quarter touchdowns. The win put a nice finish on a 6-3 season, that included six wins in the team’s last seven games. The Bucs also won an NNJIL title that season, the program’s last conference crown, to date.

No. 3-2008. Belleville 22, Nutley 12: No question, a huge win for a team that hadn’t beaten the Raiders in 12 years. A solid Belleville offense was paced by quarterback Nicky Herrmann, as Belleville won on a sloppy turf at Doc Ellis, to finish 5-4 in the regular season.

No. 2-1992. Belleville 7, Nutley 7 (tie): For a long time, this was my number one game in the series, but I’ll bump it to second here. Nutley was en route to a state championship in ’92, with a 7-1-1 record, when the teams met on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, while a hard-nosed Belleville team was 3-5, but had played much better than the record would indicate. Belleville and Nutley both had chances to win it late with a field goal, but both kicks were wide. John Alvarado and Mike Citarella stood out on defense for the Bucs.

No. 1-1978, Belleville 31, Nutley 0: There was so much symbolism in this game, as the new-look Bucs dominated from the beginning to beat Nutley for the first time in 12 years at home. Quarterback Ed Aulisi and running back Mike Nicosia paced the offense while team captains Angelo Santinelli and Joe D’Agostino paced the defense. Belleville would finish 6-3 in ’78, marking the beginning of seven straight seasons of outstanding football at BHS.


By mike051893

It’s Rob Carcich, for the ‘defense’, as a new era begins for Wayne Hills boys basketball program

Wayne Hills High made a tremendous choice in naming Rob Carcich its new boys basketball coach.

Carcich, who had tremendous success at Passaic Valley for over a decade, with his vaunted 2-3 defense, takes over a program which enjoyed some good seasons under Kevin Grimes, for the past five years. The 2017-2018 Patriots won the Passaic County Tournament championship and made a nice run in the NJSIAA Tournament, en route to a 21-8 season. Grimes also guided the Patriots to three straight 20-win seasons, including last winter, as well as multiple Big North Conference championships.

Defense will certainly be emphasized this winter, as Carcich’s intense, upbeat style will require 32 minutes of commitment, in every game. The man will demand no less.

Carcich, here during a PV practice years ago, will have that intensity burning at Wayne Hills this coming season. (Click on photo for larger image)

Carcich coached at Passaic Valley for a dozen years, in which he led the Hornets to 11 straight winning seasons, a state sectional championship as well as three appearances in the sectional final. It’s hard to imagine that the Patriots won’t enjoy a good deal of success this winter, and beyond. After all, when he arrived at PV, in 2004, the Hornets were 6-63 in the previous three seasons. In his first season, Carcich led Passaic Valley to nine wins, and two years later, the team won a state championship. In 12 seasons, he won over 200 games at PV and averaged a 17-9 record, per season.

Rob, along with sons Robbie (left) and Michael. (Click on photo for larger image)

Including his stops as a head coach at Palisades Park and Hasbrouck Heights, before coming to PV, Carcich is 107 games over .500 for his career.

Carcich, here with Wayne Hills athletic director Jeff DiLollo, will trade in his familiar green shirt for a maroon look this season. (Click on photo for larger image)

He’ll have an enthusiastic group of players when practice officially begins in a month. And those kids will learn the game the only way Carcich, himself a standout athlete at Hasbrouck Heights and later Pace University, knows how to administer.

When Carcich coached at Passaic Valley, one of the Hornets’ biggest conference opponents was Wayne Hills, especially when Joe Kenny (above) played for the Patriots. Now, Carcich is at Hills and he’ll coach in the same conference against his former team. (Click on photo for larger image)

Having covered basketball for the better part of 43 years, I can safely say he’s the best coach I’ve ever been around.

It should be an interesting season. All the best, Rob !


By mike051893

Wayne Hills football community rallies behind a favorite son in Lou Brandt

When it came to the Ramapo-Wayne Hills football rivalry, Lou Brandt was as staunch a Hills guy as there was.

A 1991 graduate of Wayne Hills, Brandt hardly missed a game between the Patriots and Green Raiders, long after he played for Hills.

But this year, he won’t be at the game.

Wayne Hills team captain Anthony Pontolillo holds his helmet, which now has a #51 decal on the back, honoring Lou Brandt, who once played for the Patriots. Brandt is battling a serious illness. (Click on photo for larger image)

The 45-year-old Brandt is battling cancer, and in true Hills fashion, he’s fighting all the way.

“We’re pulling for Lou, every day,” said Wayne Hills assistant coach Mike Kelly, one of Brandt’s closest friends. “Lou was a senior when I was in the sixth grade, but he’s the guy who made me a football player. I grew up playing soccer, but once I saw Lou and those guys playing at Hills, football was it for me.

Lou Brandt, here in his college uniform at the University of Massachusetts, enjoyed a stellar football career in high school and the collegiate level. (Click on photo for larger image)

“Lou’s cousin, Ed Fernand, is one of my closest friends, which is how I got to know Lou. Over the years, Lou and I and our families have vacationed together. He’s a great guy.”

The Wayne Hills players donned Lou’s number 51 on the back of their helmets for the Oct. 12 home game, with Ramapo. Brandt was a standout offensive lineman for the Patriots and later played at the University of Massachusetts.

“For Lou, the Ramapo game is everything,” said Michael Peischl, a 2006 Hills graduate who guided the Patriots to a state title and undefeated season as the team’s quarterback in 2005. “When I was a kid, Lou was my coach with the PAL. We all looked up to those guys. They inspired all the younger kids to play and continue the championship tradition at Hills.”

Lou, here with former Wayne Hills trainer Margaret Doherty, at the North-South All-Star game at the original Giants Stadium. (Click on photo for larger image)

Brandt would never miss the traditional Wayne Hills football beefsteak, which is held around the Thanksgiving holiday. He was at last year’s event, as vibrant as ever. However, a visit to the doctor this past spring revealed he was ill.

“It’s been rough,” said Kelly. “Lou and his wife Kathleen have three young children. They’re such a nice family.”

The emotions ran high for the Patriots at its pre-game talk on Oct. 12, as Brandt’s number was handed out to the players. The team also put together a video, with the players wishing Brandt their best wishes.”

Lou and legendary Wayne Hills head coach Chris Olsen. (Thanks to Mike Kelly for the nostalgic photos)

“It’s hard to describe,” said Kelly, his emotions noticeable. “He’s one of my closest friends. And he’s always loved this football program. We’re all hoping for the best.”



By mike051893

Bloomfield High cross country team looking for another good season this fall

The excessively hot weather aside, the Bloomfield High cross country team has been getting some good work in during August.

The Bengals, boys and girls, open the regular season on Sept. 6, with a Super Essex Conference (SEC) meet, at Branch Brook Park, in Newark. The team is back at Branch Brook for SEC meets on Sept. 12 and Sept. 20. All three of those meets begin at 4 p.m.

Chris Romano is beginning his second full season as the team’s head coach. His assistant this fall will be Maureen Moore.

“Our boys team lost eight varsity runners from last year’s team (to graduation),” said Romano. “Among those graduates is La’Shan White, who was a standout on our track teams and is now at Rider University.”

Left to right, team captains Colyer Samper, Camrynn Referente, Da-Xia Colon and Louis Orellana.


A talented group of runners do return for the boys. The seniors are Colyer Samper, Philip Mabalatan, Loius Orellana, Adam Itzkowitz and Jordan McRae. The juniors include Rendell Amilcar and Luca Ponticello.

Romano noted that two underclassmen, Brendan Heaney and Quaid Mullane have shown marked improvement and could be major contributors at the varsity level.

The BHS girls team captured an SEC Liberty Division regular season title in 2017, finishing unbeaten. And while seven were graduated from that squad, a strong contingent of runners return this season.

“Among the girls on last year’s team who graduated were team captain Jackie Guinta, McKenzie Presume, who is attending Rutgers University for track and field, and Natasha Senatusm, who is running at Montclair State University,” said Romano.

The returning athletes include seniors Camrynn Referente and Da-Xia Colon and a strong group of juniors, paced by Sindy Casimir, Amanda Guinta, Angelina Ramos and Alanna Espinal.

Bloomfield’s team captains this year are Samper, Referente, Colon and Orellana.

Interest in cross country continues to be good at BHS.

“The turnout of novice and first time runners have been better than expected,” said Romano. “We have 21 runners signed up, and that number has been growing.  Our captains split the responsibilities and held AM and PM workouts 3 days a week. I held weight training twice a week and Fleet Feet in Montclair invited us to their free running clinic in July.  There is no excuse for a student athlete to not be involved. We do our best to work around any schedule.  All a runner needs is a pair of sneakers and they could get their work in.”

The Bengals boys and girls teams will compete this fall in the SEC’s ultra competitive American Division.

“We welcome the competition,” said Romano. “The cross country team, as a whole, has been successful winning Liberty Division titles in each of the past four years.  This is the first time that both the boys and girls teams will compete in the American Division in the same year. We will run against past successful programs like Millburn, Seton Hall Prep, Montclair, West Orange, Montclair Kimberley and Columbia on a weekly basis.

“These weekly SEC meets will help prepare us for a chance to move on past NJSIAA sectionals at Garret Mountain on November 3.’



By mike051893

Holsworth pleased with strong turnout of players for Passaic Valley girls’ tennis team in 2018

As the 2018 regular season approaches, things are looking good for the Passaic Valley girls’ tennis program.

Head coach Jim Holsworth began his third season at the helm with some excellent news, when official practice began in mid-August.

“Our numbers are way up,” said Holsworth. “We were hoping for a good turnout of players and we’ve gotten it.”

Passaic Valley will open the regular season on Sept. 5, with a match at Paterson Eastside, starting at 4 p.m. The team will visit perennial powerhouse Wayne Hills, on Sept. 7 and plays its home opener on Sept. 12, when West Milford comes to town. PV’s home matches will once again be held at Rose Place Park, located in Woodland Park. The facility was beautifully renovated a season ago.

Eighteen players are out for the team this fall, including four seniors in team captain Anna Hosri, Danielle Gaita, Grace Rose and Cat Ferguson. Hosri will be playing the difficult first singles position this year.

Left to right, PV seniors Danielle Gaita, Grace Rose, Anna Hosri and Cat Ferguson. (Click on photo for larger image) 

Ferguson will start the season playing second singles and Ella Luz, a freshman will play third singles.

The first doubles team will once again feature juniors Victoria Povolo and her sister, Ashley Povolo. Victoria and Ashley are quintuplets. Among the players for second doubles include Rose, Gaita, Emma Nguyen and Lia Trewhella. 

Holsworth noted that practices have gone well.

“We’ve gotten a lot of work in,” the coach said. “We’ve been on the courts around 9 a.m. It’s good to have some experienced players, as well as the new kids, who are excited to learn the game.

With the additional players on the roster, including a number of incoming freshmen, Holsworth knows how important it will be for them to get playing time.

“We’re hoping to get some junior varsity matches on the schedule,” said Holsworth. “Obviously, we want these kids playing as much as possible and learning the game. We’re really happy to have such a good turnout.”


By mike051893

St. Peter’s Prep provides a new challenge for long-time gridiron coach Bill Johnson

Bill Johnson has enjoyed a long and successful coaching career. And now, the Passaic Valley educator and former Hornet football player and coach, is beginning a new challenge, as an assistant football coach at St. Peter’s Prep, in Jersey City.

Johnson served two tenures as head football coach at Passaic Valley, first from 1999-2003 and later, from 2012-2014. In addition to his head coaching responsibilities, Johnson has been an assistant coach at a number of schools, including his collegiate alma mater, Montclair State. He coached at St. Joseph (Montvale) in 2015 and 2016 and helped the Green Knights to a state title in 2016. Johnson was on the staff at Don Bosco Prep last fall.


Bill Johnson has enjoyed a long tenure as a teacher at Passaic Valley High, as well as a head coach and assistant high school and college football coach. (Click on photo for larger image)

“I’m excited about it,” said Johnson last week. “(St. Peter’s Prep head coach) Rich Hansen and I go back a long time and it will be good to work with him and the staff.”

St. Peter’s Prep was 9-3 in 2017. The Marauders advanced to the Non-Public, Group 4 championship game, at MetLife Stadium, before losing to the state’s top-ranked team, Bergen Catholic. The program last won a state championship in 2014.

“We should have a really good team again this year,” said Johnson. “It’s amazing how quickly a new season comes around.”

In September, Johnson will also begin another year as an educator at Passaic Valley High, where he’s a history teacher. He has put together a year-end project for the students, researching Medal of Honor recipients.

“I love Passaic Valley,” said Johnson. “It’s been a great place for me, in my career. The kids are wonderful, as well as the staff and administration.”

While Johnson no longer coaches football at PV, he’s still a coach for the Green and White.

“I’ll be back coaching girls track again next spring,” said Johnson, who has been the head coach of the girls track program at PV for 15 years. He was also the winter track coach for many years.

Johnson has mentored a number of young football coaches over the years.

“I still enjoy working with the kids, in football and track,” said Johnson. “And some of the kids I once coached are now coaches themselves. That’s great to see.”

By mike051893

40 years later, can the Belleville High football program start another run?

Forty years later, the comparisons are noteworthy.

The Belleville High football team, circa 2018, is setting its sights on a new era and does so with a young and enthusiastic team, led by new head coach Jermain Johnson.

Fans of the BHS football team know the program has struggled for the better part of a decade. The numbers speak volumes.

From 1997-2018, a span of 22 seasons, Belleville’s overall record is 42-167. That’s an average record of 2-8, with seven different head coaches. The record includes three winless seasons and a losing streak which extended for three years, from 2002-2005.

There was one bright spot during that span, when the Bucs put together back-to-back winning regular seasons, in 2007 and 2008. The ’07 squad also qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs for the first time in 23 years.

Since 2011, the program is 12-58 and it’s been shut out 23 times. The team has lost 15 of its last 16 games.

Belleville head coach Jermain Johnson addresses his team after a recent 7-on-7 at Passaic Valley. (Click on photo for larger image)

So with that said, you might wonder why the program’s real downfall goes back to 1997? That was first season in 20 years that John Senesky wasn’t the head coach, a by-product of a-then clueless Board of Education and school administration which felt Senesky had seen his better days on the job. After all, 10 winning seasons, four playoff berths and a rivalry record nine wins over Nutley wasn’t enough, right?

But, let’s go forward, and as we do, a look back at 40 years ago is appropriate. In 1978, the new-look Bucs (that was the first year the moniker was used at BHS after a long run as Bellboys) were also looking to establish itself after eight somewhat mediocre seasons, during which the team was 30-39-3, with two high water records of 5-4, from 1970-1977. (Actually, that record, today, over eight years would be considered a success).

Senesky was in his second season as head coach in ’78, having finished 2-6-1 a year earlier, including the infamous 63-0 loss to Seton Hall Prep in 1977. There was some excitement in 1978, especially after the Bucs won its season opener, defeating Livingston, 28-14. A year earlier, Livingston had beaten Belleville, 40-0.

I’ve often said that the ’78 Bucs did lay the foundation for the glory years of the Blue and Gold program, which lasted from 1978-1986. During that nine-year run, there were eight winning seasons, four playoff berths and a 58-28 overall record. That was accomplished because of an outstanding feeder program, namely the Belleville Broncos, which dominated its opponents back then, and a coaching staff that remained intact, for the most part.

And now, here we are, at a new crossroads for this program. I’ve been on record that there’s no future for high school football, in Belleville. I hope I’m wrong, but the ingredients for success haven’t been there for the last near quarter century. The feeder program is disorganized, to say the least, and Johnson is now the eighth different head coach since 1997.

But let’s further examine the similarities between 1978 and 2018. Johnson is a knowledgeable guy, who seems to have already found a niche with his new players, similar to Senesky in ’77 and ’78. Johnson’s team played very well in a 7-on-7 at Passaic Valley last week. Johnson also understands the need to get the recreation program on board, and seems committed to that. The high school coaching staff is outstanding, with some former BHS players on board, as well as committed educators within the school, which is always vital to success.

Johnson already knows that this year’s season opener, at home to Dickinson High, on the night of Sept. 7, will be very important. And yes, that’s comparable to playing Livingston back in 1978, which was also a night game, at home. That game propelled the Bucs to a 6-3 record, and the start of a great run at BHS.

Will a win in this year’s season opener lead the way to success? The 2018 schedule is competitive, but not grueling. Unfortunately, just about every team in this area is no longer on the slate, because the Bucs couldn’t compete with any of them. And that includes Nutley, Bloomfield, Glen Ridge, Caldwell, Irvington and West Essex.

Small steps must be taken. Stability in the coaching staff is a must, and the feeder program has to be addressed.

If so, then maybe 2018 could be 1978 all over again.

By mike051893

Passaic Valley basketball program showing improvement; Youth camp for boys, grades 4-9, begins on July 23, and there are still openings available for youngsters to participate

As July comes to an end, the Passaic Valley boys’ basketball team can look back at some good work in preparation for the 2018-2019 regular season.

Head coach Jim Holsworth has seen his team play in a very competitive summer league at Bloomfield College. The team has also played well in a series of three one-day camps, at PV, with the last camp held last weekend.

“We’re getting in a lot of valuable work this summer,” said Holsworth, whose coaching staff will once again feature assistants Dan Ring and Zach Donovan. “We’re going to have a very young team this season, which is why it’s so important to play a lot of basketball this summer.”

Last summer, PV also had an inexperienced team, but Holsworth noted the difference in a year. 

Passaic Valley head coach Jim Holsworth (center) with assistant coaches Dan Ring (left) and Zach Donovan. 

“Last year, we had a lot of seniors on the roster, and even though most of them didn’t have a lot of experience, they were older kids. This year, we’re younger, but a lot of the kids now have a second summer of playing, and that’s going to help.”

At last Saturday’s camp, PV entered three teams. The varsity squad was 2-1, defeating West Essex and Clifton while losing a close game to Weehawken. The Hornets also had a sub varsity and freshman squad play three games each.

Angelo Rodolico, an incoming senior, was praised by Holsworth for his leadership and work ethic this summer. Brandon Timothy has also excelled and the Whitney brothers, Elliot, an incoming sophomore, and freshman Brian have stepped into varsity positions and played well.

Holsworth also noted the play of Rashaun Rex and Justin Paguirigan.

“We’ve got a few other kids who are on vacation, but should be a big part of what we hope to accomplish this season,” said Holsworth. “And I like the way we’ve played in the Bloomfield College summer league. It’s a really good league, with excellent competition. It’s the kind of games we need to play, win, or lose.”

Passaic Valley will play in the Bloomfield College summer league through the end of July.

In addition, PV will host a second basketball camp for boys, who will be in grades 3-9, starting on July 23 and lasting through July 26, at Passaic Valley High. Both gyms will be used for the four days. The camp begins at 9 a.m. and lasts until 3 p.m.

“We still have openings available for kids and they can register the first day of camp,” said Holsworth. “We’re looking forward to a good turnout of kids for the camp. The cost is $140.00 per camper. There will be high school players there to coach the kids, as well as our coaching staff.”


By mike051893

It’s been a busy month for Parlavecchio, as his daughter was married, but now it’s back to Passaic Valley football, where an enthusiastic group awaits; Coach also looking to fill 2 assistant coaching positions

Always one to be on the fringe of excitement and anticipation, when it comes to an upcoming football season, Passaic Valley head coach Chet Parlavecchio has certainly been busy this summer, and not just on the gridiron.

Parlavecchio’s daughter, Nicole, was married last weekend, so getting back to football was actually easy.

Parlavecchio was all smiles as his daughter, Nicole, was married in early July. (Click on photo for larger image)

“It was a wonderful wedding,” said Parlavecchio. “My wife (Jean) and I were obviously thrilled. It’s emotional, in a way, of course, but in the same aspect, you’re always proud and want the best for your children. Walking her down the aisle was tough, but wonderful.”

Coaching football has been a part of Parlavecchio’s life since before his daughter was born. His first head coaching job came in 1987, at Bloomfield High, where he stayed for four seasons. He would move onto Irvington High in 1991 and 1992 and after a year as an assistant at Temple University in 1993, Chet was back in New Jersey high school football, leading Passaic Valley, from 1994-1998. During that tenure at PV, he guided the Hornets to a 37-12 mark and four straight appearances in the NJSIAA playoffs, including a state championship game at Giants Stadium, in 1996.

Parlavecchio would move on to be head coach at Clifton from 1999-2003, leading the Mustangs to a playoff berth in ’03. After taking off the 2004 and 2005 seasons, to watch his son, Chet Jr., play high school ball, Parlavecchio’s next head coaching job was at Elizabeth, from 2006-2009, where he led the Minutemen to a state championship in 2006.

Chet, far left, along with, left to right, Pro Football Hall of Famer, Mike Munchak, Chet Parlavecchio, Jr., now the head coach at New Providence High and Marc Parlavecchio, Chet’s brother, who is now an assistant to Parlavecchio, Jr. (Click on photo for larger image)

The NFL came calling next, as Parlavecchio’s close friend, Mike Munchak, a Pro Football Hall of Famer, was named head coach of the Tennessee Titans in 2011 and offered Chet an assistant’s position, which he held from 2011-2013.

And then, in 2015, Parlavecchio was back at Passaic Valley for his second run as head coach. He’s beginning his fourth season at PV this fall. The past two seasons, the Hornets had winning seasons, including a 6-3 mark in 2017.

“It goes by quickly,” said Parlavecchio last week. “We’re going to be young this year, but I’ll tell you what, these kids are workaholics. They love to practice and work out. There are certainly a lot of question marks, but that’s fine. I’ll take this kind of team any day.”

Parlavecchio’s coaching staff has changed, notably as Al Cappello, Joe Benvenuti and Dennis Mikula, are no longer on staff. Benvenuti is the new athletic director at PV; Cappello, a one-time head coach at PV and former Hornet standout lineman, will be focusing on work projects, as well as the birth of a third son to he and his wife, Lynn; and Mikula has moved on to a new school.

Joe Wassel and his brother Max Wassel, both former Hornets, return and will coach on the varsity. Lou Paradiso, Mike Gurst and George Hill are also back on staff this fall.

Parlavecchio still has two open coaching positions on his staff, and is interested in speaking to prospective coaches who may want to join the PV staff this season.

“We’re looking, but we have to find the right fit,” the coach said. “With Al Cappello leaving, I’ll be focused more on coaching the offensive line and I’m real excited about that. Al did a great job, and I know how important that is, and I’m excited about taking that over. I’ll also be more involved with play calling on offense. If anyone is interested in talking to me about coaching this year, please call me at the high school.”

Parlavecchio had battled an illness last year, which wore him down, somewhat, and forced him to miss a game on the sidelines. This year, he’s feeling 100 percent.

“No question, I feel great,” said Parlavecchio. “I’m ready.”

The Hornets will be busy in July with practicing, as well as some 7-on-7 scrimmages. The team begins regular practices, on or about Aug. 13. The first scrimmage, in pads, is set for Aug. 22, when Morristown visits, at 11 a.m. The next two scrimmages are also home, on Aug. 25, against Passaic, at 11 a.m. and the game scrimmage, on Aug. 31, opposite Notre Dame of Lawrenceville.

The season opener is set for Sept. 8, with a 2 p.m. game, at home, against Lakeland. Road games follow at Delbarton and Wayne Valley, before a Sept. 29 home game, against Fair Lawn.



By mike051893