I’ll never forget it. It was Nov. 5, 1977, a Saturday afternoon, and I’m covering a high school football game, at Belleville High, between Seton Hall Prep and the-then Bellboys.
Belleville had a new coach that year in John Senesky, and after an 0-4 start, the Bellboys had won two straight, defeating Irvington, 17-14, and Essex Catholic, 26-18. The team was gaining some confidence, but Seton Hall Prep would be a tall order.
The Pony Pirates of ’77 were a loaded football team. Its defense was magnificent, led by a senior linebacker named Chet Parlavecchio. After winning its first five games of that 1977 season in dominant fashion, Seton Hall ended up in a scoreless tie in week six against Paterson Kennedy. No one expected that, and the Prep was certainly surly heading to Belleville for week seven.
Before the game even kicked off, Belleville assistant coach Joe D’Ambola informed the game officials that Joe Aulisi, a stud player at the Prep, wasn’t wearing the required hip pad. The official concurred and before the National Anthem was even played, the Prep had been tagged with a 15-yard penalty.
D’Ambola’s action infuriated the Prep players, who decided to take its revenge on the field.
Early on, it was obvious Seton Hall was a way better team. The Pony Pirates would lead, 42-0, at halftime and went on to a 63-0 victory. I remember Parlavecchio, on one play, yelling over to the sideline, ‘it’s going to be like rainfall, Boys.’ And I remember thinking I couldn’t stand that guy, no matter how good he was as a football player.
Parlavecchio would actually score a defensive touchdown in the game and admitted he threw up in the end zone.
Seton Hall Prep would end up 10-0-1 that season. I’ve often said that the 1977 high school football season in New Jersey was one of the best ever. Westfield and Barringer would play an epic playoff game at Giants Stadium in December, before over 40,000 fans, and many would counter that perhaps Seton Hall Prep was the best team in the state that year.
Years later, when Chet ‘The Jet’ became a high school football coach at Bloomfield High, after a stellar playing career at Penn State and in the NFL, he and I would kid often about that game in 1977.
“Joe D’Ambola was a character,” Chet laughed. “It was all in fun, but as kids, football is all we knew. We lived and breathed it. And after Paterson Kennedy had held us to a scoreless tie a week earlier, we really wanted that game.”
It’s that commitment to excellence which has made Parlavecchio (today a very good friend to me), the outstanding coach he has become. He is now returning to Passaic Valley High for his second tenure as head coach. He’s also been a head coach at Bloomfield, Irvington, Clifton and Elizabeth, as well as a stint as a college coach at Temple University and three years as an NFL assistant coach. He helped turn Bloomfield from a team that hadn’t won a game in nearly five years into a playoff team two years after taking over.
Chet’s pride and joy, his wife and two children.
Lorenzo Sozio, today the highly successful athletic director at Mount St. Dominic Academy, was the quarterback the day Bloomfield snapped that losing skein in 1988, against Paramus Catholic.
Parlavecchio remembers every game he’s ever coached, whether it be a win, loss, or tie.
“In 1988, we tied Belleville (6-6), and I still haven’t forgotten it,” he said, referring to his second year as Bloomfield’s head coach. “Coaching against John Senesky was always special. He was a class act. And seeing D’Ambola again got me fired up.”
I often kid Chet that while Seton Hall Prep may have beaten Belleville that day in ’77, 63-0, two years later, the Prep came back to Belleville and the Buccaneers won a thriller, 14-13. A year after that, the Bucs went to Seton Hall and dominated, 34-8.
While we’re not kids anymore, Chet and I appreciate those days. He’s a husband and father today, and speaks volumes of the successes his children, Nicole and Chet Jr. are having as young adults in the professional world of teaching and coaching.
And now, he’ll be roaming the sidelines at PV again, wearing that Green and White, and trying his best to get a group of young men to play football the way he sees fit.
It’s going to be fun, make no mistake about that.