Chet Parlavecchio is in a good place.
He’s back at Passaic Valley High School, where he’ll begin the second year of his second tenure as the head football coach. The changes between last year at this time, and this year, are incredible. Parlavecchio’s players are way ahead of schedule, as far as weight lifting and conditioning.
As far as the game itself, Chet is always in a talkative mood. He and I sat down in his football office earlier this week, to discuss a bunch of things, and one that came up was the Belleville High School football program.
“I hope they get that program back to where it was,” said Parlavecchio. “I mean, Belleville football has a storied tradition. I remember some of the games we played against them, way back when. Those guys never stopped coming after you.”
Parlavecchio’s playing career is legendary. He was a star linebacker at Seton Hall Prep, located then in South Orange. His 1977 team may be one of the best defensive units in New Jersey High School history, as the Pony Pirates finished 10-0-1 and won a state title.
Chet would go on to play college football at ‘Linebacker U’, also known as Penn State, and, in his senior year, was a team captain for the Nittany Lions. From there, he was drafted by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers and later played for the St. Louis Cardinals, before an injury ended his playing career.
Parlavecchio has had a tremendous coaching career on the high school level, beginning at Bloomfield (1987-1990), Irvington (1991-1992, where he coached a future NFL linebacker, in Al Singleton, and future NFL head coach in Raheem Morris), Passaic Valley (1994-1998), Clifton (1999-2003), Elizabeth (2006-2009, leading the ’06 team to a state title) and the return to Passaic Valley in 2015.
There was also a year on the collegiate level, at Temple University, in 1993 and three years as a special teams assistant and linebackers coach with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans (2011-2013), working under the direction of head coach Mike Munchak, who was Chet’s roommate at Penn State.
Getting back to the Belleville connection, it’s actually quite interesting. In 1977, Seton Hall would play at Belleville, in a regular season game, in week seven.
Belleville had a new head coach in John Senesky, and the Bellboys were actually playing well after a slow start, having won two straight. At 2-4, with wins over Irvington and Essex Catholic, the team had a little confidence, but knew Seton Hall Prep would be a huge assignment.
Before the start of the game, the Pirates were actually called for a 15-yard penalty.
“One of our guys, Joe Aulisi, wasn’t wearing a hip pad,” recalled Parlavecchio with a laugh. “And (Belleville assistant coach) Joe (D’Ambola) tells the official that. The official agreed, and hit us with an equipment violation penalty, before the game even started. Well, we went nuts on the sideline. It was crazy. We’re yelling across at D’Ambola. But it was actually funny.”
The Pirates would go on to beat Belleville that day, 63-0, and Parlavecchio recalls scoring a touchdown, then throwing up in the end zone, since he was so fired up.
“That’s the reason why I said Belleville’s tradition is what it is,” Chet said last week. “It wasn’t the score of that game. We were a better team that year. But those Belleville kids never stopped playing hard. And what happened two years later? Belleville beat Seton Hall (14-13) on the same field. I’ve always said John Senesky ran a great program and when you look at guys like Frank Fazzini and Phil Cerza, man they were tough.”
It was another in a long line of great conversations with Parlavecchio that could make for a good book one day. But in the meantime, thought it would be fun to share, with the high school football season (believe it or not) not too far off.
Practice can start in less than two months now, and you can bet Coach P will be ready to go.