Nutley High athletic director Joe Piro and I go back to an era where when you said Belleville vs. Nutley, in local sports matchups, the animus was quick.
It was a hectic weekend for Nutley athletic director Joe Piro and his staff.
And in a way, it still is. I always kid I wouldn’t wear a Nutley jacket, or anything maroon, for that matter, although I do have a nice Nutley High softball tee-shirt. And I doubt you’d see Joe wearing my Belleville High letterman jacket anytime soon.
As a Belleville kid, when it came to Nutley, there was no town I wanted to win against more. And even as a writer, deep inside, it’s hard to not to ‘root’ for the Blue and Gold, when the opponent was/is Nutley.
Belleville High’s legendary football staff in the late 1970’s. The program made a big turn when it defeated Nutley, 31-0, in 1978. (Click on photo for larger image)
But, as you grow up, you learn that all of us, from the ‘Spaghetti Triangle’, so to speak (along with Bloomfield) were all raised with pretty much the same values. Our parents had the final word, respect was king and there was accountability.
And that’s why, as adults, we’re all pretty good friends, and have each other’s backs.
Nutley head football coach Steve DiGregorio (white shirt, left) played for the Raiders, against Belleville, from 1976-1978. (Click on photo for larger image)
With that said, Nutley, which was supposed to host the District 10 wrestling championships this weekend, had to switch venues at pretty much the last minute, and Belleville became the new site. The tournament ended up running well, and Piro didn’t waste time lauding those who helped make that happen. He made it a point to reach out to the police officers on duty at Belleville High, at the end of the tournament.
And he publicly thanked the Belleville administration. Here are some excerpts, from Joe’s Facebook post, on Feb. 18, a day after the tournament.
Nutley softball coach Luann Zullo has guided her team to some big games against Belleville since taking over as head coach 20 seasons ago. (Click on photo for larger image)
“I have to take a moment and give a big thank you to the Belleville school district. In what was probably one of the more scarier times in my career, and in the wake of a very difficult situation for Nutley and the NHS Athletic Department, Belleville came to our aid. Moving any athletic event is never easy, moving a wrestling tournament is a difficult task, moving the state wrestling tournament on six hours notice is next to impossible, unless of course Belleville is your neighbor and (Belleville High athletic director) Marcellino Marra is your friend.
“The Belleville staff and police were nothing short of outstanding yesterday. Thank you to (Belleville Superintendent of Schools) Dr. (Richard) Tomko for your blessing and support. To Marcellino Marra, (Belleville High wrestling) Coach (Joe) Pizzi, and the Belleville Athletic Department, I say thank you for opening your doors, gymnasium and locker rooms and treating us like family, and to the Belleville support staff and workers, I say thanks for a job well done. You proved that we may be rivals on the field, but when times are tough we are brothers in arms!
“The RaiderNation and the BucNation stand as one!!!! Thank You all!”