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.”