75th Anniversary Celebration
Fairfield Prep has begun the celebration of our 75th Anniversary. In the fall of 2016 and continuing through the fall of 2017, Fairfield Prep and Fairfield University will commemorate their 75 years. Through our website and social media outlets, Prep will share events, stories, and anecdotes of historical significance. Contributing editors are: Greg Marshall '73, Sandy Sulzycki '64 and Lou Pintek '72. Much information was gathered from the Prep history "A Tradition of Excellence" written and edited by Prep teacher and historian John Szablewicz. John is currently working on an updated history for the 75th celebration.
Prep Football: The Magdon years (1993-2008)
Written by Lou Pintek '72
The appointment of Rich Magdon as head coach in 1993 wasn’t particularly surprising given his long affiliation with the program as an assistant coach. When Lavery decided to hang it up after the 1992 season, Magdon seemed the logical choice to provide the program with the continuity it needed to move forward. Magdon compiled a respectable 96-69-2 record in 16 seasons, but his tenure was not without speedbumps.
His first season was one of on-the-job training, as it were. It was reflected in the team’s 4-5-1 record, its first losing season since 1963. Slowly, the program began to rebound while navigating through an increasingly difficult SCC schedule. Gone were the days of the MBIAC, where the divide between the “haves” and “have nots” was clearly defined. There were fewer bad teams; in fact, most SCC teams were talented and a few extremely so. Magdon compiled a 9-2 record in 1996 and then came two more sub-.500 seasons.
It was in that 1996 season that Magdon had his signature win and the team posted its biggest victory in more than two decades when the then-third-ranked Jesuits snapped nationally ranked and No. 1 Cheshire’s 49-game winning streak on Oct. 4 at Alumni Field.
Running backs Drew Reilly and Jason Wuchiski scored touchdowns in the third quarter to give Prep a 14-0 lead and the defense held on for a 14-6 decision before an estimated 5,000 spectators.
“We told [the team], if we were going to win, we were going to have to make big plays,” Magdon said after that game. “Our kids are confident, not cocky. There’s a difference. They respect the [heck] out of [Cheshire] … but they’re not afraid of anybody.”
“All of the qualities he possessed could be recognized instantly,” all-state tight end Ryan Utzler said about Magdon. “He loved the game, instilled mental and physical toughness in his players, was a comedian, a disciplinarian, but at the same time genuinely cared about your development as a young man. He could tear you a new one for an assignment mistake one minute, but after practice make you laugh hysterically, hug you, and then fire you up to do better tomorrow. It is impossible to pull all of that off simultaneously, but somehow he did it.
“It’s hard to do justice on paper to the Prep football experience and the amazing coaches and teammates, but I appreciated the chance to give it a try, Utzler added. “RIP Coach Mags -- you will be missed dearly.”
SPOTLIGHT: Oct. 4, 1996 (No. 3 Fairfield Prep 14, No. 1 Cheshire 6)
PLAYER PROFILE: Jason Wuchiski ’97
Running back who played all four seasons. … Had 13 carries for 72 yards and scored the decisive touchdown. … He also had a 56-yard kick return in that game. … Won the Mark Masiello Award as team MVP in ’96. … Now a partner for a real estate consulting firm.
Candidly speaking: “The Cheshire game was a really special night. Richie and his staff had us ready to play that game. There was no way we were losing on that night. The lead-up to the game and ultimately our victory was special to be a part of, but I'll tell you this: After we watched film of the game on that Sunday morning he told us, ‘Great win, but don't let it define this team.’ We were only a handful of games into the season and he made sure we regained focus on the next game.”
PLAYER PROFILE: Ryan Utzler ’97
Two-time all-state and all-SCC and tight end/linebacker. … Earned all-East honors from PrepStar magazine and Prep Football Report. … Had 79 receptions for 1,012 yards and eight touchdowns in three seasons. … Caught 41 balls as a junior. … Also a four-year starter on the baseball team. … Went on to play for Boston College, starting at tight end, fullback and linebacker. … Was the starting fullback for 10 games in his final season, including BC’s Aloha Bowl appearance vs. Arizona State. … Now does business development for Dell EMC.
Candidly speaking: “A key part of any memorable football experience is winning, and Cheshire was flawless in that area for many years. In 1996 [the Rams] came to Prep with a 49-game win streak under their belt. During warmups they rang a very loud, annoying cowbell as they encroached on your side of the field in an attempt to intimidate you. That prompted [Chris] Tymniak to turn around and let them know, ‘That’s enough, it ends tonight!’… We had every right to be intimidated by them given the tremendous track record they earned, but Coach Magdon had us better mentally and physically prepared that night. … When we scored with Wuchiski’s run the confidence grew, and we knew our defense was stout. [Mike] McKelvey, [Nick] Bilotta, [Anthony] DiCocco, [Roland] Newmark, [John] Heffers and [Jesse] Marraffa were very tough against the run -- which was Cheshire’s style. When we were able to grind it out and hold on 14-6, the crowd stormed the field, and that is still my personal favorite football memory to this day. … Being fortunate enough to continue playing until 23 at memorable stadiums, there’s some relative perspective, and while those were great experiences, the job at that stage was to tune out your surroundings and focus. It’s just different and less personal. This is why I appreciate that night against Cheshire more now and can still remember every detail. When the crowd stormed the field at Prep, you were surrounded by family, friends, teammates and classmates -- people that mattered to you.”
Magdon finally got Prep back in the championship conversation in 1999 as the Jesuits went 10-1 and qualified for the CIAC playoffs. However, Greenwich eliminated them handily by a 35-14 count. It took another two-year dropoff before Prep fashioned a 10-1 record in 2002, reeling off 10 straight wins. However, that season ended in heartbreak as eventual state champion West Haven ruined both Prep’s Thanksgiving and its state playoff hopes by beating the Jesuits 29-14.
PLAYER PROFILE: Ed McCarthy ’03
All-state tight end/defensive end. … Won the Brissette Award as Prep’s top student-athlete in 2003. … Went on to a distinguished college career at Yale, where he played four seasons on the offensive line and was an AP and Walter Camp All-American his senior year. … Also a finalist for the Draddy Award, given to nation’s top scholar-athlete. … Was Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 2003. … Now practicing law in Shanghai.
Candidly speaking: “Growing up, I worshipped Prep football. Both my dad and my uncle played, and I grew up going to games on Friday nights. I'll never forget watching from the stands when the Ryan Utzler-led team beat Cheshire, breaking their 49-game winning streak. I could not have been more excited to play football at Prep. … I truly loved playing for Prep. Coach Magdon did an amazing job of making us understand how special our experience was. He was our coach, but he was also our friend. Nothing was better than hearing your name called over the loudspeaker being told to leave class, that your presence was required in coach Magdon's office, and then spending the next hour hanging out with Coach and talking about life. … We had a lot of success our senior year, going 10-1. We were greatly aided by the weather. It rained almost every Friday and at that time we still played on grass, so the field was always a mudpit. This played to our strengths, as we had a huge offense line led by Tom Bourdeau (I played tight end), and a great stable of backs including Kevin Ryan, Shaun Hunte and Andrew Urquhart. Our biggest win was against ND-West Haven, [which] at the time was undefeated and coming off a state championship from the previous year. We were undefeated heading into our Thanksgiving Day game with West Haven, which we sadly lost and missed out on the LL playoffs. While we came up short, Coach Magdon's wisdom and numerous aphorisms still have an impact on me. One that I loved was, ‘A loser makes an excuse, and a winner finds a solution.’ Words to live by!”
PLAYER PROFILE: Andrew Urquhart ’04
All-state fullback/linebacker. … Currently resides in Boston with his wife and daughter.
Candidly speaking: “Richie was a great man and I have a lot of fond memories of playing for him at Prep. … I will always remember Coach Magdon for the way that he cared about all his players. … Winning and losing were important, but he did not put winning above all. He had a great understanding and perspective of what high school football was, which ironically probably contributed to his success. When a player got hurt, he always walked out onto the field to check on [him]. … I wouldn't classify Coach Magdon as an Xs and Os coach, but he got the best out of his players because he had our respect and love and [we] would run through a wall for him. … Out of all the coaches and teams I have played for, Rich Magdon and Fairfield Prep football are two of my fondest and proudest.”
It was a strange year in 2003. Prep had its most explosive offense ever, setting school records for points in a game (75) and in a season (369). But two losses – 9-7 to Xavier and another lopsided defeat to West Haven on Thanksgiving – prematurely ended the Jesuits’ season at 9-2.
The quirky part of Magdon’s tenure was that after a really good season, there was usually a down year or two before another strong one emerged. Such was the case in 2006. Prep went 9-3, qualified for the state playoffs but was whitewashed by Greenwich in the Class LL semifinals.
Prep went against form the following season by going 8-2 and ending a six-game losing streak to West Haven in the process. But it wasn’t enough to qualify for the playoffs. It also proved to be Magdon’s last hurrah, as he retired the following year after a 3-7 record.
Prep football: Pinto to the present (2009-2015)
In a surprise to many, the school hired Bill Pinto as Magdon’s replacement, and he lasted just one forgettable 0-10 season in 2009 as the Jesuits went winless for only the second time in their history (0-6-1 in 1943). Pinto was let go and Prep turned to former player Tom Shea '73 to help resuscitate the program.
Like Magdon before him, it took a while for Shea to lay the appropriate groundwork. In his second season he got Prep to .500; by his fourth, Prep was back in the state playoffs. The 2013 team finished 11-3, beat West Haven in the semifinals but lost convincingly to Southington in the Class LL championship game. Shea stepped down the following year after a 7-4 record, winding up 32-23 in five seasons.Shea has stayed on as an assistant under current coach Keith Hellstern, who debuted at 5-5 in 2015 and finished 6-4 this past season. Perhaps Hellstern is laying the foundation for more Prep memories. Only time – and talent – will tell.
Prep Football: The Lavery years (1965-1992)
Written by Lou Pintek '72
Head coach Joe Brosley stepped down after the 1964 season to assume the role of athletic director. Named as his successor was assistant Earl Lavery, a tackle on Prep’s unbeaten team of 1949 who played three seasons at Holy Cross. Little did anyone realize at the time, but the Fairfield Prep program was about to embark on a remarkable 28-year run of success.
From 1965 until his retirement in 1992, Lavery won more games (231) than any coach in the state of Connecticut. He coached four undefeated, untied teams (1967, 1969, 1973 and 1977) plus another that finished unbeaten (1975). His teams won or shared 13 Metropolitan Bridgeport Interscholastic Athletic Conference (MBIAC) titles, won three state championships and had 14 teams finish in the state’s Top 10.
His teams epitomized the old-school, in-your-face approach to football: run the ball, and when expected to pass, run it again. He made strategic use of the forward pass, often catching his opponents by surprise, and it usually resulted in sizable gains or the occasional touchdown. But the essence of Lavery’s teams was defensive dominance.
His first team in 1965 was a portent of all the good years to come when it won the MBIAC with an 8-2 record. Led by quarterback Kevin Connolly and a host of offensive stalwarts, the Jesuits compiled 264 points. But what stood out just as significantly was the defense, which allowed only 59 points and had seven shutouts.
The following season brought seven more wins, a share of the MBIAC title and postseason honors to one of the premier linemen in Jesuits history. Tackle Tom Lyddy garnered all-MBIAC, all-state and Catholic All-American laurels for his prowess in the trenches. That team laid the groundwork for the first of Lavery’s undefeated squads in 1967.
Prep went 10-0 with junior Brian Connolly at the helm, big Dave Revenaugh at fullback and a corps of talented receivers at Connolly’s disposal such as ends Ron Bazza and Jim Walsh and halfbacks Bob Gulash and Mark Sulzycki. There was also a special-teams threat in barefoot kicker Mike Neidermeier.
“It was a very much a team, and the scoring was spread out,” Gulash said. “We were well balanced and high scoring (30.6 points per game). “But we had two close games: a 7-6 win over Law and then [the following week] a 12-6 win over Rippowam [with all-stater Bobby Valentine in the backfield].”
“There were no prima donnas [on the team],” Connolly said. “Earl wouldn't have stood for that and [assistant coach] Larry O'Toole would have taken them down to size. The team played as a team. We were well prepared, well coached, and had confidence and fortitude -- all instilled by Earl Lavery.
“Earl always expected 100% out of his players. He never yelled, but had a stare that was louder than any voice could be. I remember vividly the dreaded game-film day. If someone missed a block, tackle or messed up something, Earl would just keep playing that scene over and over, preempted by a sarcastic comment. The player never made that mistake again.”
SPOTLIGHT: 1967 (10-0)
Results: Bassick 46-18; Central 40-14; Stratford 34-0; Notre Dame-Bridgeport 47-0; Law 7-6; Rippowam 12-6; Harding 28-7; Milford 41-14; Bunnell 40-6; Stamford 41-14
Highlights: First undefeated team under Earl Lavery. … Offensive juggernaut scored 306 points.
PLAYER PROFILE: Bob Gulash ’68
Halfback who formed triple threat backfield with late co-captains Mark Sulzycki and Dave Revenaugh. ... Now an attorney.
Candidly speaking: “We had lost a lot of seniors [from the ’66 team], so [coach] Lavery completely re-did our offense. We went to what you called then a pro-set offense with a fullback [Revenaugh], halfbacks [Gulash and Sulzycki] and a flanker. It was a less conservative brand of offense that incorporated each week a new, yet-to-be-tried play [such as an end-around]. By and large, Lavery was a fairly conservative coach. But we became a more innovative offense. We scored on the first play in four or five games. … A lot of us went both ways. I was always considered fast, so I was on offense, defense, kickoff returns, punt returns, kickoffs and punts. … We also had a lighter, faster line, with [junior] Frank Luysterborghs at tackle. … We were a really good team, a great bunch of people.”
PLAYER PROFILE: Brian Connolly ’69
Quarterback who was in his second of three seasons as the Jesuits’ starter. … Went to Wake Forest and was an anesthesiologist at New Milford Hospital until his retirement in 2014. … He and his wife moved to Palm City, Fla. in 2015, where he now races sailboats and plays golf.
Candidly speaking: “With regard to the 1967 team, I think it can be best summed up by a newspaper quote after one of the games: ‘They came to play, and play they did.’ … The team was not a very big team nor did we have many returning lettermen that year. But the team was fast, smart and had a ton of desire. Earl saw this and designed the offense and the defense to take advantage of the assets and minimize the deficiencies. That was one of Earl’s great talents -- he didn't form a team to a style; he developed a style to fit the team. Subsequently the players always felt comfortable and confident at their position and it showed come game day. … I played on other great Prep teams, but the 1967 team was special. On paper we didn't look that good, but we came to play, and play we did!”
PLAYER PROFILE: Frank Luysterborghs ’69
Two-way tackle who was in his first year as a starter on offense. ... Spent 28 seasons as a head football coach, three at Milford High and 25 at Law before he retired in 2010.
Candidly speaking: “We were a young team. We had no returning starters on offense except for (quarterback) Brian Connolly, who started as a sophomore, and on defense, just [Dave] Revenaugh and myself on the defensive line. We really didn’t know what we had until we got going [with the season], but we had a very talented backfield with Bob Gulash (halfback), Revenaugh at fullback [and] Mark Sulzycki. … We used to run off-tackle a lot, that was Earl’s play, and every once in a while we used to [fake it] and Connolly would hook up with Sulzycki running a post [pattern] for a touchdown. … To me, the most memorable game was the Law game. They were our big rival then, and me being from Milford made it special. We won 7-6 and [Mike] Neidermeier made the deciding extra point, and I believe there had been a death in his family that week, so I was very happy for him. I still get emotional thinking about it. … Larry O’Toole was Earl’s [only] assistant coach, and he would always get us ready. He was a very integral part of our success as well.”
The following season Prep reeled off nine consecutive wins (for a 23-game undefeated streak) before being upset by Stamford on Thanksgiving Day (Prep and the Black Knights played every Thanksgiving from 1947 until 1978).
Connolly graduated after that season, but backup Chuck Lemieux took over the offense in 1969 and the result was a second 10-0 season in three years. That team opened with five consecutive shutouts and notched six in all. It also exacted a measure of revenge against Stamford for the previous season’s defeat by thrashing the Black Knights 36-14.
SPOTLIGHT: 1969 (10-0)
Results: Bassick 50-0; Central 20-0; Harding 28-0; Law 6-0; Bunnell 30-0; Rippowam 34-14; Notre Dame-Bridgeport 27-14; Stratford 33-0; Milford 26-14; Stamford 36-14
Highlights: Opened the season with five straight shutouts and had six in all. … Outscored the opposition 290-56.
PLAYER PROFILE: Chuck Lemieux ’71
First of two years as Prep’s starting quarterback. … Now a licensed physical therapist with offices in Fairfield.
Candidly speaking: “A bunch of us started working out in the winter [of 1968]. It was very businesslike. … I was a junior that year and I remember we had a ritual before every game where me, Kevin Beardsworth, Dan Davis and Pete Brawley would walk up the path to the field. Pete was always nervous, talking about the pressure to win, but it was fun. We played very well. … Dan Davis was in his first year as a starter at end, we had a good offensive line with [Ken] Pruzinsky, [John] Friar, [Walter] Welsh, and Dave Lincoln at center. … We were the best team in the state, I think. There was no [official] poll then, and Earl [Lavery] always said it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be. But we were undefeated and unscored on the first [five] games. … We just went out there and did our jobs.”
PLAYER PROFILE: John Friar ’71
Junior played three positions that season: offensive line, tight end and placekicker. … Went on to play three seasons for Harvard as a guard and middle linebacker. … Now a business professor at Northeastern.
Candidly speaking: “Basically we had a bunch of horses. We physically beat up everybody we played. We had six shutouts. … [Rich] Ryan and [Ken] Pruzinsky were all-state that year, the guards were all-league and we had our captain, Dave Lincoln, at center. [Greg] Gintoff was our fullback, [Paul] Mitchell was a speedy running back – we punished the hell out of people.”
Prep extended its regular season winning streak in 1970 to 17 games before being surprised by Rippowam in Week 8. The Jesuits bounced back to beat Stratford the following week before heading back to Boyle Stadium. That game, however, would be no ordinary Turkey Day tilt.
In the days before playoff games decided champions on the field, the No. 1 team in the state was voted on by sportswriters. That season Stamford had one of its best teams ever, led by quarterback John Darling and two all-staters: halfback Jim Cobb and split end Bob Augustyn. That’s why a crowd estimated at more than 10,000 shoehorned its way into Boyle Stadium for what many in the school believe was the greatest game in Prep history, given the circumstances.
“It had snowed lightly the night before,” quarterback Chuck Lemieux recalled. “So I thought it was pretty cool to play a game with a little snow on the field. It made you feel like a football player.”
The Black Knights had won the FCIAC championship the preceding week by drubbing a talented New Canaan team by 33 points. They entered the game as the consensus No. 1 team in Connecticut. Stamford scored on its opening possession, but the MBIAC champs surprisingly went ahead 13-7 with 2:11 left in the first half and held that lead midway through the fourth quarter. Stamford got the ball at its own 47 with 7:09 left and began moving downfield. A desperation Darling-to-Augustyn completion got the ball to the Prep 25 and a few plays later Stamford had a first-and-goal at the Prep 6. Two running plays moved the ball to the 1. Then Prep’s defense, anchored by Walter Welsh, Rich Ryan and Greg Gintoff up front, stopped Cobb on two consecutive running plays and the Jesuits hung on for a most improbable victory.
“Earl earned his money that year,” kicker John Friar recalled. “We had a lot of injuries – Gintoff got hurt, Welsh got hurt – so Lavery had to do stuff he never did before. He moved guys to different positions – Kevin Beardsworth went from guard to fullback, I had to wear two different (numbered) shirts because I played line and end – and and changed up the offense so we threw more. [Quarterback] Chuck Lemieux got all-state that year.”
The triumph was both euphoric and bittersweet for Prep’s coaches, players and fans. When the final state poll was released, Stamford was still the No. 1 team in the state and Prep No. 3. To this day, Lavery cannot fathom how that occurred.
“Different things happened that year,” he said. “We had one defeat to Rippowam, but we came around and played really well after that. [The goal-line stand] was great, but the only thing I was disappointed in was that Stamford was voted No. 1 after we beat them.”
SPOTLIGHT: 1970 Thanksgiving game (Fairfield Prep 13, No. 1 Stamford 7)
PLAYER PROFILE: Colan Connolly (’72)
Running back and defensive back. … Recorded a key end-zone interception to thwart a Stamford scoring drive and scored the go-ahead touchdown late in the first half. … Attended Colorado State … Sold medical equipment for 35 years and is now retired.
Candidly speaking: “The 1970 Thanksgiving game was a gift to Prep. The previous year we had gone 10-0 and did not get the top ranking in the state. Stamford High was rated No. 1 in Connecticut. We had a good team and had to work through a lot of injuries, especially to [Greg] Gintoff and [Walter] Welsh. Both of those guys were able to play in the Thanksgiving game and made significant contributions to the win.... It was by far the largest crowd we played in front of and the Prep fans were very supportive. It was a team effort that enabled us to win the game. Al Stanczyk and I were voted the co-MVPs of the game and that could not have pleased me more. Al was the best football player I had ever played with, and one of the finest gentlemen and friends I have known in my life. ... We did not get the No. 1 ranking in the state, but everyone on the team knew something special happened that day.”
PLAYER PROFILE: Tom Shea (’73)
Sophomore center who went on to succeed Bill Pinto as head coach in 2010. … He won 11 games in 2013 as Prep made the CIAC Class LL championship game. … Now on the Prep faculty as an English teacher.
Candidly speaking: “[Stamford was] undefeated and appeared invincible. We were 8-1 but [had] lost to a weak Rippowam team. I think it was the first week that Walter Welsh and Greg Gintoff had returned from injuries. The game [was] particularly important for Welsh since he lived in Stamford. … The game came down to that epic goal-line stand. They had first-and-goal from the 6 and Prep stopped them four plays in a row, led by Welsh and Gintoff. They had been so disappointed in missing most of their senior year and so this game was a great personal satisfaction for them. And one of the most memorable moments in Prep football history.”
Prep’s next great team came three years later, with the nephew of NFL legend George Halas at quarterback. Senior Paul Halas, whose brother Wally had started for Prep’s first state championship basketball team in 1968-69, had a banner season on both sides of the ball, named all-MBIAC at quarterback and all-state as a safety. Helping to protect him was a standout offensive tackle in Raymond Cal, another all-MBIAC and all-state winner. Prep won 11 games for the first time in school history and capped off a perfect season by defeating Harding in the first MBIAC championship game and then Stamford on Thanksgiving. The Jesuits scored 341 points, 11 shy of the then-record 352 set by the undefeated 1960 team.
Halas recalled a quote by Lavery in the Bridgeport Post high school football preview edition in which the coach said, “We’ll be small in size, and small in numbers, but we’ll show up on Saturdays.”
“At the time there were nine Saturday games on the schedule, plus the Thanksgiving Classic at Boyle Stadium,” Halas said. “But as it turned out there were 11 Saturday games, as the team played Harding for the MBIAC championship on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, and the T-Day game was moved to the following Saturday. … We all know that it would have been completely out of character for Earl to expect or predict a perfect season, but his comment sure turned out to be prophetic!”
SPOTLIGHT: 1973 (11-0)
Results: Bullard-Havens 55-0; Bunnell 35-0; Bassick 35-6; St. Joseph 26-0; Stratford 7-6; Bunnell 30-0; Notre Dame-Bridgeport 33-6; Harding 29-8; Kolbe 40-6; Central 30-6; Harding 21-6 (MBIAC championship game); Stamford 40-26
Highlights: Offensive powerhouse scored 341 points in posting first undefeated 11-game season. …
Won first MBIAC championship game, beating Harding 21-6.
PLAYER PROFILE: Paul Halas ’74
Top two-way player as all-MBIAC quarterback and all-state safety. … Also handled the place-kicking chores. … Played college ball at Harvard, where he was an all-Ivy safety his senior season and led the league in interceptions. … Also a three-year starter in baseball and captain of Ivy League champs in 1978. … Won Harvard's scholar athlete award, graduated with honors from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. ...Embarked on a 35-year legal career, the last 11 with GE, culminating in role as Executive Counsel Mergers and Acquisitions at GE HQ. … Recently returned to long time family home in Fairfield. … He and wife Jackie have 5 grown children.
Candidly speaking: “Key games were the third and fourth of the season as we had to avenge our only two (and very tough) losses from the season before. St. Joe’s had replaced Notre Dame [then located in Bridgeport] as our chief rival by surprising us in a very physical game in 1972; we couldn’t let their crowing stand for long and dispatched them 26-0 at home. The next week was a different story as we traveled to Longbrook Park to take on the Stratford team that had gone unbeaten the previous year. Nick Giaquinto had graduated but Ed Rooney, Jack DeLaura and others were a formidable bunch. They took a 6-0 lead but our defense stopped Rooney’s attempted two-point conversion run inches short of the line. In the third quarter Rich Kondub blocked a Stratford punt deep in Stratford territory. I was able to sneak across the goal line and kick the extra point (never a sure thing for me!) and we prevailed 7-6. … The sailing was pretty smooth the rest of the way until the MBIAC championship game in Kennedy Stadium. Harding had great athletes (Larry Rudd, John Santos, Dominick Lewis), but we had better coaches. A great call by Duke [Lavery] on the first play of the game was destined to result in a 75-yard touchdown pass, but our runner couldn’t believe how free he was, turned his head to look for pursuing defenders and dropped the ball. Harding recovered -- we didn’t for quite some time! Down 7-0 at the half the Duke called for an onside kick to open the second. It worked perfectly, we steamrolled to our first touchdown, then took the ball away on Harding’s next two possessions, drove it in and won 21-7. … In the last game in the state that season (there were no state playoffs), we blew away a pretty good Stamford team, amassing a 33-6 lead before coasting to a 40-26 final. Believe me, Duke didn’t like that “coasting” aspect and reinserted the starting defense to impose some discipline and send a message to the underclassmen who would follow us. … We would have loved to play the other two unbeaten teams in the state that year, Ansonia (9-0) and Derby (8-0), led by Roger Ings and John Pagliaro, respectively, but we had to settle for a third-place ranking in the final polls. We still believe we didn’t get appropriate respect in the individual honors either, as only I made first team all-state and several of our teammates got snubbed even at the MBIAC level. Ray Cal was as good a lineman as there was in the state; he made second team but deserved first. Mike Dolan [was] a great leader; Gerry Norman, Bob Albert, Andy Karpie playing great at center at about 160 pounds … Those slightly sour grapes have blended over time with that sweetest of seasons to produce a very fine wine, greatly aged of course, but always pleasant to reflect on and savor.”
The 1975 team was Lavery’s second to win 11 games and fourth to go unbeaten, but a turnover-laden 8-8 tie with St. Joseph in mid-season prevented the Jesuits from an unprecedented 12-0 campaign.
“The week before, we played Central in a quagmire,” recalled tackle Gary Pintek, who formed part of the defensive line with all-state performer Joe Miller. “The following week Alumni Field was unplayable, so the [St. Joseph] game was moved to a Monday and we played at Tomlinson [Junior High]. “We were flat.”
“We outrushed them something like 300 yards to 40,” all-MBIAC linebacker Pete Tarczali said. “But we fumbled three times inside their 10. The ball was just rolling around on the ground all day and [the Cadets] were falling on it.
“What most people don’t recall is that near the end of that game, St. Joseph lined up for a 30-yard field goal and they chunked it.”
Nonetheless, that team set a school record with eight shutouts – the last a 21-0 whitewashing of Harding in the MBIAC title game – and allowed a measly 42 points.
“We were the best defense in the state,” Miller said, “and I believe our first-team defense was unbeatable.”
Tarczali noted that Warde scored its 10 points against the second unit in the opener and then-Notre Dame of Bridgeport scored its two touchdowns in the fourth quarter. That meant the first unit was scored on in only two games: the tie against the Cadets and in the season finale against Stamford (12).
“We had a good button-down defense,” Tarczali said. “Our first seven was good, but nobody got behind our back four … and they could hit.” [Senior] Scott McLeod didn’t make all-MBIAC, but he was fast. He had to be the best or second best safety in the state.”
SPOTLIGHT: 1975 (11-0-1)
Results: Warde 28-10; Bullard-Havens 20-0; Harding 7-0; Kolbe 26-0; Central 30-0; St. Joseph 8-8 (tie); Stratford 39-0; Notre Dame-Bridgeport 35-12; Bunnell 20-0; Bassick 30-0; Harding 21-0 (MBIAC championship game); Stamford 22-12
Highlights: Unbeaten in Prep’s first 12-game schedule. … Only blemish was an 8-8 tie with St. Joseph. … Holds school record with eight shutouts. … Allowed just 42 points while scoring 289.
PLAYER PROFILE: Joe Miller ’76
All-State tackle and Catholic All-American. ... Went on to play collegiately at Holy Cross. … Now retired and devoting his life to caring for the hungry and homeless.
Candidly speaking: “We were the first team at Prep to play a 12-game schedule. We finished 11-0-1 and were ranked third in the state. … We had a great year, and our defense only allowed 42 points. But what most people don’t remember is that our first-team defense gave up only  points. … We were the best defense in the state and I believe [that] defense was unbeatable.”
PLAYER PROFILE: Pete Tarczali ’76
All-MBIAC linebacker… one of a dozen Jesuits named to the all-league first team that season. … Now working in commercial construction in Tampa, Fla.
Candidly speaking: “[Fellow linebacker] George Webb and I started as juniors and came back to start as seniors. We were a senior-heavy team, but still the majority of us went both ways. … Our center, guard, tackle and tight end were all-MBIAC, as was [halfback] Billy Stanley, [the] co-player of the year. And [linebacker] Dennis Axon was all-MBIAC, too. We dominated. … With Earl, you earned your right to play for him.”
After a 10-2 season and state championship game loss to East Hartford in 1976 – the first season of CIAC title games – Lavery would have one more perfect team in 1977. However, it was atypical from the previous standout teams in that the Jesuits used the passing game more frequently to take advantage of the talents of strong-armed quarterback Al Arison.
Arison has been acknowledged as one of the school’s pre-eminent passers – he was named all-MBIAC – but he was a dual threat as a punter who changed field position often with a 42-yard average. It was also the first Prep team to be crowned a CIAC state champion after a 22-6 victory over Xavier.
“Our defense was unbelievable,” said Joe Lombardo, Prep’s all-MBIAC middle linebacker. “We had six or seven guys who came back (from the ’76 season) to start. We had a really great team. We were a unit, and that’s why we won.”
SPOTLIGHT: 1977 (11-0)
Results: Harding 7-0; Central 23-0; Bassick 40-6; Bunnell 34-0; Bullard-Havens 27-8; Stratford 29-13; Notre Dame-Bridgeport 60-0; St. Joseph 27-6; St. Joseph 21-0 (MBIAC championship game); Stamford 14-8; Xavier 22-6 (CIAC championship game)
Highlights: Jesuits defense notched five shutouts.
PLAYER PROFILE: Bob Meyers ’78
Linebacker at Prep who went on to play cornerback for coach Jack Bicknell at Maine. … Transferred to Fairfield and played club football for Fran Lynch. … Was inducted into the Fairfield University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000. … Member of the Fairfield County Football Officials Association for the past 10 years.
Candidly speaking: “I was one of the seniors on this great team. We had a very close group of players who were unselfish and willing to do what Mr. Lavery needed for success. We did not call him “Coach” out of respect. … We played in the first night game at Prep that season. Portable lights were brought in for the game. … We had a great defense, a great punter [Al Arison] and a very tough group of kids who were very physical, to put it nicely. … We were 8-0 when we faced St. Joe’s (8-0 also), whom local radio station WICC favored. We beat them 27-6, then we beat them again in the MBIAC championship [game] the next week 21 -0. That year was the second year of the present-day CIAC playoff system. We were underdogs again to Xavier, who seemed to do better in the state polls historically. Before the game Mr. Lavery, who is a man of few words, gave a rare pre-game famous speech (“Wind Storm”) that fired up our team. We went out and beat Xavier 22-6. That win was for all of the alumni who never got a chance to play Xavier on the field. His players carried Mr. Lavery off the field that day in New Haven. … Two of the more successful plays that season were: Straight T 44 and Pro Right Half Back Split. … Father Brissette would say Mass for the team before every game. He was a special priest who played football at Boston College.”
PLAYER PROFILE: Joe Lombardo ’78
All-MBIAC and all-county middle linebacker. … Played collegiately at Southern Connecticut. …works for UPS.
Candidly speaking: “[Coach Lavery] saw some talent in me. I started out as a defensive tackle, but he moved me to middle linebacker and I ran with it. I averaged three or four sacks a game. He said ‘All you gotta do is stop the run.’ … He saw talent, but he was very strict. He always [got] his point across. After I graduated they went back to the nose guard and two tackles inside. … A coach can make you or break you, but everybody loved Earl.”
PLAYER PROFILE: Tim Roach ’78
Running back/defensive back who went on to play at Fairfield University. … Works as a sales specialist at IHS Markit in New York City and lives in Fairfield with his wife and 3 kids.
Candidly speaking: “What I remember most about the '77 team was that we were a team of undersized overachievers. I made some great lifetime friends that I still speak to all the time: Jeff Smith, Al Arison, Tom and Bob Meyers, Joe Lombardo and Larry LeBlanc. John diTullio and Dave Fitzsimmons were the captains. … We played Notre Dame in the first night game at Prep. We were really fired up and played a near perfect game, winning 60-0. Our big rivalry was against St. Joe's and we beat them on consecutive weekends; the second game was for the MBIAC title. We had a tough game vs. Stamford on Thanksgiving that we won 14-8. Next was the state championship vs. Xavier at Southern Connecticut. Xavier must have suited up 100 players; we had about 35 and they were making all kinds of noise during pre-game warm-ups as we were waiting in the locker room when coach Lavery (a man of few words) issued the classic [line]: "All that noise is about as good as a fart in a windstorm." We beat Xavier 22-6 to complete an undefeated season. … I'll always remember Friday after ‘walk-throughs’ after Fr. Brisette would say Mass. … Coach Lavery was a great coach and disciplinarian. We didn't run any complicated offense, but we drilled every day and he ran a tight ship. Ironically one of our assistant coaches in '77 was Tom Shea, or “T Willie” as we called him.”
The 1979 and 1980 teams also flirted with perfection, going 10-1 and 11-1, respectively, with back-to-back MBIAC titles. To date, though, the 1997 team is the last Prep squad to finish the season unblemished.
Another state title followed two years later, despite a two-loss regular season (both to St. Joseph), as Prep knocked off perennial FCIAC power Greenwich 19-6.
The Jesuits won their last MBIAC title in the final season of the league in 1984. Prep’s only two losses were non-league defeats, but that year was memorable because Prep stayed home on Thanksgiving for the first time because its opponent – Stamford Catholic – qualified for the FCIAC championship game on the same day, so the Turkey Day tilt was ultimately cancelled.
Beginning in 1985, the Jesuits kicked off their 30+ year association with the newly formed All Catholic Conference (nee All Connecticut Conference; forerunner of the Southern Connecticut Conference) with an 8-3 record. Although many of their opponents were situated in the central or northeastern part of the state, Prep’s rivalry with St. Joseph remained intact until well after Lavery’s final season in 1992. His best year in the ACC came in 1988 when the Jesuits finished 9-1-1 and won their last state title under “The Duke”, beating Greenwich 7-0.
“I had a lot of good teams and a lot of good players. It’s tough to decide which team was better,” Lavery said. “I was always very pleased with my associate coaches like Rich Magdon and Bob Mastroni, before he left for Bunnell. They certainly get a lot of credit.
“I enjoyed every minute of it. I had a lot of great kids.”
October 22, 1941: Seeking a Location
By mid-October 1941 the Jesuits had determined that the Jennings estate in Fairfield was for sale. (At this time the Jennings family spent most of the year in their New York City home, utlizing their Fairfield estate, called Mailands, as their summer residence.)
On October 22, 1941, Fathers Dolan, McLaughlin and Mahoney enlisted the assistance of local businessmen Edward Bray and Paul Daly in putting together an offer for the estate.
Next entry: November 1 & 2, 1941.
1960: MBIAC & STATE FOOTBALL CHAMPIONS
Written by Alexander "Sandy" Sulzycki, '64
FAST FACTS: The 1960 edition of Fairfield Prep's 10-0 football team earned the Waskowitz Trophy for the first time in school history. The award was emblematic of the "official" state championship. It was determined by a state-wide committee of sportswriters and was awarded annually from 1933-63. The CIAC did not institute its playoff system until 1976. From 1942-1954 Catholic schools were not eligible for state championship consideration or its players for all-star teams. Prep's 1955 (7-1) and 1956 (8-0) teams were strong contenders for the state crown and were both recognized by the CIAC with an Award of Merit. The CIAC Award of Merit Committee chose four outstanding high school football teams from each class from 1947 to 1980. Prep earned the most Awards of Merit (14) in that span followed by Stamford and Ansonia with 13 apiece. ... Prep also earned the MBIAC (Metropolitan Bridgeport Interscholastic Athletic Conference) title with a 7-0 record in league play. ... QB Ed McCarthy, tackle Gene Skowronski and end Frank Grywalski earned New Haven Register All-State honors and all three played for the West against the East in the annual Nutmeg Bowl game in August of 1961 at Harding's Hedges Stadium that featured the top high school seniors in the state from the previous year's football season. Skowronski captained the victorious West team. ... Halfback Floyd Little, Hillhouse (Syracuse, Denver Broncos, NFL Hall of Fame); fullback Jerry Fishman, Norwalk; center Steve Miska, Harding; and guard Bill Pedersen, Central, were other regional players on the All-State team. ... The New York Giants conducted their preseason practices at Alumni Field and drew a lot of attention to the campus from fans across the region. Many of Prep's players recalled how great the Giants were in sharing their knowledge and advice. Players also recalled future Green Bay Packer Hall of Famer, Bob Skoronski, older brother of Gene Skowronski, coming back to Prep during the offseason and visiting the players and coach Joe Brosley, whom Bob credits with playing a major role in his success. ... Several team members were in attendance at Alumni Field when the 50th anniversary of their historic accomplishments were recognized in pre-game ceremonies on Sept. 27, 2010.
THE RESULTS (10-0): Defeated Archbishop Stepinac of New York, 24-16; Milford 30-8; Harding 32-0; Central 38-0; Notre Dame-West Haven 20-6; Stratford 52-0; Notre Dame-Bridgeport 16-6; Bassick 44-0; Bullard-Havens 61-0 and Stamford 35-0. Points scored: 352. Points allowed: 36. Shutouts: Six.
CO-CAPTAINS: Fullback Donald "Ducky" Moran, end Bob Fritz.
IN THE BACKFIELD: QB Ed McCarthy. Fullback: Don Moran. Halfbacks: Pete Frigon, Jerry Niedermeier. Also: Tom Redgate, Bob Riordan, George Pond, Jay Gilmartin, Steve Csandi, Charles Duffy, Mark Peddle, Stu Esposito, Ted See.
ON THE LINE: Ends: Frank Grywalski, Bob Fritz, Marty Tristine, Ray Mosko. Tackles: Don Lynch, Gene Skowronski. Center: Ron Miazga. Guards: Win MacLaughlin, John Chiota, Leo Carroll, Ron Santora. Also: Alan Reed, Wayne Bonfietti, Jack Summ, Walter "Snuffy" Skowronski, Rich Amon, Frank Casulo.
CHAPLAINS: Fr. Eugene Brissette, S.J. and Mr. Braureuther, S.J.
MANAGERS: Joseph Fahey, Jim Stewart, K. Cavanaugh, Dave Marchese.
SPECIAL TRIBUTE: McCarthy, who as a 6-foot-2, 178-pound senior led Yale to a 6-2-1 record and third place in the 1964 season under Coach Carm Cozza, tragically lost his life at age 21 in an auto accident on U.S. Route 5 in Greenfield, Mass., in late January of 1965. An honor student, McCarthy was a starter on Prep's basketball team his junior and senior years and was a mainstay on the track team. After McCarthy's death, Cozza said in an interview in the Bridgeport Post: "Ed McCarthy was absolutely one of the finest young men I ever had the privilege to coach. He had tremendous qualities of leadership and a great competitive spirit." ... Brosley was quoted in the same article: "This hurts me deeply that a boy with such great potential, not only in sports but in any field he chose to venture, should die at just 21 years of age. Ed's attitude was his greatest attribute. He commanded respect from anyone he met. He was quiet and well-mannered and a gentleman in every way. We both liked to kid around a lot, and our sense of humor ran along the same vein. Also, Ed had a great mind, one that you just had to admire. Even as a quarterback, his intellect carried over to the playing field. He was more like a coach, rather than a player, when he was on the gridiron."
NOTEWORTHY: When asked by a Bridgeport Post sportswriter what made the team so great, Brosley responded: "A balanced attack with top passing, running, defense and a strong supply of reserves. In general that 1960 football team has to go down as the greatest I've ever coached in my 10 years at the Prep helm. But some day, hope that I can field a team just a little better." ... After taking its lumps, but gathering some valuable playing time and experience during a 4-6 season in 1959, the team returned 13 seniors, 11 forming the starting lineup for the eventual state champions. ... Similar to teams of that era, starters were expected to play both offense and defense. ... Brosley had his co-captains switch positions before the season started and it paid big dividends. Fritz went from the backfield to end/LB and the bruising 5-foot-11,180-pound Moran from end to fullback. ... Proving that the 1960 team was quite a talented group, eight starters (five linemen and three backs) and two substitutes went on to play college football. The linemen were tackles Gene Skowronski, Harvard; and Don Lynch, Duke/brief stint with the Washington Redskins; center Ron Miazga, U.S. Air Force Academy; ends Frank Grywalski, Boston College and Bob Fritz, U.S. Military Academy 150-pound team. The backfield trio included; QB Ed McCarthy, Yale; halfback Pete Frigon, Tufts; and fullback Donald Moran, Boston College.. ... Miazga, who captained Prep's golf team, played in the 1963 Gator Bowl against North Carolina and faced his former teammates, Moran and Grywalski, when the Air Force and BC each won at home in a two-game series. Miazga went on to fly a KC-135 in Vietnam. ... Win McLaughlin, John Chiota, Ron Santora and Leo Carroll, were referred to as guards of the "Watch-Charm variety". What they lacked in size they made up in speed and quickness, leading the way on the vaunted "Prep sweep". ... Backs Frigon and Jerry Niedermeier were described as "evasive, smallish speedsters and long-distance threats" in contrast to the power skills of Moran at fullback. ... Ends Grywalski and Fritz were listed as "dangerous targets" for the accurate passing of McCarthy, who served as Senior Class president. Lynch was the vice-president and back Ted See the graduation valedictorian. ... Earl Lavery was the junior varsity coach and first-year math teacher, Harry Hyra, the freshman coach.
Fritz was having a productive season as a left end/inside linebacker before breaking an ankle in the fifth game of the season, a 20-6 win over Notre Dame-West Haven, forcing him to miss the last five games. Fritz went on to play all four years in the backfield on West Point's 150-pound team and was a captain there as well. After graduation he switched armed services and joined the Air Force, the last year that this option was still allowed. He was trained as a pilot on the strategic bomber B-52 and was married to his wife, Trish, in 1966 before serving two years in Vietnam (1969-70) as a forward air controller. After five years with the Air Force, he had a 23-year career in the FBI addition to earning his law degree. Fritz recalls:
"We grew up on Homeland Street in the Stratfield section of Fairfield during a time when we did not have any organized football training, except for playing some serious backyard two-on-two or four-on-four games, which included neighbors and future teammates John Chiota and Jerry Niedermeier ... My parents just told me that I was going to Fairfield Prep and I did not really have any say in the conversation, that was it. My father even took me to a few of the Bassick-Ludlowe Thanksgiving Day games instead of Prep-Stamford at Boyle Stadium. ... Between Prep and West Point I certainly was fortunate to be well educated and well served by the two. ... I always wanted to go to West Point after taking a ride through the grounds before a game when I was in the seventh grade. ... I enjoyed playing at West Point. You couldn't weigh more than 154 pounds the Thursday before the game, but now I'm in the 204-pound range. ... I would liked to have wrestled at Prep, but it didn't have a team. It was good to hear that there's a great program there now."
Moran, a "workhorse" fullback was the leading scorer with 14 touchdowns and 102 total points. He was the last of three brothers to attend Prep, following in the footsteps of Tom ('55) and Jim "Red" Moran ('57), who was a starter and key contributor along with Joe Sikorski, Dan Combs, Joe Dunn, Bob Valus and Steve Csontos on coach George Bisacca's 1956-57 basketball team that went 16-4, a record among the state's best. Donald was a forward and joined Ed McCarthy and center Frank Grywalski to form the frontcourt on coach Vin Burns 13-6 basketball team that was the MBIAC co-champion in 1961. Moran's career at Boston College was highlighted by his four-yard, first-quarter TD run in a 21-14 upset of ninth-rated Syracuse in the season opener his senior year. The Orangemen featured Floyd Little and "Big Jim" Nance in the backfield. Knee injuries limited Moran's freshman season and he missed his sophomore season with a broken collarbone. ... Moran taught Business classes at Shelton high school for 35 years. Moran recalls:
"My parents were Irish immigrants and certainly were not well-off financially but they wanted my brothers and I to have a good education and made a lot of sacrifices to see that we went to Prep. ... Growing up in the South End of Bridgeport just a short distance from Seaside Park, I was able to get an early start by playing lots of sandlot football with kids from the neighborhood and friends from Sacred Heart parochial grammar school. We could always count on being able to get a game going and that really helped me out when I got to Prep because there were not any organized youth football programs at the time. I then had the proper fundamentals and techniques drilled into me by Joe Brosley, Earl Lavery and Father Brissette. ... I think the professional attitude of the New York Giants while they were practicing at Alumni Field rubbed off on us and we tried to do things just like they did, except for the drinking. Bob Skoronski, Gene's brother, was absolutely the best, a perfect gentleman, when he visited during the off-season. ... A few of us would be late for practices because Father McLaughlin kept the class until 4 o'clock teaching us the roots of Latin words. ... Father Brissette saying the pre-game Mass and then letting us know in no uncertain terms what we were doing wrong during the game and even showing us what we had to do physically. ... Don Lynch, who weighed 205 pounds our senior year at Prep, and I would work out at Prep after graduating from college. He had bulked up so much in preparing for his workout with the Redskins that I couldn't even get my arms around him. ... Unlike many of Prep's students I lucked out and did not have to hitchhike to and from school because former Prep football player Lou Zowine, who later went to Fairfield U., lived right around the corner and I got a ride in or back with him or there was always the Gray Line bus."
Leo's older brothers Phil ('52), Walt ('55) and Roger ('59) also graduated from Prep. A 5-foot-8, 160-pound junior guard, he was inserted into the starting lineup the last four games when senior John Chiota suffered a knee injury. Carroll earned the nickname "Pepsodent Al" when he had a few teeth knocked out during the season. ... He has practiced law in Milford for the last 47 years. Carroll recalls:
"Our father went to Fordham College for two years and developed an affinity for the Jesuits so four of five brothers went to Prep. My mother was always involved with the Bellarmine Mothers' Club. Time spent at Prep was the best single educational experience in my lifetime and that includes college at Villanova and law school at Boston College. My heart and mind still belong to the Jesuits. They taught us the tools so we knew how to think, reason, take tests, answer questions, read. We were well prepared to continue our education. To this day there's a bond between anybody that I still meet for the first time that went to Prep. The contacts that I have made through that bond over the years have proved invaluable, like Lou Zowine who played at Prep, coached briefly there and I practiced law with. ... Father Brissette on the sidelines, either yelling at us or saying the rosary. It wasn't anything new for us. It was a carryover from the classroom. But we all loved and respected him so much that the '61 Heartstone Yearbook was dedicated in his honor. ... I was one of those undersized guards who were quick and able to lead the sweep, but we gave up a lot when it came to pass blocking. But Ed McCarthy was so good at leaving the pocket any pressure didn't really bother him. ... Coach Brosley was ahead of his time as far as his offensive schemes like the sweep. Our opponents had a tough time defending them. ... Our biggest rival was still Stamford while the ND-Bridgeport rivalry was just starting to take shape."
JOHN P. CHIOTA
Chiota was one of the "Watch-Charm variety" guards along with Win McCloughlin described in a Bridgeport Post preseason preview. They were instrumental in the potent ground attack as they pulled quickly off the line to lead the vaunted 'Prep Sweep'. A knee injury forced Chiota to miss the last three games of the season but the Prep line continued to dominate up front as Leo Carroll and Ron Santora filled in at guards. Chiota graduated from Holy Cross and Fordham Law School and served as Judge of Probate for the Trumbull District covering the towns of Trumbull, Easton and Monroe from 1979-2013. Chiota recalls:
"At the start of the season, even with 13 experienced seniors returning, we didn't realize just how good we could be. There certainly weren't any thoughts of a state championship as one of our goals. Midway through the season we started to feel that we had the potential to be pretty good. We just wanted to go the rest of the way undefeated. Even after finishing 10-0 we did not realize that we had won the first "official" state championship in school history. The importance in winning the Waskowitz Trophy did not set in until much later. ... Little did we know that our opening 24-16 win over Archbishop Stepinac would be our closest game as the outcome wasn't decided until we stopped a fourth-quarter comeback. Stepinac had rallied with two touchdowns and was looking to tie the score on a late drive but linebacker Don Moran, middle guard Ron Miazga and defensive backs Pete Frigon and Ed McCarthy shut down their passing attack. That set the tone for the rest of the season. After giving up eight points to Milford the following week, the defense only allowed six points against ND-West Haven the last eight games. ND-Bridgeport's six points came on a 78-yard interception return. ...Some of the Jesuits weren't afraid to use, let's say "physical incentives" to get their point across, but nobody complained. After missing a tackling assignment against Milford, Coach Brosley took me out and grilled me. Father Brissette then took over. The former Boston College lineman showed me the proper way to tackle and before I knew it I was on my rear end, a fate also shared by some of my teammates. He was very inspirational, went to most of our practices and I'll always remember his weekly masses before the games ... Back Frank Gifford, defensive back Dick Lynch and defensive end Andy Robustelli of the New York Giants went out of their way to spend a few minutes with us either before or after their practices and vice versa for us. Lynch was a distant cousin of Don Lynch and showed us a few plays that we were able to use during the season. ... Shutting out traditional rival Stamford 35-0 was memorable. We had lost three straight before those big Thanksgiving Day crowds at Boyle Stadium so it was the senior class' first win over them. ... Trying to move the tackling sled with coach Lavery on board was virtually impossible, especially for us 160-pound guards.
Grywalski, a 6-foot-4 right end on both sides of the ball, proved to be a tough target to defend when he teamed with 6-foot-2 quarterback Ed McCarthy on one of their patented jump passes, especially in the red zone. His two TD receptions played a big role in the impressive season-opening win against New York powerhouse Archbishop Stepinac. Frank was recruited by Maryland, Colgate, Army and Navy among others. Serious knee injuries plagued him throughout his career at Boston College. In the yearbook Grywalski was listed as captain and a center on coach Vin Burns' basketball team. He was flanked in the frontcourt by forwards and football teammates, McCarthy and Moran, as the 13-6 Jesuits were co-MBIAC champions and posted CIAC tourney wins over Bassick and Andrew Warde before losing to powerhouse Wilbur Cross. Grywalski recalls:
"Our family grew up a block-and-half from Prep and I started going to games when I was in 6th or 7th grade. Because of football, it was the only place that I wanted to go after watching players like all-staters Joe Sikorski, Frank Robotti, Dan Combs and Bill Long and other greats like QB Joe Witkewicz, Lou Zowine, Ken Maiocco, Billy Redgate, Bill "Punchy" Flanagan, John McGourthy, Crazylegs O'Toole, Bob Murphy, Jack Mahar and Vinnie Lynch. ... We had a great team with so many talented players. Any personal success I may have had was because we had so many weapons it was hard to defend one or two players. Ed McCarthy was a great QB and we had a special connection especially on the jump pass. The only bad thing about that play was getting hit by a couple linebackers after the catch. ... Everything was team orientated. There was no concept about individual stats, personal success or who was going to be all-state or All-MBIAC. ... I remember many games when Gene Skowronski and I had double-team assignments which were easy because of his devastating blocking. ... I think that Ron Miazga was the best center in the state and certainly could have been an all-stater as well. He was also a classmate of mine at St. Anthony's parochial grammar school. ... Our '60 season was the best time of my athletic life and I feel very fortunate to have played with so many great guys and be coached by legends like Joe Brosley, Earl Lavery and Father Eugene Brissette S.J. I loved being at Prep."
Niedermeier grew up in Fairfield's Stratfield section on Tollsome Hill Road with childhood neighbors John Chiota, Bob Fritz and Ed McCarthy and went to St. Peter's Parochial School on Colorado Avenue in Bridgeport. He earned a spot as a starter in the backfield by coming off the bench with a six-yard TD run in the opener against Stepinac and stayed there the rest of the season. After Prep he entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Shadowbrook in Lenox, Mass., and was a Jesuit priest for 11 years earning a law degree from Georgetown before leaving the Society in 1972. He came back to Prep for a year in 1967 teaching Latin and Religion and assisting coach Earl Lavery. ... He married his wife, Helen, in 1974 and they have three children and three grandchildren. For the last 33 years, he has served as a Magistrate Judge at the U.S. District Court in Burlington, Vt., and Boston and continues to do so part-time on Cape Cod. Niedermeier recalls:
"My father wanted me to go to Prep because, as the owner of the Beachmont Dairy on North Avenue in Bridgeport, he ran the school's food service and got to know many of the Jesuits really well and what they stood for. ... Our line was the best. The guards were fast at pulling and leading the sweep. The tackles and center were big and strong. Fullback Donald Moran would block for Pete Frigon or myself and open up huge holes. When we blocked for him the holes weren't that big. ... We were expected to play both ways but after the first game against Stepinac, Coach Brosley saw that my defense was lacking and replaced me in the secondary with Ted See. He was a much better tackler and defender than I was. It was a wise move. ... The Giants practicing at Alumni Field helped us out a lot. I was able to score a few TDs thanks to Dick Lynch showing us some new plays, including a swing pass that left me uncovered coming out of the backfield. Teams didn't know how to defend it. I loved it because I didn't really like being hit at 5-foot-8 and 150 pounds. ... Brosley and Lavery drilled us on the basics, especially when it came to tackling the proper way - not leading with the head, but with the shoulders and then wrapping your arms around the ball carrier. It cut down on the injuries."
Skowronski was one of six Skowronskis to play football at Prep: brothers Bob Skoronski ('51) and Ted ('64) and cousins Walter ('62), Bill ('64) and John "Jay" ('73). Gene went on to Harvard where he was the team MVP his senior year as a tackle and received honorable mention on the AP All-East team in 1964. Gene, a former head of the Board of Aldermen in Derby, continues to practice law from his office in Ansonia. Ted, who also played in the Nutmeg Bowl, also went to Harvard and was the starting center when the headline read 'Harvard Beats Yale 29-29' as the two rivals tied at Boston in 1968. The Elis were heavily favored and the outcome is a cherished one in Harvard history. Walter, a junior reserve lineman on the state championship team, went on to West Point, graduating with the Class of 1966. The Class was hard hit by the Vietnam War and was celebrated in the 1989 book, The Long Gray Line. Walt underwent Airborne and Ranger training and served two tours in Vietnam, receiving two bronze stars. Gene Skowronski recalls:"I'll always remember Father Brissette saying the ritual team Mass at McAuliffe Hall on the Friday afternoon prior to the opener on Saturday against Archbishop Stepinac. As part of the service he expressed the thought that he had "a very good feeling about this team". For me that simple statement set the tone for the rest of the season and turned out to be a pivotal moment for what turned out to be the highlight of my athletic career. Father Brissette was a coach and our inspirational leader. ... Joe Brosley and Earl Lavery just drilled us in the fundamentals, especially on the line, and that training well served those who went on to play in college. Prep sent several players to Harvard and they were ready to play when they got there because of that training. ... I was very young when my brother, Bob, took me to the Thanksgiving Day games at Stamford's Boyle Stadium where I saw him play as well as some great Prep teams with players like John Maiocco, Fred Judd, Jack Ringel and many more. I was hooked on Prep and it would be a dream come through if I could follow in their footsteps. I was never as nervous when I took the entrance exams in Berchman's Hall in 1957 and so excited when told I was accepted. ... Practices were brutal with lots of contact so we looked forward to Friday's walk-throughs in our sweats. Coach Brosley would get us in the right frame of mind by ending practice with a 100-yard sprint named after Saturday's opponent - The Harding Sprint, etc. It worked for 10 straight weeks. ... Being able to meet and watch the New York Giants practice. They were still accessible back then. The NFL wasn't as massive as it is today, there wasn't all the public relations side of it. A box of equipment was left behind when they broke camp. I found the biggest pair of cleats that I had ever seen and couldn't image anybody actually fitting into them. ... A cousin who went to Fairfield U. gave me a ride in from Derby in the morning, but after practices it could take me as much as an hour hitch-hiking the 20-mile trip back home. Frank Grywalski would give me a ride to the Merritt Parkway Black Rock Turnpike entrance from where I would have to hitch to Route 8 and then up to Derby."
1956: The Saga of Victory
Written by Alexander "Sandy" Sulzycki '64
FAST FACTS: "The Saga of Victory" was how the Yearbook described the 1956 football season as assistant coach Joe Brosley took over as head coach from Tom Seymour and produced the second undefeated and untied 8-0 team in school history, equaling the success of Seymour's 1953 unit by combining a potent offense and stingy defense to outscore the opposition 261-37. ... Brosley became Prep's fourth football coach and compiled a 55-27 record from 1956-65 with his 1960 combine posting a 10-0 record and another first for Prep with the Waskowitz Trophy, emblematic of the state football championship. ... The New Haven Register also had its Sportwriters poll but did not publish them for the 1955 and 1956 seasons. .. Although New Britain won the Waskowitz Trophy (emblematic of the state championship) in 1956, Prep was listed atop a list of four teams in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Football Awards of Merit Large School Division followed by Harding, Naugatuck and New Britain. The CIAC Award of Merit Committee chose the outstanding high school football teams from each class from 1947 to 1980. Prep earned the most Awards of Merit (14) in that span followed by Stamford and Ansonia with 13 apiece. ... The junior varsity team posted an 8-0 record as well. .. Prep's 1955 team was also among the top four teams in the Merit Awards with a 7-1 record, its only loss coming to out-of-state Archbishop Stepinac of New York 19-0.
THE RESULTS (8-0): Defeated Stratford 19-0, Bullard-Havens Tech 47-6, Archbishop Stepinac, N.Y. 33-0, Notre Dame-West Haven 39-6, Hillhouse 32-12, Mount St. Michael, N.Y. 25-0, West Haven 39-6 and Stamford 27-7.
CO-CAPTAINS: End Joe Sikorski and fullback Frank Robotti
Joe Sikorski Frank Robotti
ON THE LINE: Ends: Dan Combs, Joe Sikorski, Matt Pugliese, Ed Galemba. Tackles: Bob "Mouse" Malstrom, Jim Hellauer. Guards: Tom Catalano, Jim Stark. Center: Bill Robinson. Also contributing on the line were: Bob King, Dom "Big Dom" Galuzzo, Bob Dorian.
IN THE BACKFIELD: QB: Larry Merly. Fullback: Frank Robotti. Halfbacks: Pete Saur, Jeff Donahue. Also: Kevin Keating, Alan Habansky
PLACEKICKER, PUNTER: Bill Robinson
MANAGERS: Marc Jasmin, Kev Cavanaugh
PUBLIC ADDRESS ANNOUNCERS: Jack Greenspon, Ray Panda
NOTEWORTHY: Co-captains Sikorski and Robotti were the first Prepsters honored with all-state honors by the New Haven Register. Harding back Herb Sutton was also on the team while tackle Jim Hellauer earned a spot on the Honorable Mention list. ... The co-captains earned All-American mention and their second Bridgeport Sunday Herald All-District first-team team honors while senior guard Jim Stark was also selected. ... Sikorski (end and captain his senior year), Robotti (linebacker) and Robinson (back, punter) went on to play at Boston College. Robotti played in the National High School All-American game in Memphis, Tenn. ... Sikorski and Robotti had brief stints with the Boston Patriots of the the old AFL in the early 1960s as undrafted free agents. However, Robotti's days were numbered when the Patriots picked Notre Dame's Nick Buonoconti in the 13th round of the 1962 draft and signed him to a no-cut contract. The Stamford native was also one of the last cuts by New York Titans general manager and coach Weeb Ewbank in 1963. ... Sikorski went to Georgetown for a year before being hit by the football bug and transferring to BC. ... Sikorski also co-captained coach George Bisacca's talented 16-4 basketball team that winter along with Joe Dunn. ... Combs was also a starter for Bisacca and would go on to earn all-state honors as an end his senior year in 1957. ... Sikorski, a three-sport standout, made the 1957 Bridgeport Sunday Herald All-Star Baseball Team as a shortstop while Robotti and Merly were second-team selections in the outfield. ... Robotti died at age 32 in a tragic automobile accident in Florida in August of 1971. ... Bill Robinson, who was President of his senior class, was selected King of the Barnum Festival. He also helped pitch BC to the NCAA District I championship and then played in the New York Mets organization. ... Sophomore lineman Bill Lang would go on to make the 1958 New Haven Register All-State squad as a senior center when he co-captained the 7-1-2 team along with John McGourthy. Lang had broken Jim Alexander's shot-put record his freshman season. ... Ed Galemba went on to play at North Dakota where he also became a nationally acclaimed bronco bull rider and rodeo performer. .... Public address announcer Jack Greenspon (Jack Laurence) also deserves special recognition for becoming one of the finest war correspondents/authors of his time for his coverage of the Vietnam War. His accomplishments are noted at the end of this article.
Jim Stark, Tom Catalano and Jim Hellauer organized a reunion of 13 players and 'significant others' in March of 2004 in West Palm Beach, Fla. Stark perfectly summed up the thoughts of the group when he wrote:
Although it had super stars, it was a team in every sense of the word. It had played like a well-oiled machine, every part dependent on the other for its near friction-less function. Its members were as close as any Marine combat platoon or Army Ranger squad. That same cohesiveness has endured and was evident in this gathering 47 years after its success on the gridiron. Judges, lawyers, military leaders, business entrepreneurs, professional athletes, a neurologist and a world-ranked rodeo cowboy ... all credited Fairfield Prep with establishing the discipline, values and foundation for their achievements.
Stark, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound guard, came in from Easton and would have gone to Bassick H.S. in Bridgeport via public transportation if he had not gone to Prep where he was a three-year varsity performer and held the school record in the discus. He played four years of college football, one at Penn and three at North Central State in Naperville, Ind.. He authored his personal history in Two Turning, Two Burning: Memoir of a Naval Aviator. It was about his flying the surveillance P2 plane. During the Cold War tensions of that time, Russian ships were stationed less than 100 miles off the East Coast and were capable of firing cruise missiles at major cities, escaping submerged. The task of the P2 was to find and destroy the Russian subs in the event of war. He also wrote the historical novel "Great Lakes Skipper" that involved his great-great-great grandfather in the early 1800s and many other award-winning short stories as a hobby. He's retired now, but is a serious sailor and marathoner. Stark recalls:
"I never again felt the passion and total dedication that I felt with that '56 team. We were like a pack of Navy Seals, it was do-or-die with no fooling around at all during the season. ... I don't think our first-string defense gave up a point the whole season. ... Joe Sikorski made some spectacular catches and worked some magic with those hands. ... After losing most of the top players from the 8-0 team in 1953, some of us saw plenty of varsity action as sophomores, but we took our lumps and went 3-4 in '54. We used that experience to go 7-1 the following year and returned most of those players that resulted in our continued success in '56 as we won 15 of 16 games those two years."
Merly played a combined four years at quarterback with the JV/varsity and has the unique distinction of never being intercepted. The yearbook described his passing skills by saying: "Larry Merly unleashed an aerial attack never before seen by Prep followers." A native of Bridgeport's East Side, he served as a state representative from the Black Rock section of the Park City. He was Bridgeport's City Attorney during Mayor Tom Bucci's administration and will always be remembered for his lead role in prying loose an insurance fund of more than $1 million to aide in the rescue and recovery efforts after the tragic 16-story L'Ambiance Plaza collapse that claimed the lives of 28 construction workers in April of 1987. It was one of the worst disasters in modern Connecticut history. Merly recalls:
"I had the rare opportunity to have two all-state ends on the same team with Joe Sikorski and junior Dan Combs who became an all-stater his senior year in '57. Although we only passed when we had to it created a lot of problems for our opponents. Most of the time the starters only got to play a half because of the lopsided score. ... Frank Robotti was a bulldozer out of the backfield but was mostly recruited as a linebacker because he was able to get to the ball carrier before anybody else could. He was just as tough as Jack Ringel from '53 to bring down, just one or two guys could not do it. ... Coach Brosley could really motivate the guys. We loved to play for him. A real genuine person. He cared for us and stood up for us. But he made sure we knew the plays and our assignments and would really tear into us if we didn't. To this day I think a lot of the guys still remember those plays. Nothing came in from the sidlines, it was all done in the huddle. ... I was the only one of four brothers that went to Prep, the other three went to Harding. My father was in the construction business and gave me a good lecture about going to Prep. He said it was fine with him and my mother but that I better be serious about it, that I would have to work hard at it and that it wouldn't be easy. I was always able to keep in shape over the summer helping him. Bob Malstrom also worked with us. ... I learned a lot of my football skills by playing sandlot games at places like Yellow Mill Village, Success Park and at Brooklawn Country Club right by the corner of Brooklawn and Capital. Jeff Donahue, Frank Redgate and Kevin Keating played there also and they were going to Prep so that's why I wanted to go there. ... Practices were brutal with a lot of contact. As freshmen we had to scrimmage every day against players like Jack Ringel from the undefeated '53 team and then my sophomore year play against ND-West Haven's Nick Pietrosante, who later starred at the University of Notre Dame and the Detroit Lions. I don't know who was tougher to tackle, either Ringel or Pietrosante, because I did not come close to tackling either one."
Catalano was one of three brothers (Michael '53 and Hugh '60) from the Paradise Green section of Stratford to man the guard position at Prep. While a student at Fairfield University, he was part of a quintet of saxophone players that gained national attention when they appeared on Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour on NBC. While at Fairfield he played semi-pro with the Connecticut Giants out of Went Field in Bridgeport. After graduating, he enlisted as a sailor in the Navy Reserves and during his two-year active duty stint found himself on a ship steaming through 16 days of hurricane conditions to participate in the naval blockade during the Cuban missile crisis. He was also part of the band on the sax for four-star Admiral John Sidney McCain, Jr., whose Naval aviator son, John Sidney McCain III, was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam for five-and-a-half years and later became the U.S. Senator from Arizona and was the GOP presidential hopeful in 2008. Catalano then opted for the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School and served for 21 years, including two-tours of duty in Vietnam, before retiring in July of 1985. Catalano recalls:
"We had a change in coaches from Tom Seymour, who was very calm and deliberate, almost cerebral, to Joe Brosley, who was all emotion. ... It was really an unselfish bunch. If you ask anybody on the team who was the most important player they would all have different answers. ... We did not have to pass very often, but when we did our QB Larry Merly was right on target with his patented jump passes that were very popular at the time. ... It was the first year that the single-guard face mask was standard equipment. Some of us actually complained that we had to use them. I can remember my freshman year using those Jim Thorpe leather-style helmets. ... Although we beat Mt. St. Michael's of New York my junior year, I took a beating on the line from a pretty big and tough kid. It was Vince Promuto, who went on to play at Holy Cross - where he actually recovered six fumbles one game - and 11 years for the Washington Redskins (1960-1970). ... The varsity locker room at McAuliffe Hall was very, very basic, but the coaches told us it was because they didn't want other students to think that were were soft."
Hellauer '57, a 5-foot-10, 182-pound tackle had an older brother Joe ('52) and younger brother Bill ('59) who attended Prep. Serious knee injuries during his first-year of at the U.S. Naval Academy ended his playing days. He graduated from the Academy in 1961 as did his father, Joseph Hellauer, in 1927. Jim served as an officer in the Supply Corps during the Cold War threats of the Soviet Union before he was medically discharged in 1970. Hellauer recalls:
"We lived in Newtown and at times had to hitch-hike the 20-plus miles to get to Prep my first two years until I earned enough money to buy a used car my junior year. It could take a good 90 minutes some days. There was a pretty regular group that would stop and offer a ride. I wanted to play other sports but the time commuting made it impossible with leaving home very early and getting home no earlier than 6:30 p.m. We lived on a main street, but it was still only a dirt road back then. ... Father Eugene Brissette had recently joined the faculty and immediately became an integral part of the coaching staff. He would challenge us to come get him but always ended up knocking us on our rear ends. He loved it and was a real inspiration. ... A few of us decided that we wouldn't wash our practice gear until we lost. You could just imagine what the locker room at McAuliffe Hall smelled like after our undefeated season. ... I was pretty good in English and Algebra, but was really worried about geometry while preparing for the Naval Academy's entrance exam. I was able to achieve the minimum passing grade of 2.5 on that part of the test only because Coach Brosley tutored me. He was a true teacher/coach.
Greenspon '57, who later changed his name to Jack Laurence, went from announcing the play-by-play action from the press box at Alumni Field to become one of the finest war correspondents/journalist/directors of his time for his coverage of the Vietnam War from the 'hotspot' of Hue for CBS when he befriended the iconic newsman Walter Cronkite. Laurence also covered the riots during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. His reporting played a role in Lyndon Banes Johnson not running for re-election in 1968. Laurence authored the 800-plus award-winning book "A Cat from Hue" about his experiences over 22 months in Vietnam, including embedding himself in an Infantry Combat unit Charlie for 30 days. Laurence covered the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in China and also wrote "I'm An American Soldier" about a U.S. Ranger outfit in Iraq.UP NEXT: Coach Joe Brosley's 10-0 state championship team of 1960 co-captained by Ed McCarthy and Bob Fritz (TBA).
THE EARLY YEARS: PART II
"THE CHAMPIONS OF '53"
Written by Alexander "Sandy" Sulzycki, '64
Fast Facts: Coach Thomas Seymour (1952-1955, 4-year overall record 23-7). ... Recorded Prep's first undefeated and untied season with an 8-0 record, outscoring opponents 287-56. ... Although they were called "The Champions of '53" in the 1954 yearbook, Prep was still not eligible for state championship consideration nor its players for all-state honors. Catholic schools did not have their own league championships or all-star teams at the time. Only public schools could be voted for in the state coaches polls ... It was Seymour's second season after taking over from Fella Gintoff in 1952, going 5-2 in his rookie season. ... Joe Brosley once again served as the assistant coach with many players citing his spark and inspiration for their success. Players just did not want to disappoint the enthusiastic Brosley who graduated with honors from Holy Cross while playing football and later with his U.S. Air Force base teams... "Powerful is the only word that can properly describe the undefeated and untied Fairfield Prep gridders," was just one example of how they were described in the local press.
The Results: Defeated Stratford 42-6, Bullard-Havens Tech 33-0, Notre Dame-West Haven 47-0, Boston College High 47-12; All Hallows of New York 20-6, Mt. St Michael's of the Bronx 38-14, at Milford Prep 38-6 and at Stamford 22-12 on Thanksgiving Day. ... The win over Stamford had added significance because it was Prep's first victory in the traditional rivalry. The Black Knights were the No. 1-rated team in the AP state poll at the time and were the eventual state champs. ... The victory over Boston College High was equally impressive as BC went on to win the Massachusetts state championship in their division with the loss at Alumni Field their lone defeat of the season.
Co-Captains: End Mickey Forte and fullback Jack Ringel
In The Backfield: QB Dolph D'Alusia, fullback and punter Jon "Jarring Jack" Ringel, halfbacks Richard "Ziggy" Zysk and Donny "Dynamite" Dew. Ray Franko, John Zuscin and Tony Izzarelli were equally outstanding in the defensive secondary.
On The Line: Ends: Mickey "Rough and Ready" Forte, John Makarczyk. Tackles: Bob Marcoux, Ted Stephanak. Center: Jay Dolan. Guards: Jim Kearns, Larry Laitres. Also making important contributions were the likes of "Big George" DelMastro, "Mugs" Welch, Jay Galla, Mike Catalano, Jack Weiss, Jim Alexander, Rollie Wilson, Henry Hoffman,Tony Izzo, Don Collimore, Jim Lesko, Jim Daley and Art Chagnon.
Placekicker: Prep used the talented toe of Dennis "The Menance" Polllon.
Manager: Bill Lavery
Ringel surely would have made everybody's all-state team as he set a school and regional scoring record with 128 points and was selected to the All-District team for the second time, as was Forte. ... Ringel did receive honorable mention on an All-American team along with 11 other seniors from the state. He holds the distinction of playing four years of varsity football and baseball at Prep. He then played three years of varsity in both sports at Holy Cross despite being slowed by injuries in his last two years. The 1957 Crusaders beat Syracuse while the baseball nine finished third in the 1958 College World Series in Omaha, Neb., with Ringel patrolling the outfield. Prep teammate Ron Liptak was a shortstop on that team. Ringel has been the co-owner, along with his brother Jerry, of Switzer's Pharmacy in Southport for over 40 years. ... Makarczyk (William & Mary) and Forte and Zysk (both at Dayton) also went on to play in college ... Dolan served as the Class Vice-President. ... Players and coaches were honored with a Football Banquet at the Ritz Ballroom in early December. ... D'Aulisa, described as "swivel-hipped" in the yearbook was also a starter for Coach George Bisacca's basketball team, tying a school record with 24 points in a 59-57 win over Stamford that winter. He was the only three-sport athlete on the team with baseball his third sport. ... Jim Roach, a halfback on the 7-0-1 "Miracle Team" of 1949, was an undergraduate student at Fairfield University at the time and saw Prep play several times. He stated that, "Jay Dolan was good a linebacker/center that he had ever seen." Dolan, who was listed as 6-foot and 200 pounds on the roster, was even more impressive off the field, teaching history at the University of Notre Dame for over three decades with his specialty American Catholic history. He has published a number of books in the field while becoming, "The master historian of Catholicism in America and the most influential Catholic historian of the Vatican II generation." Dolan and his late brother, Tom, established the Joseph T. and Margaret R. Dolan Scholarship in honor of their parents with the stipulation that it be awarded to a student from Bridgeport. His father grew up on Bridgeport's East Side and eventually ran Dolan's Corner in downtown Bridgeport and later the landmark Angus Steakhouse at the intersection of Black Rock Turnpike and North Benson Road in Fairfield. ... The 1953 junior varsity team, coached by Allen Sullivan, followed the lead of its varsity counterparts by recording a 6-0-1 record (the first undefeated JV team in school history) good enough for the Junior Varsity District Championship. It was the players from this team that formed the nucleus of the undefeated and untied 8-0 team of 1956. Freshman back Frank Robotti led the scoring with 24 points while Frank Redgate and Harry Riebe tied for second with 18 apiece. The passing of QB Larry Merly to ends Jim Lesko, Henry Hoffman and Joe Sikorski led the aerial attack. The line was anchored by Jim Alexander, Dennis Poillon, Tony Izzo, Don Collimore, Jim Daley and Rollie Wilson.
Jay Dolan, 6-foot, 200-pound center/linebacker
"Prep's Jesuit education was a decisive influence in my life and formed me in ways that are impossible to calculate."
"Notre Dame-West Haven had a highly touted junior back, Nick Pietrosante, from Ansonia. I remember very well that when I went to tackle him he hit me full steam in the gut and we both went down. I lost my breath and was down for a while, but I stayed in the game. I might not remember what I have for breakfast at times, but I'll always remember that hit from Nick Pietrosante from over 60 years ago. Pietrosante went on to play at the University of Notre Dame and in the NFL with the Detroit Lions."
"We had just beaten Stamford on Thanksgiving Day for the first time and our guard, Jim Kearns, was so happy he just sat in the shower with his uniform still on, soaking up the moment. Supposedly Fairfield's Chief of Police let it be known that any post-game celebrating should be done out of town, definitley nothing in town."
"Those traditional games before SRO crowds at Boyle Stadium and a legendary Friday night game at a packed Hedges Stadium against Harding my junior year in 1952 stand out the most. Ringel scored four touchdowns that game and we beat Harding for the first time 45-18. After that they dropped us from their schedule and we did not play them until 1956."
"Jack Ringel and his older brother, Jerry, working behind the soda fountain as youngsters for their father, Herb, at Switzer's Pharmacy. The soda fountain is long gone now, but Jack and Jerry are remarkably still there. Mr. Ringel taped all our games on 16 millimeter film."
"We played Boston College Prep, "Kings of the Mountain" up there. That weekend BC players stayed at homes of our students and two of them stayed at our house. We were not very good hosts however when we handed them a convincing 47-12 loss. Two weeks later we had a tougher time against a much-talked about Mount St. Michael's team of the Bronx. I remember one play especially. They had a big tackle and I hit him with a pretty good shot. I knew that he was going to retaliate so I told the referee that he had been hitting me all game long and to watch out for him. Sure enough he hit me with an illegal shot and the ref hit him with a 15-yard penalty, negating a nice gain."
Jack Ringel, 6-foot-1, 185-pound fullback
"It was a great atmosphere with outstanding coaches and teammates who all got along. I loved the Jesuits. They were great teachers and disciplinarians who did not take any guff."
"Jay Dolan and I flew out of LaGuardia Airport to Indianapolis and then to the University of Indiana on a recruiting trip. It was the first time flying for both of us and I was very scared to say the least while waiting in the terminal to board. I think Jay was also a bit worried, but certainly not as much as I was. But we ended up being shown a good time by Class of '51 grad Bob Skoronski, who was a freshman on the Hoosier line after spending a year of prep school at Admiral Billard Acadermy in New London and who would go on to star with the Green Bay Packers. Skoronski later said that Fella Gintoff was the first real disciplinarian he had as a coach and that Brosley was instrumental in getting him to give football a try."
"I was able to pick up a lot football skills before Prep by playing a lot of sandlot games at the Brooklawn Country Club before we were asked to leave because we were tearing up the fairways."
"I did not miss a game at Prep because of injuries, but always ended up with a bloody nose after every game. Some teams were really out to get me, trying to take me out of the game, but I had a pretty good straight-arm."
"It was the thing to do on Friday nights when we were kids to take the CR&L bus with friends from Fairfield to Hedges Stadium at Harding to watch the games if we had the 75 cents to get in and if the games were not already sold out. I remember reading in the paper that the 1947 Prep-Harding game drew a record crowd of at least 15,000. Harding won 21-0 and were state champs that year. So it meant a lot to us actually playing on that field and beating them for the first time my junior year in 1952. We were dropped from their schedule and did not play them in '53. Harding had enough players to suit up for what seemed like six or seven teams in pre-game warmup formations. We had two and part of a third."
"College coaches from schools like Fordham, Holy Cross and Boston College would come and watch practices. I was considering a few schools like Maryland, North Carolina and Indian, but selected Holy Cross with assistant coach Brosley's blessings."
"Playing two years for Coach Gintoff, who was indeed a disciplinarian, and my last two years for Coach Seymour, who was more soft-spoken and changed us from a single wing to a T-formation. They might have been different in style, but they were both great coaches. Gintoff and Seymour expected the starters to play both ways, but made sure that the subs saw plenty of action and gained valuable game experience."
6-foot-1, 200-pound, junior lineman
"I got hooked on Prep football watching them play as a kid while growing up on Old Town Road in Bridgeport. Halfback John Maiocco from the "Miracle Team" of '49 was my idol. Although I had not met him yet, I loved to read all about him in the paper. The main reason I wanted to go to Prep was athletics and to play football. Sports, sports and more sports. Of course I soon realized what great teachers the Jesuits were."
"Jack Ringel had All-American qualities, very strong with reasonably good speed. We had such an experienced, talented and deep roster at all positions, we probably could have won a lot of games anyway without him, maybe even gone undefeated, but Jack Ringel put us way over the top. We had a veteran team with nine senior starters returning from a very good team that went 5-2 in 1952. Dolph D'Aulisa and Ted Stephanak were the only juniors. Dolph was the fastest runner on the team and I wasn't far behind."
"Besides touchdowns, individual stats for number of carries, total yardage and average per carry were not kept so it would hard to say exactly how many times or how much yardage a player gained but I feel safe in estimating that Ringel must have carried the ball at least 70 percent of the time. He also did most of the passing and that's in addition to exerting a lot of energy playing linebacker. After breaking through the line, he was extremely tough to tackle downfield in the open with opponents hanging on trying to bring him down without any luck. It took more than one or two defenders to do that."
"My specialty was long-snapping on the punts, but we only had to punt three or four times the whole season so I did not see much action there. But I, and the rest of the second team, got to play just as many quarters as the starters since the outcome of most of the games were well in hand by the end of the first half."
"Back then you did not have to come out of the game if you were injured and time had to be called. It seemed that our guard, Larry Laitres, had his shoulder pop out of the joint just about every game, but he did not miss any action. Somebody would put one foot on his helmet and somebody else would grab his shoulder and pop it back in. He'd be right back on the line like nothing happened."
"We had live scrimmages at practice every day except for the day before a game when we worked on special teams. Assistant coach Brosley's favorite saying was a simple but meaningful one: "You have to pay the price to reap the glory."
"We played the Catholic schools on Sunday afternoons and drew crowds of 2,000 to 3,000. Remember there wasn't much competition from NFL games on TV back then. After the games there were parties at our house on Old Town Road or at Donny Dew's in Stratford.
"Just like many other guys on the team, I had to work part-time at a gas station and was expected to contribute to help cover the cost of the $200 tuition. The Jesuits went above and beyond after my senior year. I was awarded a football scholarship to Fordham but the program was cancelled before school started. I was working out at the University of Bridgeport for freshman coach Lou Saccone when Fairfield University called me in and told me that it would honor the scholarship."
Editor's note: Jim Alexander '55 passed away on November 1, 2016.
UPCOMING SCHEDULE: PART III: The 8-0 team of 1956 coached by Joe Brosley with co-captains - fullback/linebacker Frank Robotti and end Joe Sikorski. PART IV: The 10-0 state championship team of 1960 also coached by Brosley with co-captains - end Bob Fritz and quarterback Ed McCarthy. Both TBA.
1949 - "THE MIRACLE TEAM"
Written by Sandy Sulzycki '64
Fast facts: Coached by Fella Gintoff (1946-51, 26-21-4 overall record for six years), it was the first undefeated team in school history (7-0-1). But it was not a given that the team would be as successful as the 5-1-2 squad from the previous season despite the return of nine lettermen. In a preseason preview that ran in the Bridgeport Sunday Herald, Gintoff might have been using the "crying towel" of his coach at Boston College, Frank Leahy, when he said, "We'll be lucky if we win two games. We have some good boys, but we are playing some good teams." Indeed the article also noted that no other district school had lined up as tough a schedule as Prep. Gintoff's charges wasted little time in making its mark as it surprised powerful LaSalle 20-17 in its opener in Rhode Island, breaking the 17-game win streak of the defending New England champions. A relatively new Catholic school served notice that it was on the regional sports scene to stay. Prep was not given much of a chance and was described as a "warm-up opponent" by the Providence papers. Gintoff's teams became well-known for using the vaunted single-wing formation to perfection with some use of the "T". From an unbalanced line the center would snap the ball directly to the tailback, or sometimes the fullback, who would have the option of running, handing off or throwing. The quarterback was considered a blocker. The patented "Prep reverse" proved to be an effective and productive part of Gintoff's offense.
Co-captains: Guard Howie Bodell and QB Ron Habansky
The backfield: Seniors Habansky, John Maiocco, Joe Gromults and Jim Roach. Juniors Fred Judd, Jerry Sarno, Jack Lindsay and Mickey Donahue
The line: Ends: Seniors George "Babe" Risley, Mike Slosek, David "Daisy" Lane, Ed Wallace. Tackles: Seniors Earl "Duke" Lavery, Lenny Riccio, Joe Kaluzynsk. Guards: Bodell, junior Larry Gaboury and Bodell. Center: Senior Charlie Luedee. Juniors Charlie Neverdousky, Phil Hyde, G. Sarsfield Ford and Ed Wallace also helped out on the line. Many of the players were two-way performers.
The Results: After beating LaSalle, Prep followed with wins over Stratford 27-6; Iona Prep 19-0; Harding 13-0; Greenwich 26-14; Xaiver of New York City 27-7; and Ludlowe 34-7 before tying Stamford 6-6.
Of note: Bodell, Maiocco, Kaluzynski, Risley, and Habansky were selected to Prep's All-Decade Football Team from 1942-51 as noted in the 2008 edition of "A Tradition of Excellence" by John W. Szablewicz. Risley earned the distinction of being the only three-sport selection as he was also named to All-Decade teams in baseball (right field) and basketball. Maiocco (basketball guard), Bodell (baseball catcher) were double honorees as well as Judd, Class of 1951, in football and baseball (center field). ... Maiocco, president of his Senior class, made the all-district team in football (winning the district scoring title) and basketball. He received over 20 college football scholarship offers and selected Georgetown.... Maiocco and Ford served concurrently as distinguished Superior Court judges in Bridgeport. ... Lavery also starred as a shot-putter on the track team and in football at Holy Cross before becoming the most successful football coach in Prep history (1965-91, 224-51-8). ... Baseball was Risley's favorite sport and he played a year of basketball and baseball at Holy Cross before signing with the Detroit Tigers, working his way up to their Triple-A team as a third-baseman in the Pacific Coast League. He spent a total of 14 years in the minor leagues. This was quite an accomplishment since there were only 16 major league teams at the time and legendary George Kell had the position secured up in the majors. ... Sarno, a diminutive, but elusive, 5-foot-5, 155-pound speedster as a junior in the backfield, went on to a rather interesting career after Prep when he worked for the U.S. Postal Service while a driver/trainer for harness horse racing for over 30 years, including tracks like Suffolk Downs. ... Roach was the third in his family to attend Prep, two older brothers had already graduated. He was described as Prep's version of Albie Booth on the gridiron and one of the trickiest runners in a flashy backfield. ... Gromults came from Ansonia and was known as a "speed merchant" before an untimely facial injury ended his season while Risley earned the reputation as "glue-fingered". ... Luedee, a native of New Haven, had an outstanding career on the track team and was considered the best half-miler and miler to have graduated from Prep. ... Kaluzynski, who commuted from Milford, was penned "a devastating tackle" who held the Alumni Field discus record. ... Habansky, a Fairfield native, "had no peer as a linebacker."... Gintoff, a math teacher who also coached basketball and baseball, played three years of football under Gil Dobie and Frank Leahy at Boston College. ... It is believed that only about six players of the 27 that appeared in the yearbook team photo are still living.
All-Decade Team from 1942-51: Ends: John McBride ('46), George Risley ('50). Tackles: Joe Kaluzynski, Al Jolson ('46). Guards: Howie Bodell ('50), Phil Lamoureux ('46). Center: Bob Skoronski ('51). Halfbacks: John Maiocco ('50), Bill Scholz ('48). Fullback: Fred Judd ('51) and QB: Ron Habansky ('50). Source: "A Tradition of Excellence". Note: Jolson left school and became the first Prep student to join the Society of Jesus. He served as the Bishop of Iceland but returned frequently to Fairfield.
Signs of the Times:
Prep teams were not eligible for state championship consideration and its players not permitted on all-state teams until the 1956 season. ... Prior to the dedication of Alumni Field in October of 1945, Prep had to play its "home games" at nearby, local fields. Szablewicz noted that many parents and students helped to get the field ready and that "More than occasionally the Jesuits were able to secure 'Jug Labor' to perform minor tasks as picking rocks out of the topsoil. ... Face guards were not standard equipment at the time and it cost Prep in its opener against LaSalle when Gromults, playing in his first varsity game in four years and expected to be one of the main contributors in the backfield, had several teeth knocked out and was lost for the season. Gromults did not become a dentist, but a successful family physician in Stamford for over three decades. ... Players were expected to get to some of the local games like Harding, Bullard-Havens and Ludlowe and get back home on their own. ... It could take over an hour to get home after practices by the time players walked or hitched a ride down North Benson to the Post Road and took a CR&L bus. And then they could start several hours of homework.
G. SARSFIELD FORD
Ford, a junior lineman, was quoted in a Connecticut Post "Where Are They Now" article from Sunday Jan. 23, 1994 about how the team earned "The Miracle Team" distinction. It was also described as the "Wonder Team" in the yearbook. "Prep was just getting started and it was our first undefeated team so that's how the team got its name. Coach Gintoff had us in such good shape and that was the difference. We were able to overpower and outlast the other team. We practiced until it was dark and then ran laps. It was brutal, but it paid off." ... Ford also recalled, "Watching our senior tailback John Maiocco score five touchdowns in a 34-7 win over Ludlowe that season." ...
"When I was a center on the JV team and was snapping to tailback Jack O'Connell in a single-wing formation down on the goal line. It was the last game of the season and he had his first chance to score and that's all he had been thinking about. Well, I snapped it over his head some 30 yards and he missed his big opportunity. To this day he has never let me forget it. A knee injury ended O'Connell's football career, but did not prevent him from becoming one of the all-time basketball greats at Prep and Fairfield University."
Maiocco, who was president of his senior class and was described by the press as "a pugnacious runner", was also quoted in the same "Where Are They Now" article about the '49 team: "Prep teammate Babe Risley was one of the most natural and gifted athletes I ever saw, no matter what sport it was." ... "Fella Gintoff was our coach and he was just as tough in basketball and baseball. He was a taskmaster, no fooling around." ... "Talking to an assistant coach from Fordham about a football scholarship at a Father-Son affair after my junior year. It was my first offer and it came from Vince Lombardi." ... "We used to scrimmage the junior varsity and I was impressed by a lineman named Bob Skoronski, who went on to a great career at Indiana and was the first Prep grad to play pro ball on the highest level with the Green Bay Packers." ... "After we tied Stamford 6-6 on Thanksgiving Day, their coach, Paul Kuczo, came over and presented me with the game ball. I still have it." ..."Georgetown dropping football during spring practice my freshman season. It was a major college program at the time and we were getting ready to play teams like Penn State, Boston College, Holy Cross, Fordham, Maryland and Miami. Certainly I was disappointed, but they still honored my scholarship."
"My parents paying $600 for a four-year Jesuit education. It was well worth it to say the least." ..."Coach Gintoff would have us run laps after a tough practice and the guys who finished last had to bring in the tackling dummies. It turned into a routine for me." ... "Walking over from our home by Beardsley Park to the old Candlelite Stadium on River Street in Bridgeport around 1947 to watch Coach Gintoff play semi-pro football for the Bridgeport Yankees."
Author Don Harrison of Fairfield wrote in the Fairfield Magazine Holiday 2015-2016 issue that was reprinted in the "Prep Today" 2016 Winter Issue quoted the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame lineman as saying: "The head coach, Fella Gintoff, was the first disciplinarian I had as a coach. Joe Brosley, the assistant coach, did well as a head coach later, and we became good friends through the years." Skoronski, born in Ansonia and raised in Derby, was a junior lineman on the junior varsity team in 1949 who dressed for the varsity, but did not play in any games. Brosley was credited with noticing Skoronski prior to his junior season and urging him to give football a shot.
DR. JIM ROACH
Roach, whose son Tim played in the backfield on the 11-0 1977 Class L championship Jesuits, vividly recalls:
"The practices were so hard with plenty of contact that the games were easy. Honestly, at the start of the season we were not very confident about how successful we were going to be and certainly not expecting any "miracles." But we made the most of what we had and surprised everybody, including ourselves." ..."Our line made the difference up front. They enabled us to play that grind-em-out style that fit our talents perfectly. It's funny how things work out at times. A perfect example was when Babe Risley decided to come out for the team his senior year as an end giving us a dangerous passing threat. He and I only played one year of football. We were playing American Legion baseball together so I asked him if he was going to try out for football. He said that he would only try out if I went out. We both did and never regretted it." The Prep yearbook of 1950 pointed out that when the running game stalled, "Roach to Risley" was a touchdown pass play that became famous for its effectiveness. ... "John Maiocco was a tough, strong kid from the Hollow section of Bridgeport, maybe 5-8, 165 pounds tops. Fast enough if you know what I mean." ... "Growing up in Bridgeport's Black Rock section hearing so much about Friday night football games at Harding's Hedges Stadium and then actually winning 13-0 before a crowd of 9,000 will always be remembered. Many of our players also grew up in Bridgeport so we knew a lot of their players as friends. The same was true when we played in-town rival Ludlowe with great players like quarterback Ed Malloy, who played quarterback at Yale. I was the best man at his wedding. They also had Jerry Ringel, brother of Jack Ringel, who starred on the undefeated 8-0 team of 1953." ... "There were not very many face guards back then. Unfortunately, one of our top backs, Joe Gromults, had several teeth knocked out in the opener against LaSalle and was lost for the rest of the season. Junior Fred Judd did a great job in Joe's absence. I don't think that we played one game at full strength because of injuries so the excellent play of the replacements was also one of the big reasons for our success. Some of the other juniors that made key contributions were Sarno and Donahue in the backfield and Hyde, Neverdousky, Slosek, Ford and Gaboury on the line. A lot of guys were expected to play both ways." .... "For most of us getting to and from school meant a lot of walking, hitchhiking and public transportation. I was fortunate in the mornings when a Frisbee Pie truck driver would pick me up on Fairfield Avenue and drop me off at North Benson Road and the Post Road as many as four days a week. At night it could take as much as an hour to get back to Black Rock when a group would walk or hitch a ride back to the Post Road, and then grab a CR&L bus or walk."
Sarno, who arrived late to school many a day because he had to clean his father's restaurant, the Southport Tavern on the Post Road the first thing every morning before going to school, ironically played a key role in preserving the undefeated season when Prep tied Stamford 6-6 on Thanksgiving Day even though he did not play one down.
"Before the game Coach Gintoff seemed very concerned when he wanted to know who had a size 8 low-cut shoe and that it was very important. I was the only one and he told met to trade shoes with Maiocco, who just had one of his shoes crack in half. We switched shoes and John scored our lone touchdown. So I've always said that I played a pivotal role that day although I did not see any action. ... Sarno ironically also had an unusual occurrence his senior year on the 1950 team when the Jesuits played a 13-13 tie at Harding on TDs by Sarno and Judd. "I got a ride to the game from Southport with some teammates. Early in the second half I hurt my ankle but played the rest of the way. Because of the injury I was delayed in hooking up with them after the game. They were in a hurry to get to a party and left without me. My parents had already left so I had to walk across the street on Boston Avenue to catch a bus back to Southport in my uniform with all my equipment. The next day I could not walk on the ankle so my mother took me to Norwalk Hospital where it was diagnosed as a torn ligament. I had to miss the last four games of the season."
At the September 4, 1941 meeting (see earlier entry), Bishop McAuliffe had given his oral permission for the New England Province of the Society of Jesus to establish a secondary school for boys in Bridgeport, Connecticut, whereupon Father Provincial Dolan set out to find a suitable site for the new school.
In a letter to Father Dolan dated September 15, 1941, Bishop McAuliffe put his permission in writing. In his letter, Bishop McAuliffe introduced two important modifications to his permission: (1) he expanded the territory in which the school's location would be allowed to the "Bridgeport area;" and, (2) he requested that the Jesuits establish a college in addition to the planned high school.
The significance of these changes is readily apparent: The expanded area would lead to the new school's establishment in the the town of Fairfield, and the Bishop's request for the addition of a college eventually resulted in the creation of Fairfield University (which would subsequently enroll its first class in the fall of 1947).
Next in the milestones timeline: Mid-October 1941.
The record shows that Father Provincial Dolan was not one to waste time. Less than one week after having finally received the bishop’s permission, Father Dolan began the search, on Wednesday, September 10, 1941. Bishop McAuliffe had given his permission for the Jesuits to open a high school in Bridgeport, so Father Dolan’s initial search was initially limited to that city.
According to Father Charles F. Duffy, S.J.’s account (from Chronicles of Fairfield University):
Fr. Dolan started out on September 10, 1941 to look for available sites for a high school. With Fr. McLaughlin, treasurer of the province, and Fr. Mahoney, superior of the Jesuit Retreat House in South Norwalk, Connecticut, he canvassed Bridgeport. Only two sites in Bridgeport were available at the time, one in the South End and one in the North End. Fr. Mahoney enlisted the aid of Judge Paul Connery and Judge John Flanagan. They looked at “The Chimneys” at Black Rock Point. Someone viewed the Morris estate. Fr. McLaughlin discussed the Morris, Ostrofsky, Seeley, Barnum, and Walker estates with William Connolly, the first assessor of the city of Bridgeport.
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