A history of high school football in the New Jersey counties of Bergen and Passaic from the 1950’s through the present.
Information provided by Pat “PJR” Rice and Kevin Page
Bergen and Passaic counties have a rich history of high school football.
Since 1950, the two counties have been through many changes, especially with the massive growth of suburbia after World War II. In 1950, Bergen County had 30 high schools playing football; today, they have 51. That latter total doesn’t include schools that combined their programs with neighboring schools such as Leonia and Midland Park and it also doesn’t include schools that closed like St. Cecilia’s, St. Luke’s, and Closter. In 1950, Passaic County had 9 high schools playing football; today they have 14. That latter total doesn’t include Pope Pius, Paul VI, and Paterson Catholic – schools that closed.
Many of the schools we’ve become familiar with were not around in 1950: Bergen Catholic, Emerson, Ramapo, Indian Hills, Pascack Valley, Pascack Hills, Wayne Hills, River Dell, Demarest, Old Tappan, St. Joe’s, Paramus Catholic, Glen Rock, Paramus, Bergen Tech, Northern Highlands, Mahwah, West Milford, Lakeland, Passaic Tech, DePaul, Elmwood Park, Saddle Brook, Waldwick, Midland Park, Manchester, Wallington, Cresskill, New Milford, Ridgefield, and Palisades Park. In addition, Don Bosco did not field a football team at that time
From the 1950’s, through most of the 1980’s, the Catholics schools did not dominate like they do today. Bergen Catholic wasn’t open until the latter part of the 1950’s. Don Bosco, while open, stopped playing football until fielding a varsity team in 1958 – the first year both Don Bosco and Bergen Catholic had varsity programs and began their great Thanksgiving rivalry. St. Joe’s had their first varsity season in 1965 and lost to Bergen Catholic, 76-0. Paramus Catholic opened shortly after St. Joe’s. St. Cecilia’s, St. Mary’s, and Queen of Peace had some good teams, but nothing like the Catholic school dominance of today.
This site will have categories, such as:
- School records through the years on a team basis, plus individual player honors such as All-State, All-County, All-League – where available. Each school that fielded teams is featured.
- The league affiliations throughout the years, which has been more important with the massive realignment that happened in 2009.
- State championships and playoffs: playoffs since 1974 and the awarded champions before that with runner-ups wherever available. Mostly includes championships and games involving Bergen and Passaic County teams.
- League Champions.
- All-County listing through the years.
- Bergen and Passaic players named All-State by the Star-Ledger.
- A listing of the Thanksgiving rivalries.
School scoring totals were done as fair as possible. In this age of massive blowouts, we have first teams out by the third quarters, so we’ll never know what might have happened. We’re just doing exactly what happened. It’s not perfect, but it will give you an idea of what happened over the years.
Long, hard work has been done gathering this information for you – I’ve been keeping records since 2000 and Kevin has had records long before that. The information has been gathered from a wide variety of places, much of it from libraries like Johnson Public Library in Hackensack. Other libraries were Clifton, Paterson, Ridgewood, and Paramus. Another source is the Dr. Roger B. Saylor Football Records Collection on the Penn State Alumni web site. There was also the help of others with scores and information. If I mention a few, I’m afraid I may forget someone, but they know who they are and I thank them.
There is information from Kevin Page, a long time record keeper at Bergen Catholic. If you ever went to a Bergen Catholic home game and bought those game programs with all sorts of information – that was courtesy of Kevin. He also contributed all the details for the Bergen Catholic record book, which celebrated the football programs first forty years, back in 1997. The records for Bergen Catholic, NNJIL schools, and DePaul were supplied by him (I guess I can say some of the Big North schools).
His details made me curious about other schools. Therefore, I went researching the past sixty years. This is an informal project I began some time in the year 2000. As I said earlier, this is twelve years in the making and what I found will be on this site. It’s the culmination of hard work and perseverance. Some may say I have no life and they may be right. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it. As I say during football season, “during the season, I have no life and I love every minute of it.”
I hope you enjoy reading these details. Bergen and Passaic counties provided many great memories in high school football and I hope this gives you an idea.
Kevin and I have provided the information, but this is also your site. While gathering this information, I experienced many films with poor print, so it was hard to determine the correct spelling of player’s names or proper numbers. Sometimes names are misspelled – I saw some players being honored three different years with three different spellings. We’ve also tried to make this information as accurate as possible and I’m sure at least 99% is, but there may be a few mistakes. Feel free to make corrections, with some proof. You can send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Pat “PJR” Rice