Journey Beyond the Numbers

Explore the roadmap which has led to the over 340 state, conference, and county championships the Prep has garnered over the past half century and into the rich and unique tradition engrained into the fabric of our programs, as told by inside contributors. 

-Marty Berman, Varsity Soccer Head Coach

Walking through the hallways of Seton Hall Prep is both a humbling and inspiring experience for any aspiring young athlete... One is virtually surrounded by other highly driven and successful young men.
In addition to being renowned for academic excellence, Seton Hall Prep has arguably had more athletic success over its long illustrious history than any other high school in New Jersey. The numbers that support that claim are staggering. The Prep has won 78 State Championships in nine different sports. There have been 107 Essex County titles won in 11 different sports and 152 Conference championships captured in 13 different sports. In addition to all of those, the Pirates have garnered The Star-Ledger Trophy, emblematic of the best team in New Jersey, in five different sports: football, basketball, baseball, hockey and soccer - and each of those sports (as well as track and field) have attained national recognition at various times over the years.

Walking through the hallways of Seton Hall Prep is both a humbling and inspiring experience for any aspiring young athlete. One is virtually surrounded by other highly driven and successful young men. Not only are the various teams perennial contenders for state, county and conference champions, but each year also sees a plethora of athletes attaining All-State honors and countless others on their way to future college careers at the Division I, II or III level in a variety of sports. The packed trophy cases that line the halls document the successes of past teams, and there are also the stories of the individual achievements that inspire.
The marquee sports— football, basketball and baseball— have surely led the way. Four Prep football players have made it to the NFL, headlined by Tony Woods who had a distinguished nine-year career with the Seahawks and Rams. The others were Chet Parlavecchio (Packers and Cardinals), Jarrod Johnson (Steelers and Chargers), and Alex Busby (Redskins). Others who recently came close were Andre Callendar, who played in the Canadian Football League after a stellar career at Boston College, and Alex Wujciak, who starred at Maryland.

Four Prep graduates went on to the NBA, led by Brevin Knight, who led the league in steals and assists during a career that saw him play for nine different teams. The others were Brevin’s brother, Brandin Knight (Rockets), current assistant coach with Pitt; Ira Bowman (76’ers), current assistant coach with UPenn where he was once the Ivy League Player of the Year; and Pep Saul, a standout in the early days of the NBA. In addition, Prep alum Mike Malone is now the coach of the Denver Nuggets.

Baseball has produced three major leaguers, most notably Rick Porcello, the young star of the Boston Red Sox. He was joined in the bigs by Joe Martinez (Giants and Pirates) and Nick Christiani (Reds). Prep baseball has also had several others who narrowly missed making the jump from AAA to the majors, including Eric Duncan, a No. 1 draft choice of the Yankees, and Jeff Miller, who was named All-State in football, basketball and baseball before settling on baseball and reaching the highest rung of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ minor leagues.
There have certainly been other athletes in other sports at Seton Hall Prep who have gained national and international acclaim. Three alumni were Olympians: Clayton Parros and Dorian Scott in track and field and Ron Karnaugh in swimming. Hockey has had two players named Player of the Year in New Jersey, Zach Hatcher and Brandon Doria. Soccer also has had two who attained that honor, Charlie Rowan and Brandon Adler. Adler starred for Providence, taking them to the Final Four, much like John Sampers did when he led Davidson to the NCAA Division I championship game. Another soccer player, C.J. Crooks, has most recently been under contract in the Icelandic first division, while Jon Okafor is in the second level of professional play here in America.

The overwhelming current prominence of Seton Hall Prep athletics comes as no surprise when one realizes the tremendous history of sports at the school. That history began shortly after the school’s founding in 1856. As early as 1863 a baseball game against a Jersey City club team was recorded. By the 1890’s football was a regular fixture, and shortly after the turn of the century crowds of 10,000 were attending the Thanksgiving game. The 1920s saw basketball and track become major additions to the sports scene. Pep rallies, fully replete with bonfires, were common occurrences with one even taking place after the indoor track team set a world record in 1926. The track team was a nationally recognized power for many years to follow, winning titles at the prestigious Millrose Games, Penn Relays and National AAU meets.
State championships came in abundance after World War II, especially for baseball which won 15 in a 17-year period from 1948 to 1964 (including 10 in a row from ‘48 to ‘57). That was a precursor to the team’s current success: included in baseball’s 24 state titles are championships in 2001, 2003 and three straight from 2005 to 2007 (including Star-Ledger Trophies in each of those years).

Streaks of athletic dominance have become common through the years and is no different now. In addition to the state championships, baseball has currently won 10 straight conference titles (the last five of the Iron Hills Conference and the first five of the Super Essex Conference). In the Essex County Tournament (also know as the GNT, or Greater Newark Tournament) there have been 11 championships since 1997. Basketball captured 11 state titles from 1991 to 2007 (including five in a row from 1996 to 2000), 12 ECT championships from 1996 to the present (including five in a row from ‘96 to ‘00), and a whopping 24 conference titles in 25 years (including the last 19 in the Iron Hills Conference and five of the first six in the SEC). Of course, the two Tournament of Champions conquests in 1999 and 2005 stand out even more.

Seton Hall Prep has also ruled Essex County recently for extended periods in swimming, golf, soccer and lacrosse. The Swim team has won the last 18 county titles dating back to 1998 and 17 straight conference crowns (the last 11 in the IHC and the first six in the SEC). Golf has won 15 of the last 22 ECT titles and 18 of 26 at the conference level. Soccer won three straight ECT championships (‘09 - ‘11) and 10 out of the last 14 conference crowns. Lacrosse is a budding dynasty at the county level having captured the past three championships.
Of course, this doesn’t happen without a lot of hard work and preparation put in by a cavalcade of very good athletes and outstanding coaches. Scrolling through the histories of each individual sport here at The Prep, one comes across many legendary names, especially in the coaching ranks. Finn Tracey won 505 basketball games and also coached the baseball team during that period of early excellence (‘48 - ‘64). Bob Farrell succeeded Tracey and totalled 777 victories before retiring in 2011. Mike Sheppard, Jr. is well on his way to surpassing that mark, having racked up 690 baseball wins thus far. Synonymous with Seton Hall Prep and athletic success was Tony Verducci. In 1971 Coach Verducci’s baseball team won the Greater Newark Tournament and State Parochial A titles on consecutive days, but he is, of course, more renowned for his gridiron coaching. From 1955 to 1987 Coach Verducci’s football teams went 213-76-16 and captured 11 Parochial A state crowns. Known for their defensive prowess, his teams posted 104 shutouts, including a state record 10 in 1977, the year they allowed only six points all season.

Each sport here at The Prep has had its successes and legendary coaches and athletes. That tradition of excellence continues to this day as evidenced by the current championship form being displayed by so many different athletic teams at the conference, county and state levels.