Football Tradition

Seton Hall Prep’s football team was The Prep’s first sport program to become independent of Seton Hall College after the 1907 season. Often referred to as “The Olympians,” the football program was replaced by rugby before returning to football by the 1912-1913 season for good. By playing larger and better teams, The Prep inevitably laid a foundation for their powerhouse that would emerge in the 1920s.
Led by baseball and football coach Jack Fish, the 1925-1926 football team was hard to beat. They went 7-1 and outscored opponents 240-11 in their first seven games, before losing their final game to St. Benedicts and setting up dramatic events for the following season. In their 1926 season, The Prep beat St. Benedict’s 26-0 for the first time in 20 years on their way to their first ever championship: The Catholic Prep School Championship. Jack O’Shea was a standout player and was acknowledged in the Jersey Journal for leading the entire state in scoring while also being a fine pitcher for the school’s baseball team.

The Fall of 1946 brought a new Headmaster to The Prep when Rev. William J. Duffy, who had served as Assistant Headmaster for seven years, was promoted to the top job. Changes were substantial: The Prep no longer allowed post graduates to participate in any interscholastic sport, and enrollment had reached an unheard of 1,300 students (460 students only seven years prior). With only two veteran players returning, the sport which faced the most upheaval and had the furthest to go was football. Vic DeFillipo, head of the College Physical Education Department, was appointed head coach before being taken over by former Detroit Lion’s player Larry Sartori in 1948. Sartori brought in backfield’s coach Anthony J. Verducci in 1950, a 26-year-old graduate of The University of Pittsburgh. Verducci would take over after Sartori left in 1954, and the football program would take off.

 Verducci led the 1955-1956 team to Parochial A State Champions after a 7-1-1 record, outscoring their opponents 189-19 led by quarterbacks Connie Egan and Ronny Rallo. After a couple rebuilding years led by quarterback Michael Kelly, the 1961 team won the North Jersey Parochial A Title, doing so again in the 1963-1964 season. After consecutive losing seasons in 1967 and 1968, the only two losing seasons of the decade, The Prep bounced back in 69’ to go 5-3-1 and win the NJSIAA Parochial A crown. A true dynasty would begin in the 70s, as Verducci would dominate for nearly two decades.

The Prep won the Parochial A North State Title with a 7-0-1 record in 1970, and then won the Parochial A State Championship in 1974-1975. In 1976-1977, The Prep went 11-0 for the first time in school history. Eight wins were shutouts, including a state championship victory over St. Joe’s of West New York to win their seventh state championship since 1946. The dynasty would continue the following year, as The Prep went 10-0-1 and won the Parochial A Title, thanks in large part to MVP Chet Parlevecchio. In a season where they put up 10 shutouts (state record), including a 15-0 shutout over Bergen Catholic in the state championship, The Prep outscored opponents 290-6. The following year, The Prep concluded a third-consecutive undefeated season that included not only another state championship, but Verducci’s 150th win (38 straight wins). Offnesive standout John Merklinger’s broke more records than many knew existed.

In 1981-1982, The Prep went 11-0 and won the Parochial A Title, outscoring opponents 294-45. Stanley (Tony) Woods, Pete Reavey and Tip Spina were All-State standouts in The Prep’s final season with 28-year assistant Pete Calcagno and 21-year SHP/SHU trainer, who both retired after that year.

Seton Hall joined the Iron Hills Conference in 1982, and would win it in their 1984-1985 season. The 1985-1986 season would mark another milestone for coach Verducci when The Prep’s 22-0 win over Columbia gave the legendary coach his 200th win. They went 9-0-2 that year, winning both the Iron Hills Conference and the State Parochial A Championship. Verducci would retire after the 1987-1988 season with a 214-75-16 record that included 104 shutouts, seven undefeated seasons, and 11 NJSIAA State Championships.

Since Verducci, The Prep saw coaches John Allen, Frank Bender, Eric Gobble and John Finnegan. Their best season since 1985 came under Bender (class of 69’) in 1997-1998, when they went 10-1, losing only to St. Joe’s of Montvale in the Parochial A Title game. In 2005, The Prep was led by Alex Wujciak and Pete During in a season where they started 0-2 before rattling off eight straight wins on their way to losing the state championship game to Don Bosco. The current head coach is William Fitzgerald, who took the helm in 2018.

The Prep’s football history boasts 12 NJSIAA Parochial “A” North Championships (1949, 55’, 61’, 62’, 64’, 69’, 74’, 76-78’, 81’ and 85’), seven Iron Hills Conference, Iron Division Titles (1984, 85’, 97’, 2000, 01’, 04’ and 06’), and three Super Essex Conference, American Division Titles (2009-10, 2015). Former Prep players who reached the NFL level include Jarrod Johnson, Chet Parlavecchio, Stanley “Tony” Woods, Alex Buzbee, Connor Wujciak, and Kevin Monangai.