The proud tradition of Wayne Valley footballing is usually on display in early September, when the team holds its annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony at the preseason banquet.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 season is far from typical. Most off-field plans have been put on hold. The start date for what will now be a regular six-week season has since been moved to the beginning of October. The Hall of Fame award ceremony is unfortunately one of the preseason victims due to COVID. However, that does not mean that there will be no Hall of Fame class in 2020.
One reason is that one of the honorees, the undefeated 1970 State Championship team, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of that achievement.
We’ve had seven State Section champions here (before last year) and six of those teams went unbeaten, said head coach Roger Kotlarz. It has always been my intention to introduce those teams to a milestone anniversary. What the 1970 team accomplished was incredible. They deserve to be dedicated on their 50th birthday.
The individual inductees are Steve Christensen (1965-1967), Gary Schiano (1978-1980), Dan Martin (1987-1989) and Remo Fioranelli (2003-2005).
All are considered 2020 inductees. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we won’t be able to hold the ceremony until 2021, Kotlarz said.
The 1970 team follows the 1967 and 1968 teams that were also inaugurated on their 50th anniversary. The 1984 championship team was inaugurated on its 30th anniversary.
The 1970 team beat the opponents by more than 200 points throughout the season. Only three games were close that season: Wayne Valley 21, Hackensack 19; Wayne Valley 15, Ridgewood 13; and Wayne Valley 12, Passaic Valley 7 on Thanksgiving.
I spoke to some of the guys on the 1970 team earlier this summer, Kotlarz said. When those seniors were freshmen and sophomores, Wayne Valley went 9-0 both years. The 1970s seniors made it their goal to go 36-0. That didn’t happen because when they were juniors (1969) the team went (4-5). Most of those guys consider that a blessing in disguise. It motivated them to bring the program back to where it was when they were still under class.
They put a lot of pressure on themselves. To remain unbeaten in the NNJIL was a very ambitious goal. They achieved it with an impressive overall profit margin. They set the bar high and lived it.
Christensen was a senior running back and defensive back in the first undefeated team (1967). As a sophomore and junior, he helped lead Wayne Valley to 7-1-1 and 8-1 records respectively. He was the first on the team at interceptions and a leading tackler in his senior year. He went on to play for the University of Miami.
The three teams Steve played on laid the foundation for all those championships and all the successes that came later, Kotlarz said. Those teams had exceptionally hasty attacks, and Steve was one of the go-to guys in his junior and senior years. He was also very good at defense. Teams didn’t like throwing the ball anywhere near him.
Schiano was a two-way lineman from 1978 to 1980. He was the best tackler on the team as a junior and senior and was a key blocker for a hasty attack that generated over 1,500 yards in both years. He went on to play for the University of Minnesota, where he started as a junior and senior. His name may sound familiar to many New Jersey football fans. His cousin is Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano, a graduate of Ramapo High School.
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Coach (Bob) Bishop was an assistant at the time. He’s excited about that 1980 team, says Kotlarz. They were only .500 (4-4-1), but they played in the NNJIL, which was then in its heyday. All four of their losses came from a touchdown or less. Coach Bishop thinks the team was just as good as any of the championship teams that followed in the 1980s and early 1990s. Gary was a big part of that team, up front, on both sides of the ball.
Martin, a two-way lineman from 1987 to 1989, unfortunately enters the Hall of Fame posthumously. He died on May 16 of complications from COVID-19. He was an offensive tackle for a hasty attack that delivered over 1,500 yards and a passing attack that generated 1,700 for both years. Those two teams went 10-0-1 and 9-2 respectively, winning the State Division title both years. Martin was also a leading tackler as a junior and senior.
Dan was an integral part of two championship teams, Kotlarz said. I spoke to John Klosek (former Martins teammate and a Wayne Valley Football Hall of Famer) earlier this summer about Dan. He told me every time they ran Dan’s side it was a big win.
That 1988 team was seniors. John and Dan were the only two juniors to attack. In 1989 it sounded like expectations were a bit low because they had lost so much on graduation. The team ignored those expectations and won another championship. Dan was a big reason.
Jack Martin, the father of Dans, has similar memories of the Wayne Valley team at the time.
I see Dan moving to the right, towards the Wayne Valley bleachers with John running after him, that’s something that will be forever etched in my head, said Jack Martin. We all wish he were here to enjoy this (the Hall of Fame induction). At the same time, being recognized in this way by his high school team means a lot to his family and friends.
Fioranelli was a three-year starting two-way lineman from 2003 to 2005. He led the team in tackles as a junior and senior. After starting as a tight ending as a sophomore, he switched to offensive tackle as a junior and senior. He was known as a punitive run blocker and pass protector. He went to play with Rutgers for four years. A former Wayne PAL football coach, he is well known among more recent Wayne Valley players.
Remo had a great career here, Kotlarz said. I was coaching elsewhere in North Jersey at the time. I always remember reading about him. Before Remo arrived in Wayne Valley, the team was in a transition period as they had gone through three coaches in three years. In Remos’s senior year (2005), Wayne Valley was back (9-2) and was a major. reason why. Wayne Valley then went for a nice run. The 2005 team got off to a flying start.
The date of the Hall of Fame banquet in 2021 has not yet been announced. Appoint a former player, coach or team for future consideration, email: [email protected]
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