The first undefeated team in Montclair State history reunited on September 20 as several members of the 1947 football team gathered at Pals Cabin in West Orange. The group gathered together and renewed acquaintances.
For three seasons in the 1940s, the football field at Montclair State College was silent. World War II had forced the discontinuation of all intercollegiate athletic competition as athletes and coaches served their patriotic duty.
In the fall of 1946, the games resumed as legendary two-sport coach Alden C. Coder took over the football program. That first season, Montclair State went 2-4.
The next year, Montclair put together a season for the ages – the first undefeated season in school history. On Saturday at halftime of the Red Hawks' contest with Buffalo State at Sprague Field, the University and the football program will honor the members of this truly outstanding team on the 64th anniversary of their accomplishment.
The Montclair State 1947 football season began with three straight “payback” contests as Montclair avenged a loss to Hofstra the previous year with a 12-7 victory over the Dutchmen. Kutztown State was next on the schedule and the Indians returned the favor for a 20-0 loss in 1946, shutting out the Golden Bears 7-0. Off to a 2-0 start, Montclair made it three in a row posting its second consecutive shutout as they downed Central Connecticut by the identical 7-0 score.
Montclair State then won local bragging rights for the second straight year against Panzer College, 13-0 making it three straight shutouts, something that would happen twice previous and only two more times in the history of the program.
Arnold College, which later merged with the University of Bridgeport, provided Montclair with its toughest test of the season in Game No. 5, however the undefeated season remained intact with a 7-6 win. With only in-state rival Trenton State standing in the way of perfection, Montclair put the exclamation point on its record-setting campaign, rolling past the Lions 29-7 to finish 6-0.
Montclair allowed a mere 20 points that season as only the 1934 team allowed less points in a season. Lee Walsky, one of the charter members of the Athletics Hall of Fame, led the team with three touchdowns while Ted Bland and Leonard Sobo each scored twice.
Eight members of that 1947 squad are members of the Hall of Fame – Lee Walsky, Bert Palmeri, Gene Stempler, John Howarth, Al Gifford, Ted Bland, and Nathan Weiss. Head coach Alden C. Coder was also inducted in 1974.
Since that magical season of 1947, only five other Montclair State teams have recorded undefeated seasons with three coming in football – 1960, 1964 and 1982. The cross country team in 1971 and men’s lacrosse team (15-0) in 1989 also registered perfect seasons.