On September 13th, 2013, the 1947-48 Montclair State football team reunited on campus. They were the first undefeated team in Montclair State history. The group gathered together in the Peter Altieri Hall of Fame Room in the Panzer Athletic Center and renewed acquaintances.
John Howarth ’50 ’58 MA and his wife, Agnes Doran Howarth ’51; Frank Brunetto ’51 and his wife, Rose; Bob Lummer ’51 and his wife, Lois; Bill Todt ’49 ’53 MA and his wife, Eli Hahn Todt ’51; Joe Delaney ’51 ’57 MA; and Bernie Rydell Weiss, wife of the late Nathan Weiss ’48, attended the reunion.
“While each year, everyone gets older,” Bernie wrote to Deborah Corasio in Alumni Relations after the event, “the spark that made them a football team to be honored is still there.”
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 following year, Montclair State put together a season for the ages – the first undefeated season in school history.
The Montclair State 1947-48 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.
Eight members of that 1947-48 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 1947-48 season, 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.
The current football team, accompanied by Coach Giancola, came to the reunion to meet the former players. They gave the members of the 1947-48 team Red Hawk practice jerseys. The former team members then presented Coach Giancola with their gift to the team, a check for $1,600.
“ All of us would also like to thank Montclair State University for their most kind hospitality , and thank those members of the Montclair State family who join us in our celebrating the formidable accomplishments of the undefeated and untied football team of 1947,” Joe Delaney wrote. “It is nice to know that even after 67 years, Montclair State has not forgotten us. We are proud to be part of the tradition of one of the finest institutions of higher learning in the USA.”
To see more photos from this event, check out the photo gallery on MONTCLAIRconnect.