Time to get through the fall ’75 sports season. The football team was off to a 1-1 start, having lost to Westfield 7-0 and defeating Berkeley Heights 27-0.
In the third contest, Summit defeated Caldwell 29-0 as safety Spencer Woodbury starred on defense with an interception and numerous hits, including a tackle for a safety. Running back Kevin Phelan had 63- and 67-yard TD runs, Chris Teare ran 9 yards for a score on a bootleg, and Terry Mahoney had a TD run.
In the fourth game, Summit ran its record to 3-1 with a 20-7 win over Verona with Mike Horn scoring twice on the ground and Mike Westbrook recovering a fumble for a touchdown.
Game five saw the Hilltoppers lose to Madison, 14-6. Teare scored on a run to cut the lead to 7-6 with a little over four minutes to go in the game, but coach Howie Anderson went for two rather than the tie. Madison stopped it and then went on to score for the clincher.
Next up, West Orange, and Summit rolled up 496 yards in offense in a 48-0 victory, moving the record to 4-2, 3-1 in the conference. Terry Mahoney had two touchdown runs, Kevin Kline scored from 15 out, Mike Horn ripped off a 51-yard run, and Kevin Phelan had a TD reception. Chris Teare was 7 of 9 passing for 128 yards and even backup Bruce Graham had a TD pass.
Summit then beat Springfield 35-6, details of which were sparse, and then Millburn, 16-0, behind Phelan’s 159 yards rushing and another 88 on 16 carries by fullback Andy Nestler. The Hilltoppers moved to 6-2 and earned a Group 3 playoff berth, but lost to top-seeded Morris Hill, 28-20.
Finally, Summit finished the year on Thanksgiving Day against rival New Providence and lost 15-6, the only score coming on a 54-yard Mike Horn TD run, so we finished up the year 6-4; on paper an ever so slight improvement over the prior year’s 5-4, but all were in agreement that this was a superior team to the ’74 edition. The New Providence margin of 9 points was the biggest of our four defeats.
On to soccer. After winning the school’s first Group 3 title the previous fall, no one expected the ’75 team to really go anywhere but after the first ten games, Summit was 8-0-2 and had yielded just one goal with Jeff Williams as the keeper, helped by a sterling defense anchored by George Ross, Tom Evers, Steve Corradi and Tom Ceto.
But then Summit slumped at the worst possible time, losing 3-1 to evental Suburban Conference champ Caldwell, 1-0 to perennial state title contender Berkeley Heights, and tying Madison 0-0, while defeating West Orange 2-0 on goals by Tony Ehinger and Rob Steele. But in the Madison tie, Ehinger scored, the whole team thought it was good, but an official ruled offsides, which pretty much summed up the final weeks of the season. Summit lost to Clark in the Union County tourney but in a regular season finale, Eric Dagradi, who was Williams’ backup in goal, was inserted at right wing and scored all three goals in a 3-2 win over Springfield. Summit finished up 10-3-3 and second in the conference. A good year, just nothing like the one before.
[George Ross was named first-team All Union County, as well as first-team Suburban Conference. In the paper it said he intended to focus on the “ecology and forestry” in college. He is doing neither today.]
As for the cross-country team, we kicked butt, going undefeated in conference, as well as winning the conference meet itself. We didn’t have a superstar runner like some of the other teams, but we had superior depth, led by Wolfgang Name, Jeff Newell and Paul Reich. Following this trio other big contributors were Woody Cornog, Tim McMahon, Mario Finis, and Jim Gibbons. Even your editor managed to finish in the top ten a few times.
But there were other big Summit-related sports stories during this period. Kathy Heddy made national news in winning four gold medals at the Pan-Am Games as she geared up for the Olympics the following summer. Heddy won the 200- and 400-IM, the 400 free, and was on the 400 free relay team.
Meanwhile, former Summit football great Tom Odell was starring in the defensive backfield for Penn State. The Nittany Lions were 6-1 when the Herald had an article on Odell who had had a number of fumble recoveries and four interceptions at that point in the season.
And then in December, following a disastrous 2-20 season, the basketball team began a new year with a big upset of Livingston, 73-66, as Dave Poole led a balanced attack with 20 points, John Merchant and Dave Connolly had 15 apiece, and Dave Dixon 10.
Summit followed this up with an 83-61 loss to highly-touted Roselle, though Poole tickled the twine for 30, and then the Hilltoppers bounced back to destroy Mountain Lakes, 69-40, as Poole had 24 and sophomore Dixon 22. So after three games they had already matched their win total of the prior year. Others on the team were Alex Colton, Bob Kimbrough, Chris Teare, Terry Mahoney, Tim Odell, Rich Boyd, Larry Rose, Kevin Phelan and “Smooooth,” Frank Husek.
In other news, remember the mini-bus? A response to the energy crises of the mid-70s, this would largely run between the New Providence and Summit train stations, with stops along roads such as Ashland. Each ride was 50 cents and the schedule was extensive, like every 20 minutes, six days a week. Needless to say it would prove to be a money-losing boondoggle.
Summit Republicans won local elections for a 54th consecutive year. City employees were getting a 6% raise for 1976, after seeing an 11% increase for ’75. Yes, the inflation picture was a little different back in the day.
Cumberland Farms was robbed for a third time in ’75.
Classmate Suzanne Ruebel joined the Naval Reserve.
And among the movies playing at The Strand this fall were “Benji,” “The Night Caller,” and “The Other Side of the Mountain.”
Next update around Feb. 2.