Members of the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame are those that have made a lasting impact on the school’s sports program as either student players, coaches, or supporters. Often the student players have continued to influence their chosen sports after high school by ongoing participation in athletics.
Roger Sweeney, 2012 Inductee
Growing up in the town of Ewing, New Jersey, Roger Sweeney attended and graduated from Trenton Central High School with the class of 1948. An outstanding athlete, Roger played both varsity football and baseball for the Red and Black. A two way player in high school football, Roger was a down lineman playing a guard position on the offensive side of the ball and an inside linebacker on defense. A steady infielder playing third base and shortstop on the baseball team, Roger hit for an average over .300 in each of his high school seasons.
Before moving on to college, Roger did a year of post graduate work at Pennington Preparatory School in Pennington, New Jersey in 1948-49 where he was also a member of their varsity football and baseball teams. He was a center linebacker on the football team and starting shortstop on the baseball team, again having a .300 plus batting average at the end of his prep playing experience.
Roger enrolled at Trenton State College (Now The College of New Jersey) in the fall of 1949. After his sophomore year in 1951 Roger was called to active duty for two years as a member of the United States Air Force National Guard.
In 1949 through 1951 Roger started on both the varsity football and baseball teams at Trenten State. In football he was playing at the onset of the new thinking towards platooning players. On some occasions he would play on both sides of the ball as a down offensive lineman and interior linebacker, but when platooning was in effect he stayed on the defensive side specializing as a defensive interior linebacker.
In baseball Roger was the starting right fielder on his college team and stayed in that position for the duration of his collegiate career.
Upon returning from the service Roger also returned to Trenton State to continue his education and varsity athletic career playing both football and baseball again.
Roger was a lifetime .300 hitter at the collegiate level hitting .320 his junior year and .345 his senior season. He recalls one outstanding 6 for 6 day at East Stoudsburg University adding “days like that can do wonders for your batting average.”
Roger was the winner of the prestigious “Emonds Award” from Trenton State in 1954 designating him as the outstanding athlete for his class.
Upon graduation from Trenton State in the spring of that same year, Roger took a position for the fall as an elementary school physical education teacher in Wanaque, New Jersey. It was a job he would hold until his arrival at Ridgewood High school in the fall of 1957. Upon arriving at RHS, Roger began his teaching career in the health and physical education department as well as becoming an assitant varsity football coach under the tutelage of legendary Head Football Coach Frank Mozeleski (RHS HOF inductee class of 2006). Roger remained in his assistants position until the fall of 1959 when he was appointed the new Head Football Coach at Ridgewood High School
“So many memories,” Roger Sweeney said mentally recapping his 17-year career (1959 to 1975) as a winning football coach, the hand-picked successor to the late legendary Frank Mozeleski. Among his fondest are of his first sophomore team (6-0) led by Eddy Collins and Butch Heatherington, and in 1966, snapping highly regarded Fair Lawn’s 19-game winning streak sparked by the passing of Cliff Hendry to George Lewis on a memorable Thanksgiving Day. It was one of four instances when Sweeney’s Maroons stunned highly favored opponents, ending long winning streaks.
Quarterback Jeff Lockhart succinctly summed up Sweeney’s philosophy while accepting the Jack Stroker Award from the Junior Football Association a couple of decades ago: “It’s been great playing football here because Mr. Sweeney makes playing football fun,” Lockhart said. It should still be fun at the high school level.
Roger, who taught at Ridgewood High School for 34 years, truly cared for his kids. Caring was his inspiration to his football players. But he refused to take credit for motivating them. “The players psyched themselves,” he would say. “It boils down to being able to execute what you have to do.” He told them “they had to do on the practice field what they were going to do on Saturday.”
Lockhart, who became a doctor, shared quarterback duties on the 1972 squad that lost only to Hackensack in eight outings, 14-13, and captured the school’s first NNJIL Title. The 1960 team featured All-County guard, Tom Dusel, and end Mike Henderson and earned Ridgewood’s first Group 4 State crown. In 1969 in its first foray into rugged Hudson County football, Ridgewood snipped North Bergen’s 21-game skein.
A cerebral coach, Roger at first walked in Mozeleski’s shadow. Then he carved his own niche in the annals of Bergen County football compiling a 91-56-4 record, including a 39-14 stretch 1970-75.He eschewed going for the nine wins he needed for membership in Bergen County’s prestigious Century Club. His son Peter was coming up and Roger didn’t think the boy needed his father for a coach. Roger taught him to placekick and Peter entered the school’s record book in that specialty under Dave Vanderbush.
John Marshall, Jim Bruni, Mark Romeo, Jean Hughes, Chris Van Note, Nancy Hogan, RHS Football Team 1913, Don Taylor, Rachel Grygiel, John Cerf, Paul Tornatore, Michele Marangi, RHS Boys’ Lacrosse 1990-92
Craig Halyard, Tom Flatt, Tricia Pappalardo, Mike Henderson, Kandie Latham, Leigh Jester, Tom Dusel, Roger Sweeney, Linda Zabielski, Patty Capasso, Dennis Sullivan, Nick & Dottie Capasso, Track and Field (Bain-Daley-Oliver Era)
Kitty Batterson, Henry Blauvelt, Frank L. Bradley, Jr., Lucia Cancelmo, Chris DuFlocq, Renee DuFlon, RHS Girls’ Basketball 1922-1923, Harry Grundy, Jim Jones, Joe LeMay, Jen McDermott, Shannon McGarrigle, Tony Napier, Margaret Niemann, Vince Robertiello (Jamie Roberts), Damian Ross, Mike Springer
Paul Arrigoni, Pete Campbell, Doug Cook, Becky Deetz, Otis Grendler, Jodi Hartwig, Gene Links, Debbie O’Connell, Aimee McGuire, Walt Perdue, Tom Simos, Kazbek Tambi, Jack Van Yperen, Bob Whitaker, Margaret Scutro