In the era of the “leather head” and the invention of the forward pass, there were few football teams in New Jersey that could match the ability of the Ridgewood gridiron standouts of 1913. Their story would become a legend amongst sports fans who followed the Maroons in those days and beyond. The newspapers called them “Ridgewood’s Invincibles” and over the last century their story has been lost, but was brought to light again through coincidence, when the RHS gridiron squad of 2013 suffered almost to the day, 100 years later, the same fate as the stalwarts who in 1913 put on their pads and battled courageously for the glory and honor of Ridgewood High!
“The Arrow” Fall quarterly for 1913 (published in the end of October) reported on the team. ”Two hundred and six points! Just think of it! That is the total score which our record breaking football squad has rolled up in nine games already played. And better still they have won every game. Best of all they have not allowed an opponent to gain one single point. Considering we have played no teams which have been lighter in average weight, this is remarkable. Our team averages 144lbs. to a man. This is very light compared with other elevens. Whatever disadvantage we have suffered by lightness in weight has been more than counterbalanced by excellent team work, fast playing, and fearless line-bucking.”
It was reported in the Ridgewood Herald, “that the secret to the team’s success beyond their fast playing and excellent team work had been a volunteer coach, Mr. G. Foster Sanford , a Yale coach, who assisted the team during the first part of the season. Mr. Elson coached the team during the entire season. The structure of athletics during the period was very student oriented. The administration of the teams were put into the student managers hands and often times there would be a student coach or adult volunteer in charge. The managers would set the schedule for the team, usually a year in advance, and administer to the financial aspects involved with the running of the program. The athletic association at the time had adult season passes for sale for fifty cents and volunteer students would solicit the sales to support the team. Home games were scheduled on Saturdays and unlike today a second midweek game, usually scheduled away in Ridgewood’s instance, would be played. The Arrow reported that: “Early in September at the first practice, over forty candidates contested for places on the first team. The number was diminished by careful selection as the time for the opening game approached. Only those who possessed the best physical development and showed endurance to stand the strain and endured to the end, made the team.” The football schedule for 1913 included eleven scheduled games beginning with a home opener vs. Bloomfield on October 4. It was reported that “a big crowd gathered on our new athletic grounds (the current East Ridgewood Avenue site) to witness what proved to be a very close contest. “The Bloomfield team was evenly matched with our boys in weight, but was unequal to the fast rushes of the back field.” In the last quarter, Feeney (Parnell Feeney, Left Halfback), “after making large gains up the field rushed the ball over the line for a touch-down.” The score, Ridgewood 6, Bloomfield 0. That would be the start of a glorious run of ten straight victories including two over college units from Phi Kappa Sigma of Columbia University 6-0 and St. Francis College of Brooklyn 32-0. The team would defeat Belleville 24-0, Ridgefield Park 45-0, Paterson twice 12-0 and 25-0 and Bloomfield a second time 20-0. A game against Stuyvesant (Jersey City) on October 25 was cancelled due to heavy rain. Victory versus St. Benedicts of Newark 35-0 and Hackensack 20-0 took the team to the brink of the Northern New Jersey championship. A championship game scheduled between Ridgewood and Rutherford, two high school juggernauts, would determine who would be the number one team that year.
Like the 2013 football team who lost their North 1 state championship bid to Montclair early in December 2013 by the score of 33-0, so did the amazing team of 1913 one hundred years earlier, succumbing by the same score of 33-0! Disappointment was evident and many felt that if team captain Earle Hopper were able to play (he suffered a leg injury falling down stairs a few days before the game) and if they could have had their regular line up available (evidently some of the other regulars were also missing) RHS would have easily beaten the Rutherford eleven at Rutherford’s grounds November 22.
Ridgewood would play its final game of the season against the RHS alumni November 27. Playing to a 0-0 tie, the team finished their amazing campaign 10-1-1, scoring 226 points while only giving up 33 with 11 shutouts.
The names of the stars of the time were Earle Hopper (Capt) Fullback, Peter Pagano Left End, William Runk Quarterback and the afore mentioned Parnell Feeney at Left Halfback. The rest of the starting lineup included Peter Westerhoff at Left Tackle, James Hubbard at Left Guard, Stanley Todd Center, Edgar Knowlton Right Guard, June Paul Right Tackle, Benjamin Sloat Right End and Lovett Keyser Right Halfback. Substitutes were Williams, Edgar Knowlton, Benjamin Sloat, John McKensie , Lorne Waddell, Harold Wandless and William McCready. Harold Cheel and Stan Wardell were the team managers.
As quoted in the Ridgewood Herald, “A better record than this has never been attained by a high school team of Ridgewood.” For setting the standard of play as Ridgewood’s finest athletic team of the time and for reflecting the willingness of spirit and character to achieve, which we now refer to as Ridgewood’s “Tradition of Excellence”, we proudly induct the 1913 Ridgewood High School Football Team into the Ridgewood High School Athletic Hall of Fame.