A.J. Troisi and the 1929 Somerville Football Team
The Near Perfect Season 7-0-1
By Bruce Doorly
A.J. Troisi is in the bottom row, the second from the right.
Recently the new Bridgewater-Raritan High School Athletic Hall of Fame elected its inaugural class. This author decided that he should find out who the most interesting of the 26 inductees is and write about them. After gathering some information, it became obvious that A.J. Troisi, who was Athletic Director at B/R High School for twenty years, was the most interesting.

For A.J. not only was a hall-of-fame caliber Athletic Director, but he was also a hall-of-fame caliber athlete. He excelled in sports at Somerville High School (which for decades was the only local high school). In 1929, A.J. was their star quarterback who led them to an undefeated season (with one tie) 7-0-1. That team, along with A. J., are legendary in the local sports lore. So, the article this month will be about them.

Next month, we will cover A.J.s tenure as Athletic Director at Bridgewater-Raritan High School.
The above is the only individual football photo that
could be found of A.J. It is from microfilm from
the Somerset Messenger Gazette
The year was 1929. It was the end of the Roaring Twenties.

A prosperous, fun era, where despite prohibition, people drank with gusto celebrating the booming (about to collapse) stock market.

Radio had just emerged, 40% of homes had a radio.
Click to see articles about the era
from local newspapers in 1929
There were few forms of entertainment back then thus the Somerville High School Football team was followed intensely by the local population.

The high school was then in the building on Cliff Street that is today used for the Middle School.

That building was relatively new having been built just seven years earlier.
The team started the season with high hopes. It was just the third season for their coach Samuel Yohn, who had high accolades and held promise for the team.

That year they started playing on a new football field. Things were a bit different then as all players played both offense and defense.
Click to see a bio about coach Sam Yohn
from the school newspaper in 1927
The opening game saw them go up against St. Bernards (Prep School). They would get off to an excellent start chalking up what would turn out to be their largest margin of victory that year with a 28-0 win.

A.J. Troisi, while usually the quarterback, would score one of the four touchdowns by catching a pass. Two other touchdowns were scored by Joe Brokaw. The team captain, fullback Bud Armagast, ran the ball in for the other touchdown.
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The second game, a 19-0 win against Central H.S. at Hopewell, showed the tenacity of the Somerville defense as they prevented Central from getting a single first down. The newspapers cited Troisis all around play in the game.
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Starting with the third game there were no more easy games on the schedule. Game three was against a tough Flemington team. This game evolved into a defensive battle with no team able to score in the first half. Somerville would get the break they needed when they blocked a punt which setup the only touchdown of the game. Final 7-0.
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North Plainfield was the next stop. Here early in the game Joe Brokaw of Somerville lined up to punt, but instead of kicking ran around end and raced 62 yards for a touchdown. Joe would also run in what would be a crucial extra point. Later North Plainfield would block a punt that led to the only touchdown that would be scored against Somerville all season. With the score 7-6 Somervilles defense prevented the extra point and the game would end a 7-6 victory.
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The next game was against a Princeton team which had defeated them 26-0 the year before. In this game Troisi shined. He was not big, but he was fast and hard to bring down. The newspaper said

Troisi, elusive Orange quarterback, was the hero of the battle. In the first quarter he dodged through the Princeton line, cut past the secondary defense, and was tackled after a thirty-two-yard gain. Later in the same quarter Troisi again amazed the spectators and the opposing team by breaking through the tiger line and tearing through for a fifty-yard gain.

It went on to say how Troisi carried the tackler on his back for several yards before brought down. However, after both of his long gains, which could have setup touchdowns, the team fumbled turning over the ball.

Despite dominating the game, they went into the fourth quarter scoreless. Somerville finally put together a scoring drive led by several short runs by Troisi and Joe Brokaw. Final 6-0.
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The Roselle game would help solidify the legendary status of A. J. Troisi as he scored the only touchdown of the game on a 68-yard punt return.

The newspaper described it like this:
Roselle men were advancing at him from every direction … he whirled from under the grasp of three tacklers ... he seemed enmeshed in a maze of tumbling men, but he was side stepping and treading this way and that. His teammates tore a clean path and, in a flash, the fast flying Troisi was away sprinting like mad for a touchdown.
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The next game was against their arch rival Bound Brook. Thousands were in attendance. Again A.J. Troisi scored the only touchdown of the game. He would catch a short pass and then run 45 yards into the endzone.

In addition to the touchdown that day he had several long gains. He even made a key tackle on a Bound Brook rusher who found open field.

In this game Troisi was aided and abetted by a special pair of silk football pants that he wore in order to make it harder for defenders to tackle him. The silk pants story has become the stuff of legend.

(This author heard the silk pants story from several old-timers before doing any research and thought it was just legend. Thus I was quite shocked when I actually read about it in an old newspaper.)
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With a record of 7-0 they went into the final game verses Bernardsville. The players were told to rest the night before, but A. J. Troisi chose to play basketball. Coach Yohn, who was a strict disciplinarian, learned of this and choose to bench A.J. for the start of the game.

The game became a defensive battle. Troisi was sent into play in the second quarter. Neither team could come close to scoring. It was not until the fourth quarter with time running out that Somerville had a scoring opportunity. That was setup by a Troisi punt return that put the ball on the opponents 18-yard line. Somerville fought their way down to the three-yard line but time expired. Thus, the game ended in a tie.

Their final record was 7-0-1. It was the first undefeated season for the Somerville Football Team.
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At the end of the season A.J. Troisi was given honorable mention for All-State Honors.

A Somerville guard, Gerald Fischetti, was selected to the first team.

Brothers Joe Brokaw and Tab Brokaw would also get honorable mention.
Next month is part two about A.J. Troisi as we explore his time as Athletic Director at Bridgewater-Raritan High School West.