Coming Soon “The Bridgewater / Raritan High School Athletic Hall of Fame”
by Bruce Doorly
|As a writer of several articles about the past heroics of teams from the Bridgewater-Raritan High Schools (BRHS) I was pleased when I received an email from Dick Myers who said that he was starting an athletic Hall of Fame for our local high school. Over the years there had been some talk of starting one, but no action was ever taken.
So, I enthusiastically meet with Dick Myers at Dunkin Donuts. I learn that he is a retired police officer who served 25 years for Somerset County.
He has resided in Bridgewater for 28 years. His son Brandon was a star tight end and linebacker on the BRHS football teams that recently went
to three straight State Finals. He seems the right man for the task at hand as he has a successful track record in organizing groups and fund raising.
Most important he has already met with Athletic Director John Maggio and has permission to proceed with the Athletic Hall of Fame. Now that the school is 60 years old, it is time to start an Athletic Hall of Fame.
|The Logo for the Hall of Fame|
was created by Sebastian Torrens
who is an art student at the high school
|BRHS School History
First a little background on the history of the Bridgewater / Raritan High School (BRHS). The high school on Garretson Road first opened in the fall of 1959. Before that teenagers who lived in Bridgewater and Raritan had attended Somerville High School. When BRHS first opened the team name was the ”Golden Falcons”.
In that first school year BRHS comprised of just grades 7 thru 10. Each year those grades would move up in the school without any new 7th or 8th grade students being enrolled. By the schools third year 1961-1962 the High School was finally aligned with its permanent class structure of grades 9th through 12th. The first graduating class was in June of 1962. All the sports teams then were for the boys, there were initially no Girls’ Varsity Sports.
|After the high school had been open for just a few years the expanding population of Bridgewater pushed enrollment beyond the capacity of the school. So, a second high school was built in an eastern section of Bridgewater just north of Route 22 off Foothill Road. It opened in the fall of 1966. Their sports teams would be called the Minutemen. Today that building is the Bridgewater-Raritan Middle School.|
The two high schools known as “East” and “West” were natural rivals.
Thanksgiving Day featured an annual football game between the two schools that was attended by thousands.
|The two high schools existed together for 25 years until 1991 when it was decided that the building off Foothill would become the Middle School and the soon to be enlarged school at Garretson Road would be the only High School. But first for the next three years the old East school would be the only High School while the Garretson Road campus was being enlarged. After the Garretson Road Campus was finished in 1994 all the high school students moved there. To avoid choosing one of the team names over the other, the combined school choose a new team name “The Panthers”. The Golden Falcons and the Minutemen would be history.|
How an Athletic Hall of Fame Works
Athletic Hall of Fames can induct individual players, coaches, teams, pioneers, and contributors. Each year a Hall of Fame Committee votes and comes up with several inductees. There is then a well-attended dinner that does the formal induction.
A wall at the High School in the hall way or in the gym can serve as the shrine that has the plaques of the Hall of Fame inductees. The location at the BRHS for this is being discussed.
|Who Should be Elected to the Hall ?
Over the decades many individuals and teams have had noteworthy athletic accomplishments. So naturally there are many candidates. So let’s start the debate. Who should be included in the first class of inductees? Recently the high school had the public vote on who are the “BR Sports Legends”. That will give us an idea. A mural outside the school gym shows who the top vote getters were.
Mike Grosso who led the 1965 basketball team to the championship is there. Mike later played in the ABA. So is Eric Murdock who led the basketball team to the title in 1987. He played 11 years in the NBA. Soccer player Matt Kassel, who graduated in 1988, and later played pro soccer is there too. We see women’s soccer player Casey Murphy, from 2014, who would go on to play on the U.S. National Team. Also, there is Mike Swain, who graduated 1979, and later won a Bronze Medal in Judo in the Olympics. Those legends are excellent candidates, but they seem to be mostly chosen based off “post” high school accomplishments.
|As for “teams” to be inducted. The first State Champions - the 1965 Boys Basketball Team ranks high.
And remember the “East” Minutemen Football team had a 34-game unbeaten streak 1968-1971.
I believe only one baseball team - the 1989 West Boys’ team - won a State Title. For coaches, Vaughn Stapleton tops my list.
|1965 Boy's Basketball State Champions|
|This Hall of Fame is, of course, for women athletes as well. A little history.
It was not until the early 1970s that funding was mandated for girls’ varsity sports teams. So before that most schools had no girls’ varsity sports.
But in the 1960s Bridgewater’s High School on Garretson Road did have one women’s varsity team - a fencing team. It was led for several years by science teacher Elizabeth Hager. Perhaps she would be a good candidate to be inducted as a “pioneer” in the first Hall of Fame class.
If anyone knows the whereabouts of Elizabeth Hager please email Bruce Doorly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
|A team overdue for their proper recognition is the first girls’ team to win a State Championship.
That is the “East” Girls Basketball Team of 1976. When they won the State Championship they asked the school as to when the traditional champion’s
dinner would be. The boys’ championship teams always had one. They were told that there was no money was in the budget.
They felt they were being discriminated against. That they were “just girls” in a 1970s boy’s athletic program. Maybe the Hall of Fame will induct them and they will at last have their long overdue dinner.
|Nancy Shoolbraid of the |
76 East Girl's State Champs takes a shot
|The first Hall of Fame inductees will be announced in January of 2020. The dinner will be a couple of months later. There will be a golf outing on Columbus Day this year at the Raritan Valley Country Club to raise funds for the Hall of Fame. A website and FACEBOOK page are being designed for it. If you would like to express your opinion as to who deserves to be in the Athletic Hall of Fame, contact Dick Myers. His email is email@example.com. Or you may contact the co-chair of the committee Timothy J. Foley. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Tim is on the board at the Somerset County YMCA, VP of the Somerset County 200 Club and President of Raritan Valley Country Club. He is also the father of two State Champion Bridgewater-Raritan swimmers.|
|East Football went unbeaten for 34 games|
|To see many of the old articles written about past high school championship teams, visit www.rartan-online.com.|
|Vaugh Stapleton talks with his team|