SOUTH ORANGE, NJ – In the 1970s, Seton Hall Prep sports fans enjoyed watching such talented athletes as Keven McDonald in basketball, Mike Sheppard Jr. in baseball and Peter Herms in hockey.
Another guy in the spotlight for the South Orange school was Ferdy Masucci in football. In the fall of 1976, Masucci was the leader of perhaps the top pigskin squad in school history. Tony Verducci’s team went a perfect 11-0, and outscored its foes, 261-36. Masucci, at tackle, anchored a defense which allowed just 36 points and posted eight shutouts.
“It’s hard to believe that it’s been 40 seasons since that incredible year,” said Masucci, who grew up in South Orange. “We certainly had a lot of talent on that team, and Coach Verducci was just a great guy to play for.”
On defense Masucci was complemented by such great players as linebacker Chet Parlavecchio and end Pat Sages. And when Masucci played at guard on offense, he was complemented by superb players like running back Paul Villanova, Sages at end and Mike Ragan at quarterback.
“As a junior, Mike really came into his own that year,” recalled Masucci, who is now in the banking business. “He did a great job off the option play.”
Masucci, the team MVP, according to his coach, put up some spectacular numbers on defense. In his senior campaign, Masucci had 16 QB sacks.
“Ferdy was just an animal on the field,” remarked Mike Gallo, who is now the assistant headmaster at SHP, which moved to West Orange in the summer of 1985. “The younger guys on the team like me really respected Ferdy because he played so hard.”
Seton Hall, coming off a 6-3 campaign in 1975, began the 1976 season with a tough 19-14 decision over a strong Bloomfield squad. The only other teams to score against SHP were Don Bosco Prep, 15-14, and Essex Catholic, 16-8, on Thanksgiving.
Prior to beating Essex Catholic on Turkey Day, SHP opened up the North Jersey, Parochial “A” playoffs with a dominating 29-0 decision over Queen of Peace at home. Then in the championship game in South Orange, the Pirates beat St. Joseph of West New York, 12-0.
“I think playing some close games helped us,” said Masucci, who went on to play college ball at Brown University. “We knew what it took to win big games.”
Of all the players on the team, Masucci might have had the most respect for Parlevecchio, a guy who went on to star at Penn State and later played with the Packers and Cardinals in the NFL.
“Chet just had great instincts on the field,” said Masucci, who also vied in wrestling and track and field. “In my time in high school and college competition, I never saw a better player than Chet.”
Masucci, who was a big fan of the Minnesota Vikings, particularly Alan Page, said he always wanted to attend Seton Hall Prep.
“It was a family tradition, remarked Masucci. “I never considered going to Columbia High School.”
Even though he enjoyed competing in sports, academics were also very important to Masucci. Attending an Ivy League school like Brown made perfect sense.
“I’m proud that our 1976 team set the pace for some other great football teams at SHP,” said Masucci. “Heck, we were 10-0-1 in 1977 and 11-0 in 1978.”
From 1976 through 1978, Verducci’s team allowed just 72 points, a truly amazing feat.
“Coach Verducci was a man of few words, but he demanded discipline,” said Masucci. “That’s why we were so successful, year after year.”
Verducci had 213 wins in 33 seasons at the SHP helm.
Masucci went into the SHP Hall of Fame in 1992. Former Athletic Director Joe Walsh was also inducted that year.