Aquinas on the verge of tying the modern era Middlesex County shutout record

Highland Park had two seven-shutout seasons in a stretch where they had 43 total shutouts in nine seasons from 1957 to 1965, during which they won seven state titles, as shown on the banner in the Owls’ gym. (Photo courtesy Shawn Harrison)

Forty-eight more minutes.

If the St. Thomas Aquinas football team can blank Governor Livingston over that time period, they will tie a modern era Middlesex County record of seven shutouts in a season, which a number of teams have done.

Shutouts are not easy to come by. Ask any football coach.

One false move, and the second-string runningback is off to the races. It takes focus, skill, and sometimes luck.

All that has been on St. Thomas Aquinas’ side this season.

They are 6-0 on the season, and have won their first six games by shutout.

A win over the Highlanders would give them seven, a mark last reached by Piscataway in 2004. That team went 12-0 and won the Central Jersey Group 4 title, led by future NFL first round draft picks Kyle Wilson, Malcolm Jenkins and Anthony Davis.

When the Cheifs did it, it had been even longer since the last time.

According to an exhaustive search of team records in the Dr. Roger Saylor Collection at Penn State University Libraries – which has every New Jersey football team’s results up until 2010 – the last Middlesex County team to reach seven shutouts in a season before the 2004 Chiefs was South River in 1978.

The Rams turned the trick en route to a state title and an 11-0 season, while JP Stevens did the same in their state title season the year prior, going 10-0-1 in 1977.

Those three schools – maybe to soon be joined by Aquinas – are the only ones from Middlesex County to shutout seven teams in a season in the playoff era.

Seven other Middlesex County teams collected seven shutouts in a season:

  • New Brunswick, during a 7-1-1 season in 1964
  • Highland Park, during an 8-1 season in 1960
  • Highland Park, during an 8-0-1 season in 1958
  • New Brunswick, during an 8-1-0 season in 1943
  • Carteret, during an 8-0-1 season in 1940
  • St. Peter’s-New Brunswick, during a 7-1-1 season in 1939
  • Carteret, during a 9-1 season in 1934

Notable about the two Highland Park seven-shutout seasons is that they came during an unprecedented and still-unmatched stretch of nine years in which the Owls went a combined 71-7-3, with a total of 43 shutouts from 1957 to 1965. A whopping three out of every five wins was a shutout over that span, and they they won 7 state titles, in 1958 and then six straight from 1960-65.

And yet, seven is not the all-time Middlesex County record.

The 1936 New Brunswick team went 7-2-1 officially, but had eight shutouts that year, according to the Saylor records (the tie was 0-0 against Columbia in Maplewood). Those included a 34-0 win over Mexico City, Mexico. There’s also a 14-0 win over Edison High out of Miami with an unknown “B” designation next to it. According to newspaper reports at the time, it was a big to-do. It was the first-ever game between high schools from New Jersey and Florida; the “Edison Eleven” came to New Jersey on a liner ship from Miami. They were greeted in New Brunswick, shown around Rutgers, and toured New York City with the New Brunswick team, all on the dime of the publisher of the Daily Home News, Elmer Boyd.

And that still isn’t the record.

Sitting at the top of the list is St. Peter’s. The now-closed Catholic school in New Brunswick holds the all-time Middlesex County record of nine shutouts in a season, going 10-0 in 1938. However, three of the schools were from out-of-state, including St. Jerome’s of Tamaqua and Mauch Chunk Catholic in Pennsylvania, a powerhouse that only began football in 1935 and was known as “the little Notre Damers,” winning 21 games in their first three seasons. St. Peter’s also played St. Agnes of Sparkskill and St. Catherine’s in New York. In fact, only one public school was on the schedule that year; they blanked Harrison 6-0.

We’ll find out if St. Thomas Aquinas can join such elite company late Friday night.

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