Glory Days: 1972 Livingston High School Boy’s Soccer

By Steve Sears

Photo 1: Head Coach Ed McInroy in 1972 (credit Livingston High School yearbook)

The 1972 Livingston Lancers boy’s soccer team was the first ever undefeated team (20 – 0) in Livingston High School history, and were also the first ever to win a Group IV state title.

Also, in 2019 they were the first ever entire team inducted into the Big L Club Livingston High School Athletic Hall of Fame. 

Eric Zager was a senior co-captain of the Lancers in the fall of 1972, and an All-State striker. “As a high school student, and for years thereafter, it was the most exciting year of our lives,” Zager says. “It was a magical season where everything just came together, and after years of hard work and playing together, everything just gelled. We had a really special team.” Zager gives a lot of credit to then head coach, Ed McInroy, who in 1972 was named Coach of the Year. “He was the architect of the team, and he created an atmosphere that allowed us to express our creativity on the field, and we came together through a difficult playoff season.”

Livingston goalie, Jeff Goldman, and the excellent defense in front of him, allowed just 11 goals that fall. “Our goalie was fantastic,” co-captain, Stephen Scardena says of Goldman. “He could throw the ball three quarters of the field like a baseball. Instead of punting it, he would throw the ball and it would land at your feet. He was tremendous.”

McInroy’s daughter, Kathy McInroy Rottenberg, was a sophomore in college that year. “I remember speaking to my father on the phone and hearing of all the successes from the games. And I did come home towards the end of the season, when they were in the state playoffs. But I would just hear about it through my father. I’d have to ask him, though; he was a very humble man.”

In the state playoffs, Livingston took care of Jefferson High School very easily, 11 – 1, and then defeated Westfield and Teaneck, 5 – 1 and 3 – 1. In the semifinal round, facing perhaps their toughest opponent in Hackensack, the Lancers were 2 – 1 winners, and then on a poor weather day and muddy field at Teaneck’s Fairleigh Dickinson University, they claimed their Group IV crown with a win over Brick, 2 – 1. 

Against Jefferson, Scardena scored his only goal that season. “I took a shot about 30 yards out, and I think it was drizzly or damp out and the goalie didn’t catch it. We were losing 1 – 0, we tied it up, and from there we just went crazy and won, 11 – 1.”

The Lancers rolled through the playoffs from there. Steve Milone, another All-State performer, had 36 goals that season, and scored the Lancers two goals that won the game against Brick. “We knew we were going to be good because we knew the talented players coming back for the year.”

Senior Russell Blank adds about the Hackensack game, “That game, even though we won, 2 – 1, there were three or four dead-on shots by Steve and Eric that got stuck in the mud that would have easily scored. It was a great opportunity. Many of the players on the team, we were like brothers. We fought for each other. It was just a wonderful time to see the success of the soccer team. The football team was also a big success that year.”

Junior Scott Davis recalls McInroy’s skill as a coach. “All of us were skilled enough to play Division 1 soccer. Maybe 10 of us out of that group went and played in D1 programs, and that’s hats off to Coach teaching us how to do it.” He then reflects on some of his teammates. “Tommy McNichol played central midfield, a very great, important part of our game. He was there, Eric Zager was there, and Jeff Goldman was our goalkeeper. He only let in 11 goals. It was crazy, absolutely ridiculous, but it’s a great story. And I miss those guys. At that induction ceremony, we sat down with each other and we told stories just like we came off the pitch. It was that vivid in our minds.”

Zager, a neurosurgeon at the University of Pennsylvania, and also a full professor with an endowed chair at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, was inducted into The Big L Club himself prior a few years to the 1972 team. “I gave a talk to the students, the athletes, and I actually cited my athletic career, especially in soccer, as good training for my professional career. I found that training for competitive soccer in many ways helped prepare me for training for a career in medicine, even in neurosurgery. The preparation for a surgical procedure is similar to the preparation for a big game. You have to work hard, work on your skills, do your homework, train hard, be dedicated, be focused on a goal, and then you have to perform on the day of the procedure or the match. So that athletic training in many ways mentally prepared me for my professional career, and I think those two go hand in hand.”

Ed McInroy passed away in 2018 at the age of 93. His players were fond of the caring man who coached and taught them. “He was the same way as a father. I thought the world of him,” Kathy McInroy Rottenberg says. “I have three kids that will echo my same sentiments. They feel the exact same way about Dad.”

 

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