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Howard Roth Howard Roth
Inducted: 2010 - Graduated: 1973


Howie Roth

Football & Baseball

Class of 1973

Playing for the Nanuet football team in the 1960s and early 1970s was akin to running a race lugging a sackful of boulders on your back. As the smallest school in the Rockland County Public School Athletic League, (RCPSAL), Nanuet struggled to be competitive with schools two to three times its size and teams that had the luxury of having athletes play either offense or defense, but not both. Nanuet was forced to play its best athletes both ways, which wore them down during the course of an eight-game PSAL season.

Howie Roth was one of those players. During his senior season, the fall of ’72, he quarterbacked the offense, played linebacker and defensive back on defense, punted, and ran back punts and kickoffs. “I was always on the field,” he says, noting that he lost up to 30 pounds off his 5-foot-11, 185-pound frame through the duration of the season.

Despite the size disparities, though, Howie and his mates reversed the fortunes of the beleaguered program in that landmark 1972 campaign. With Howie at the helm, the Golden Knights rolled to five victories in eight games – the first winning season in the program’s then-12-year varsity history, and its only winning season in the RCPSAL, since the Knights departed a few years later for a Westchester-based league composed of schools their own size. The 1972 squad finished second in the PSAL to North Rockland and was only the Nanuet football team to defeat powerful Nyack and Suffern.

“My team was filled with my ‘brothers’ on and off the field,” says Howie. “We were a very close-knit group and it made all the difference.” Howie was the biggest difference-maker. He was a unanimous first-team All-County quarterback and also made first team at defensive back. He led the PSAL in total offense with 995 yards, finishing second in passing with 623 yards and ninth in rushing with 372 yards – including 135 rushing yards in the big 20-7 upset of Nyack. He completed the most passes, 49, of any quarterback in the county that year, and finished fourth in scoring with 42 points. On defense, he ran back an interception 90 yards for a touchdown in Nanuet’s 12-7 victory against Suffern, led the team in interceptions and fumble recoveries, and was third in tackles.

Howie was the ringleader but the ’72 team had talent at many positions. In Coach Dale Abeling’s Power-I Wishbone attack, Howie had numerous options. He could hand off to 240-lb. fullback “Bowling Ball” Bill Brucato, or he could turn the corner and run himself or pitch to either of two speedy halfbacks (and track stars), Glenn Weiser and Don Berich. They tore off chunks of yardage behind a seasoned offensive line featuring center Bill Greene, Ken Gamache, Eric Gustafson, Frank Fuhrman and Dave Mellion. Howie’s favorite aerial target was tight end Jerry Kolle, a gym-class pickup by Dale Abeling who led the county in receiving yardage that year. The late Felix DelValle and Tony Rosario were the wide receivers, and Weiser caught swing passes and also threw for a few touchdowns on the halfback option.

Defensively, the Knights were just as solid. Their finest hour came during the third quarter of the Nyack game, when they stopped the Indians seven times over two possessions inside the 1-yard line. “They outweighed us by almost a hundred pounds a man, but we shut them down,” Howie says. “They had routed us the previous two years and we remembered that.” The home Nanuet fans roared with delight after the goal-line stand, Howie recalls.

Greene, Gamache and Kolle joined Howie on first team All-County, while Gustafson and Mellion made second team and four others earned honorable mention: Greene (at linebacker), Brucato, Weiser and defensive back Roy Heine. Howie and Greene also made the New York Daily News All-Star team for Orange and Rockland counties.

Howie’s career at quarterback began inauspiciously, to say the least. During the 1970 season, Howie’s sophomore year, starting quarterback Dennis Fay had gotten hurt in the Nyack game, and Coach Abeling inserted Howie, then a fullback, into the signal-caller position for the next game against Suffern. He threw five interceptions “and had 17 cleat marks on my body. I thought they made the biggest mistake [installing him at QB].” Howie’s initiation included a bone-jarring hit by Tiny Wilson, Suffern’s 6-7, 275-lb. behemoth. With Howie standing deep in his territory for a punt, center Marc Panken sailed the ball over his head into the end zone, where Howie fell on it. “Tiny Wilson knocked me into the long jump pit,” Howie says, with perhaps a little exaggeration. “When you see a mountain coming toward you, it’s a scary sight.”

Although Nanuet won only one game the following year, the baptism under fire in 1970 helped Howie emerge as a seasoned field general. Playing most of his junior season with a partially separated shoulder – courtesy of a Suffern gang tackle in game three – he led the county in pass completions in 1971 and also excelled at linebacker and defensive back. “I wish I could have only played defense, but I was needed for the offense,” he says. Howie was a vital link in a chain of Nanuet quarterbacks from three families spanning 14 years: The Fays, Tom, Brian and Dennis; the Roths, Howie and his cousin Norman; and the Bonomolos, Peter and JP, who also are Howie’s cousins.

The gridiron was not Howie’s only athletic proving ground. He was a starting center fielder all four years for Coach Rich Loughlin’s varsity baseball team, earning team defensive player of the year honors as a junior and garnering All-County honorable mention as a senior, when he batted .325. During the winter he played basketball his first two years, setting a freshman scoring record (since broken), and dabbled as a high jumper for Dave Hanson’s winter track team.

Howie earned an athletic scholarship to Tabor Academy, a prep school in Cape Cod, Mass. He played on the football team for one season as a free safety and tailback, but left the school after completing his scholarship obligations. He got married at age 23, and he and wife Janet had three children: Laurie (Gavin), 32; Matthew, 30, a police officer in Jackson Township, N.J., who as an Army Reserve troop helped take Baghdad during the war in Iraq; and Andy, 28, a former track star at Jackson Memorial High School and Penn State. Howie also two grandchildren: Sean Riley Gavin, 2 ½, and Gianna Nicole Roth, 4 ½. Howie’s wife Janet died four years ago, after 30 years of marriage.

Howie, who turns 57 in December, lives in Jackson Township, N.J. He is a senior pilot lab supervisor for L’Oréal, the global cosmetics and hair-care company. “I started out as a forklift driver and worked my way up,” he says.