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  • Writer's pictureJennifer McGraw

LaSasso talks about Hammonton Hawks

“When you play for the Hawks, you play for a family, like family, each generation gives something back to the next,”

This is what Gazette News/Sports Director Dan Russoman wrote about the Hammonton Hawks and their dedication after 65 years of being an integral part of the Hammonton sports community.

Hammonton takes pride in many traditions and the Hawks are certainly one of those traditions.

Frank LaSasso, long-time youth and high school coach and currently the Hammonton Public Schools Ground Supervisor gave a presentation on the Hawks’ history at the Historical Society of Hammonton’s Speaker Series on May 2 at 7 p.m.

Founded in 1959, the program taught good sportsmanship, physical fitness and team participation. For youth who want to participate later in high school, the Hawks program also taught football fundamentals. The Hawks are broken into four age groups: Taxi (grades 1-2), Peewee (grades 3-4), Junior Varsity (grades 5-6) and Varsity (grades 7-8).

“The Hawks were a new member of the Atlantic County Junior Football League that was in existence for two years. The original founding officers were Mr. Richardson, Frank Amedio, Jim Toronto, senior John Perone, Matt Gazzara and Pete Carnesale” LaSasso said.

Lou Robertson was the first varsity coach, with Matt Kozar becoming the junior varsity coach when the program began to grow. The Hawks started off their organization with a 2-7 record.

After that, success for the Hawks was just around the corner.

“In the fourth year of operation, the Hawks won their first championship, quite a accomplishment for an young program. [We] won again in ‘68, under Coach Brown, and also in ‘68 the Peewees in the first year of being a sanctioned organization,” LaSasso said.

LaSasso reflected on memories being in the organization. The team originally played at the Dust Bowl on Vine Street, which also hosted the Blue Devils, St. Joe’s, and a semi-pro team.

The Hawks moved to Lake Park in 1982, gaining a home-field advantage due to the partial dirt infield which opposing teams didn’t like. To accompany the presentation, LaSasso had different Hawks uniforms on display—which were pretty costly.

One touching story was when LaSasso shared his grandson being a cancer survivor and how the Hawks rallied around him for support. During one game, there was an orange ribbon for leukemia painted on the field, put together by the Board of Directors at that time.

To raise money to pay for uniforms and equipment, especially using only one football back then, the organization came up with an idea to host different fundraisers. More popular in recent years they’ve held a chicken barbecue, which raises between $15,000 and $18,000 a year.

In the true Hammonton way, the Hawks original press box was built entirely with volunteer labor and donations. Community support radiated throughout the entire organization, through volunteers to the cheer squad and dedicated stand mothers to help things run smoothly for the team. LaSasso gave high praise to the mothers, especially one who attended the presentation, Dawn Weiss.

“We have one in here right now who is probably, in my humble opinion, the best one we’ve ever had. She’s out there for practice games, whatever it is, Dawn is doing, mostly by herself.” LaSasso said.

“I think she likes to not make it complicated. She’s awesome. She’s the most important person in the organization,” he said.

LaSasso continued the presentation talking about the longevity of football in the community, highlighting the new girls’ flag football program at the high school.

He continued discussing the Atlantic County Junior Football League’s slow trend towards being defunct because of injury prevention for their kids.

“She Alantic County Junior Football League is now defunct, because it’s just hard for little kids like my son Frank and Joey, who they claimed were 100 pounds when they were 13,” LaSasso said.

“Now imagine if they were playing corner at 100 pounds, and you have an unlimited player to 120 pounds. Clark [Hovermale] and I and Frank [LaSasso IV] and all the board members decided that we’re not going to do that. We’re not putting our kids in jeopardy. And that’s why we formed this league,” LaSasso said.

But as much as it could, the 45-minute presentation gave a deep look into the 65 years of tradition and dedication. A town’s commitment to the success of the team was returned to them as well.

“It’s a great honor to have this organization. We have had many players that come back to coach and always had players and coaches that have started,” LaSasso said.

This article was produced in collaboration with New Jersey Civic Information Consortium and Rowan University.


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