The History of Lacrosse in Montclair
1890s to 1960s
The Montclair Athletic Club was a sports venue for men started in 1890s at 201 Valley Road in Montclair, NJ. The precursor to the club was the Montclair Baseball Club which existed from 1883 to 1890. In 1895 The Montclair Athletic Club formed a hockey team. They were part of the American Amateur Hockey League. With no rink of their own, they called the Clermont Avenue Rink (Brooklyn, NY) home from 1897–98, and from 1898–99 they called the St. Nicholas Rink (Manhattan, NY) home.
The MAC was home to many sporting events with lacrosse pick-up games taking place as early as 1893. In 1897 a Lacrosse team was formed and the MAC hired the “Father of Lacrosse in America” John R. Flannery to coach the Team. Games were scheduled with Stevens Institute, NYU, City College of New York, Crescent Athletic Club and Toronto University. On June 5th, 1897 the MAC notched their first all-time victory beating Stevens Institute of Hoboken 8-0.
Lacrosse continued to be played at the Montclair Athletic Club up to the beginning of World War II. Not until the late 1950s does another lacrosse club appear in Montclair. Duncan Sinnock who was a quarterback for MHS in the mid-1950s played lacrosse at Hobart before returning to MHS as a teacher/coach. Coach Sinnock had helped to start the Montclair Lacrosse Association (MLA) around 1959. The MLA was comprised of mostly college graduates with some high school age players who practiced lacrosse at Anderson Park. By 1962 Duncan would be coaching the first club lacrosse team at Montclair High School.
1960s to Today
In 1962 Clary Anderson, Montclair High School Director of Athletics, agreed to form a club lacrosse team at MHS with Duncan Sinnock, MHS ’52, as head coach. After 2 years as a club, the team was elevated to varsity status in 1964. MHS along with Fair Lawn is the 5th oldest continuous high school programs in the state of New Jersey. MHS’s move to become a varsity team in 1964 makes it the oldest Public High School lacrosse team in New Jersey.
In 1966 Gil Gibbs, MHS ’57 took over as head coach. Gil, who had watched but did not play lacrosse at Springfield College, compiled an illustrious record, including four NJSIAA Championships, six Coaches Tournament Championships, and one Co-Championship. Until his untimely death in 1978, he developed 44 first-team All-State players, 17 high school All-Americans, and 10 College All Americans who accounted for 17 overall All American awards (including 4-time All American Bob Ott). In his last ten years, Gil’s varsity squads won 158 games while losing only 14.
The Junior Varsity program was started in 1968 under Dick van Antwerp, MHS ’62. Homer Robinson joined Gil in 1969 as the JV coach. Starting in 1971 the JV squad won eight consecutive JV State Championships from 1971 to 1978. "Mr. Rob", as he was affectionately known, concluded his coaching career with an undefeated 15-0 season in 1978.
In 1979 Houston Webber was named head coach, Dean Witty JV coach, and Don Eccleston freshman coach. Houston had been an All-State player at Princeton High School as well as a player, assistant coach, and co-founder of the Montclair State College lacrosse team. The Mounties continued its winning ways under Coach Webber making the NJSIAA Championship game three of his four years; winning the title in 1980. The JV team also won two more JV State Championships. Houston compiled an overall record of 48-22.
In 1983 Dean Witty moved up to head coach, Chris Johnson, MHS ’78, was named JV coach, while Kevin Martin, MHS ’75, joined the staff as an assistant coach. Coach Witty continued the winning tradition, winning State Championships in 1984 and 1985 as well as the Coaches Tournament in 1986. Johnson’s JV teams won the State JV Tournament in 1983, 1984, and 1987 and were undefeated in 1988. Coach Witty compiled an overall record of 92-37.
In 1990 Chris Johnson was appointed head coach, with Jack Weber as JV coach and Jim Hague, MHS ’78, as the Freshman team coach. Ben Dickerson became JV coach in 1992 and a varsity assistant in 1993. Weber’s JV team won the Homer Robinson JV Tournament in 1993. Coach Johnson’s varsity teams earned State Championships in 1992 and 1997 while reaching the finals in ’91, the semi-finals in ’98, and the quarterfinals in ’93, ’95, and ’96. Coach Johnson compiled an overall record of 196-79 setting the standard for most games coached and most wins for Montclair Lacrosse.
In 2005 Peter von Hoffman, MHS ’75, was named head coach and continued Montclair’s winning tradition by capturing the 2010 Group IV State Championship and appearing in three consecutive Group IV State Finals (’05, ’06, and ’07). Coach von has appeared in more NJSIAA State Championships (4) than any MHS coach since Gil Gibbs who appeared in five title games. Coach von compiled an overall record of 116-67
In 2014 Brian O’Rourke, MHS ’00, was named head coach, with Jim Crane, Brian Roth, and John Schiavone named assistant coaches. Three years later, John Scanlon, MHS ‘93 was named head coach.
Michael Diehl was named head coach in 2018. With previous coaching stints at Bergen Catholic, Voorhees, Hunterdon Central, and at Montclair State University, coach Diehl brings a wealth of knowledge to MHS.
In 2019 the Mounties, under coach Diehl, played their 1,000th all-time lacrosse game; beating St. Peters Prep 11-5.
The History of the Lacrosse Club of Montclair
In 1962, the Lacrosse Club of Montclair started as a club for High School players in town and within two years became the MHS Varsity program in 1964. In 1971, the Lacrosse Club of Montclair was reborn as a booster club to help support the entire Lacrosse Program at Montclair High School as well as promote the game throughout New Jersey. Over the years, LCM has played a key role in supporting the MHS lacrosse program by supplying gear and facilities helping to bring success to the program. In 1980, led by Frank Winer and Fred Schmitt, LCM began its youth program for middle schoolers. Peter von Hoffmann was instrumental in the ’80s and '90s coaching in the youth program. The youth program has always been dedicated to teaching fundamentals first and keeping winning a secondary priority left to the high school years. Since the late 90s, the youth program has extended down to the youngest players in town - even as young as Kindergarten in its Mini-laxers program. LCM youth teams started playing travel in the late '90s. In 2017, LCM became solely dedicated to the youth program and split from the MHS Lacrosse Booster Club allowing both organizations to flourish. Indeed, for the shortened 2020 season, LCM had over 260 players registered from Kindergarten to 8th grade. LCM has been successful in growing the game in Montclair and at Montclair High School solely as a result of the overwhelming support of its volunteers, sponsors, players, coaches, and especially, its lacrosse parents.
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The Lacrosse Club of Montclair has been growing the game of lacrosse in Montclair and the surrounding region since 1962. Our mission is to instill the love of this great game in the hearts of Montclair’s boys and their families from a very young age through High School and beyond.