January 11, 2006
Paul Sacco - CAL Sportsperson of the Year
By TOM WILLIAMS
Over a decade ago the selection of an annual Cape-Atlantic League Sportsperson of the Year began.
Those selected in previous years have included Pleasantville basketball coach Ken Leary, Absegami
wrestling coach Gene Barber, St. Augustine basketball coach Paul Rodio, Mainland football coach Bob
Coffey, Wildwood girls basketball coach Dave Troiano, Ocean City football coach Gary Degenhardt and
Bridgeton track coach Bob Cwik. They are all coaches whose programs have brought great pride to the CAL.
The nod has also gone to former Absegami athletic director Harry Ackerman and Wildwood mayor Ernie Troiano
for their hard work behind the scenes.
This year the salute goes to the most successful football coach in CAL history, a man whose program has
done something no other football team in New Jersey has ever done.
It wasn't too long ago that Paul Sacco was fighting to retain his position at St. Joseph High School in
Hammonton. The school was having serious financial problems and was looking to downsize - some thought
the school might even close.
But things worked out and now the school has moved into larger facilities, built its own football stadium
and won seven straight NJSIAA football championships.
Sacco has won 205 games and lost only 41, the most wins and best record in CAL history. This year his team
was ranked No. 1 in South Jersey among all schools. And, of the 15 players who scored points for St. Joe
this fall, 10 of them will be back next fall.
There is no sign that the success of St. Joseph football will diminish anytime soon. In fact, with rival
Hammonton moving up to the American Conference next season, the St. Joe dominance in the National Conference
might become even greater.
For his remarkable success and the positive impact it has had on his school and the rest of the CAL, Paul
Sacco is our 2005 Cape-Atlantic League SportsPerson of the Year.
As the calendar year comes to an end, it is always a good time to look back on the top CAL sports stories.
Here are the 10 sports stories that seemed to generate the most interest among Cape-Atlantic League fans in
1. The Atlantic City boys and Absegami girls each winning the first state basketball championships in its
school's history. It gave the CAL the rare distinction of winning both NJSIAA Group 4 championships.
2. St. Joseph winning a state-record seventh straight football championship and doing it with an undefeated
team, one that was ranked No. 1 in South Jersey.
3. The Ocean City boys soccer team's trifecta - winning the state Group 3 championship for the fifth time,
winning the South Jersey Coaches Tournament and sharing the overall Cape-Atlantic League title with St.
4. State swimming championships by the Holy Sprit and St. Augustine boys and the Vineland girls, making the
CAL the top swimming conference in the state last year.
5. The incredible passing attacks at Absegami and Mainland during the football season. The numbers registered
by Mike Isgro and Mark Schenauer at Gami, and Matt Flynn, Ryan Abdilla and K.J. Borlandoe at Mainland will
be long remembered.
6. A sixth state field hockey championship for Ocean City, one of the most successful programs in any CAL sport.
7. Coaching milestones by Paul Rodio (600 wins in basketball), Tom Feraco (500 in basketball), Trish LeFever
(400 in field hockey), John Bruno (200 in boys basketball), Paul Sacco (200 in football) and Gary Degenhardt
(100 in football). With a special nod to Wildwood's Dave Troiano, who got most of his 500 career basketball wins
in the CAL.
8. The injury during track season and illness at the end of cross country that prevented Ocean City's Brittany
Sedberry, the most successful runner in CAL history, from adding more accomplishments to her already impressive
9. Four former CAL players returning as head coaches in boys basketball this year. Jon Evans at Mainland,
Anthony Toner at Sacred Heart and Kenny Johnson at Pleasantville all returned to their alma maters. And former
Middle Township player Van Cathcart took over at Absegami.
10. The exciting losses at the beginning and end of Absegami's football season and the impressive 10 straight
wins in between.
Let's hope 2006 will bring us as much to celebrate.
Read more of
Tom Williams' columns