MIDDLETOWN – There are many reasons Steve Antonucci still enjoys coaching football.
One of the main reasons occurs when the Middletown High School South football team is running on the field of “The Swamp”.
“The swamp is a great place,” said Antonucci, who is in his 24th season as Middletown South head coach. “It’s not the swamp anymore (because of the sod that replaced the grass and mud over ten years ago), people all the time, one of the great traditions we have is when we come down that hill and Hells Bells play.
“I’m 51 and I get goosebumps when we do that (enter the field) every Friday night. It brings you back. There’s something magical about it. That’s what makes it (training) fun. ”
Antonucci added another memorable night of training when the Eagles recorded a dominant 27-0 victory over Jackson Memorial in a Colonial Division Shore Conference game, giving Antonucci the 200th career victory.
“There were a lot of sacrifices, a lot of hard work, a lot of good, bad times, ups and downs,” said Antonucci.
There were mostly ups during Antonucci’s tenure.
“Everyone said I was a baseball guy”
The Eagles went 200-59 under Antonucci with six NJSIAA sectional championships and five unbeaten seasons, including a 43-game winning streak, a Shore Conference record, from the start of the 2003 season to the first seven games of the 2006 season. .
Four of the sectional championships Middletown South won under Antonucci came from 2003 to 2006.
“It’s (reaching 200 wins) quite an accomplishment in today’s high school football world,” said Antonucci. “Being in a place for 24 years and reaching a milestone like this isn’t something you see very often. It’s consistency and longevity. It says a lot about what we’ve been able to do. ‘ ‘
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By the time he became Middletown South’s fifth head coach, Antonucci, who was a football and baseball star at Keyport in the late 1980s, had already had a successful career as the baseball head coach of the Eagles.
But, Antonucci said there were skeptics when he became the school’s head football coach.
“When I got this job, everyone said I was a baseball player,” Antonucci said. “A lot of people probably weren’t too happy about it. It was a chip on my shoulder and something to put in my back pocket and just keep fighting. It was a challenge that I loved. ”
“For being here for 24 years and being at a stage like this, if you had told me that (24 years ago), I probably would have said, ‘You are crazy. “”
Many great players wore the dark blue and white Middletown South uniform during Antonucci’s tenure.
The Knowshon Moreno era
But the only player Antonucci will always be associated with is running back Knowshon Moreno.
Related:Former NFL star Knowshon Moreno says Steve Antonucci is a ‘father figure’ as Antonucci aims for 200 victory
Moreno, who played for Middletown South from 2002 to 2005, had one of the greatest careers in New Jersey school football history. He ran for 6,268 yards, scored 128 touchdowns and 728 runs.
Moreno had an exceptional two-year career at the University of Georgia in 2007 and 2008 and was a first-round pick for the Denver Broncos in 2009.
He played five seasons with the Broncos, including the 2013 season when Denver qualified for the Super Bowl against Seattle at MetLife Stadium. Moreno concluded his NFL career in 2014 with the Miami Dolphins.
“He’s one of the most humble and friendly people you can meet. He makes me smile when I hear his name,” said Antonucci, who is close to Moreno to this day. “I love him like he’s mine. Son. He’s everything you’d want anyone to be.”
The Middletown South schedule was good before Moreno and was good after Moreno.
The season after Moreno graduated, the Eagles won their fourth straight sectional championship. They put on another unbeaten season in 2015, with a team led by running back Cole Rogers, linebacker Dylan Rogers, lineback / running back James McCarthy and quarterback / placekicker Matt Mosquera.
Head coaches Rich Mosca, Keith Comeforo, John Andl and Bob Generelli have all had successful tenures at Middletown South, but the program may have even taken to another level under Antonucci.
“I wanted to make this program even better than it was,” said Antonucci. “These guys (Mosca, Comeforo, Andl and Generelli) all did a great job and I wanted to take it to another level. I hope we were able to do that. ”
Friday night’s win was like so many Eagles wins under all of their head coaches.
4 picks against Jackson Memorial
They were suffocating in defense. Middletown South had four interceptions, including junior Brandon Rahill returning 52 yards for the game’s final touchdown with 4:55 left.
Middletown South (3-0, 2-0) held Jackson Memorial (0-3, 0-2) to five first downs and 91 yards of attack.
The Eagles were also effective on the field as senior running back Dan Primiano ran for 181 yards with 33 and 31 yards in the first half.
Primiano’s first touchdown was set up when the Eagles’ Matt Yeserski recovered a side kick following a 13-yard pass from quarterback Tom Schork Anthony Brasco. Brasco scored the TD on a deflection from teammate Jack Latore.
“Middletown South football is something like nothing else,” Primiano said. “It’s a tradition that goes back years. I get chills every time I come down that hill. Hearing Hells Bells is something you won’t get anywhere else.”
Middletown South 27, Jackson Memorial 0
Jackson Memorial 0 0 0 0 – 0
Middletown South 7 14 0 6 – 27
Brasco 13 pass from Schork (kick from Czwaikiel).
Primiano 33 run (Czwaikiel kick).
Primiano 31 run (Czwaikiel kick).
Rahill 52 interception return (missed kick).
QUICKLY : JM: Aiden Sweeney 7-35, Tai Mann 12-7, Albert D’Alessandro 1-7, Angel Nicosia 1-0. MS: Dan Primiano 20-181, Kyle Smith 1-59, Donovan Summey 9-11, Tom Schork 4-8, Beau Servidio 1-4, Shawn Goode 1-1.
WHO PASSED: JM: Mann 3-14-4-42. MS: Schork 5-12-0-46.
RECEPTION: JM: Robert Paneque 1-19, D’Alessandro 1-17, Justin Hirch 1-6. MS: Brasco 2-13, Matt Yeserski 1-18, Ryan St. Clair 1-9, Austin Ruziecki 1-6.
INTERCEPTIONS: MS: Matt Grab, Schork, Logan Colleran, Brandon Rahill.