By TOM WILLIAMS
When you recognize people as Cape-Atlantic League Sportspersons of the Year there are many reasons. The list is quite diversified and the selections have been for accomplishments in just one year or over a longer period of time.
The spotlight has generally been turned on these special people for their success on the field or court. That group has included Atlantic City basketball coach Gene Allen, Oakcrest basketball coach Dave Lewis, Hammonton football coach Pete Lancetta, Pleasantville basketball coach Ken Leary, St. Joseph football coach Paul Sacco, Absegami wrestling coach Gene Barber, Ocean City basketball coach Dixie Howell, St. Augustine basketball coach Paul Rodio, Mainland football coach Bob Coffey, Ocean City girls basketball coach Paul Baruffi, Middle Township basketball coach Tom Feraco, Wildwood girls basketball coach Dave Troiano, Sacred Heart basketball coach Jim Mogan, Atlantic City/Stockton basketball coach Joe Fussner, 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.
Administrators have also been given the nod – people like Frank Campo, Joe Clements, Paul LeFever, Nuncie Sacco, Tony Surace, Harry Ackerman and Mike Gatley.
Sometimes it was for behind-the-scenes contributions to area sports – Yogi Hiltner, for his dedication to local sports on all levels; Boo Pergament and Father Ed Lyons, creators of the Seagull Classic; Bob and Rick Traa, for their sponsorship of the McDonald’s Game of the Week on cable television; John Pierantozzi, for his contributions as a coach and basketball official; Ernie Troiano, for his efforts creating and directing the Boardwalk Basketball Classic; both Jason Kaye of FantaSea Flagship Resort and Dave Talarico of Schoppy’s Inc. for the significant support they’ve given to CAL sports; Mike Gill, who took local sports radio to a higher level; and Dave Catalana, for his efforts in creating the Shoot Down Cancer Classic.
This year, the nod goes to a guy whose initial contributions to the CAL was with a whistle.
John Rodio was a longtime basketball official who has stepped beyond that role in the last seven years to bring additions and changes to basketball in the CAL and throughout South Jersey. It started with the South Jersey Basketball Summit, a social gathering for coaches and officials at the end of the season that produces scholarships and presents awards.
Next was the return of the Seagull Classic, which just completed a third consecutive successful showcase at Holy Spirit, where Father Lyons created the original tournament – the inspiration for all showcases and tournaments in the area.
And, over the last two seasons, Rodio has worked as a brand new independent assigner of basketball officials, giving teams more options and blending new, quality officials from surrounding areas with the group of good officials that already existed around here.
For these reasons – for the three significant additions he has produced to South Jersey basketball – John Rodio joins that impressive list of people who have earned the title Cape-Atlantic League SportsPerson of the Year.
And he also makes great macaroni and cheese.
With the calendar year over, 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 2019:
- The tragic shooting at a football playoff game that cost 10-year old Micah Tennant his life.
- The death of former Holy Spirit football coach Bill Walsh after a long battle with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
- Mike Trout.
- The brilliant successes by the Mainland trio of Kevin Antczak, Destin Lasco and Kylee Watson.
- State championships by Holy Spirit football, Mainland boys swimming, Mainland girls basketball, Mainland girls swimming and Ocean City girls soccer.
- The tremendous accomplishments by St. Joseph’s Jada Byers on the football field.
- The end of the Thanksgiving football rivalry between Mainland and Egg Harbor Township and the threat to other Thanksgiving Day games by ongoing NJSIAA rules changes.
- CAL tournament championships by Wildwood Catholic boys basketball, Ocean City girls basketball, Oakcrest boys soccer and Ocean City girls soccer.
- Hammonton’s announcement that it will re-join the Cape-Atlantic League starting in the 2020-21 school year.
- The return of Tom Feraco, second in career wins among all CAL basketball coaches, to the Middle Township sidelines after a three-year absence.
Lets hope there will be less sadness but more great memories coming up in 2020.