This is the latest in a series of sports memories contributed by the student-athletes of the past – the people who were part of the great high school sports moments in the Cape-Atlantic League area.

Paul Baruffi was a multi-sport athlete at Vineland High School in the 1980s. He became a highly successful girls basketball coach at Ocean City before retiring after last season. His teams won 429 games in his 20 seasons, third best in CAL history. His eight South Jersey titles is the most by a CAL girls coach and his 2012-13 team won the Raiders only girls basketball state title. He will conclude his career as assistant football coach this season and retire as a teacher on January 1.


In the summer between my junior and senior years, a lot of athletes – including myself – worked for the Vineland School System lawn crew. Our bosses were John Pierantozzi and former Vineland coach Ron DeRuchie.

One day they dropped me and two other football players off to cut the lawn at Reber School. It wasn’t a very big lawn, so we were done quickly. Then we decided to go around back and take a nap.

Not thinking, we left all the equipment in the front of the school. After a short snooze we walked around to the front and found all the equipment gone. After panicking and thinking everything was stolen, we decided to walk to Cunningham School, which was a few blocks away. When we arrived, waiting for us were John Pierantozzi, who was not real happy, and Ron DeRuchie, who was laughing.

Coach gave us that John Pierantozzi stare that I would come to know anytime I messed up playing. He let us know it better not happen again. For years we would reminisce about that day and other memorable days. They were funny memories now.

As a basketball coach, I had a lot of great showdowns with Mainland teams. But the first one I remember was in 1981 on the football field.

That’s Baruffi (#42) on front row, left – and Pierantozzi standing., at right, in 1981.

Vineland had not beaten Mainland in seven years but we shut down their offense that year and defeated them, 12-6.

Coach Pierantozzi was our defensive coordinator and he was really excited about the effort. When Doug Lewis intercepted a Mainland pass on our 20 yard line to kill their final drive, we all got excited. Bill Cutcher was our head coach and he said afterwards that our defense was super.

Coach Pierantozzi could be a tough guy, but he really cared about the guys that played for him. I believe he was successful because he expected his players to give it their all and would praise you with his famous line – “Super job, boys,…fantastic!”

I learned things from him that have helped me as a coach and as a person. None of us will forget the time we spent with Coach Pierantozzi at Vineland High School.

You can read previous Sports Memories by Fred Dalzell, Steve Parker, John Cranston, Skip Castaldi, Joe LaRosa and Ken Weaver – HERE.

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