Remembering Joe Cacia

By TOM WILLIAMS

Six football teams from Cape-Atlantic League schools played in the NJSIAA playoffs over the weekend.

All six were winners.

That takes talented players. And it also takes quality coaching.

Cedar Creek’s Jim Melody is a CAL newcomer from North Jersey in his second season. Millville’s Dennis Thomas has led the Thunderbolts for seven seasons after a championship season at Salem.

The other four guys have CAL in their blood, having played in the league before becoming successful coaches. St. Joseph’s Paul Sacco and Holy Spirit’s A.J. Russo are coaching their alma maters. St. Augustine’s Pete Lancetta and Ocean City’s Kevin Smith are actually coaching the rivals of their alma maters.

But the coaching has been impressive and these six teams are a combined 52-9 entering next weekend.

Quality coaching has always been a big part of Cape-Atlantic League football. There is no longer an actual CAL champion. CAL teams were spread out over eight divisions in the bizarre alignments by the West Jersey Football League in 2021. And a CAL team won five of those eight divisions.

Take the time to look back at CAL football through the years, sometimes even back before the league was actually formed. Or before it merged with the old South Jersey Conference South. You will find the coaches who laid the groundwork for future success.

For example, there was John Boyd at Atlantic City, Stan Marczyk and Lou Paludi at Holy Spirit, Fred Grosse at Middle Township, Nello Dallolio at Vineland, John Barbose and Tony Surace at Millville, Fenton Carey at Ocean City and Wildwood’s Ed Gallagher.

These men were among the builders of what became Cape-Atlantic League football and produced 64 NJSIAA playoff champions through the years.

There is one more – Joe Cacia at Hammonton – who earned a prominent spot on that list.

Most of us relate to 30 plus years of consistent success by Blue Devils football teams under Lancetta and current coach Jim Raso. But it wasn’t always like that.

When Joe Cacia moved from St. James High School to Hammonton, the Blue Devils had just completed six straight losing seasons during which they won a total of nine games. In fact, in the 47 years before Cacia became head coach in the mid-1960s, Hammonton had just nine winning football seasons.

It took him a couple years to establish his program, but Cacia produced six straight winners and eight in nine years while winning four straight CAL championships. His teams were known for their defense, holding opponents to less than 10 points a game in seven of his 11 seasons.

Cacia, who died last week, was later to become Hammonton’s athletics director and was inducted into Hammonton High School, Salem County and South Jersey Coaches Association halls of fame. He also served on Hammonton city council.

His name belongs on that impressive list of coaches who were the architects of Cape-Atlantic League football. And which continues its level of success in 2021.

Joe Cacia was 81.

One thought on “Remembering Joe Cacia

  1. ON A SUNDAY IN THE FALL OF 1964 I CAME HOME FOR THE WEEKEND FROM COLLEGE TO SEE Holy Spirit PLAY ST JAMES IN FOOTBALL. Holy Spirit WAS UNDEFEATED AT THE TIME AND I KNEW NOTHING ABOUT ST JAMES AND THEIR COACH JOE CACIA. I WATCHED FROM THE STANDS AS HE RAN ONTO BADER FIELD WITH HIS TEAM AND COACHES .ST JAMES WENT ON TO WIN THAT DAY AND I LEFT THROUGHLY IMPRESSED. THERE ARE MANY PEOPLE AND COACHES WHO HAVE INFLUENCED ME ON MY JOURNEY BUT Joe Cacia WAS THE ONE THAT CONVINCED ME THAT I WANTED TO BE A COACH. A COACH LIKE HIM. YEARS LATER I GOT TO FACE HIM BUT NEVER WON……Rest In Peace Joe Cacia……JIM GALLAGHER

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