Savage looking for new challenge at Camden Catholic

by Marc Narducci | Apr 6, 2022
Savage looking for new challenge at Camden Catholic

Dwayne Savage is looking forward to his next challenge. He is hoping that the success he enjoyed in his first football head coaching job will come in his second.

In an offseason that has had plenty of coaching movement, Savage, after a successful 10-year run as head coach at Camden, is the new head coach at Camden Catholic.

Savage replaced Gary Onuekwusi and will try to bring stability to the program. He is the fourth Camden Catholic coach since 2017.
“I am really excited about this opportunity,” Savage said. Camden Catholic should be just as excited.

One has to look beyond the record to judge Savage’s success at Camden, although the record was pretty impressive. He went 71-31 in his 10 seasons and guided the Panthers to two sectional finals.

More than that, he inherited a program that had struggled and helped turn it into a consistent playoff threat.

The five years before his arrival, Camden went 14-36 with just one winning season. The Panthers were 1-9 in 2011, the year before his arrival.

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“The program wasn’t in great shape when I got there,” said Savage, who teaches in the Pennsauken school district.

His final team at Camden went 5-5 this past season. The Panthers were on track to earn a Group 2 playoff berth but were ineligible for the playoffs after a game against Pleasantville, one that Camden led 20-6 in the fourth quarter when it was halted following an on-field altercation involving players from both teams.

According to NJSIAA rules, any team accumulating three or more player or coach disqualifications (which Camden had) for flagrant, unsportsmanlike conduct before the state tournament was not be able to participate.

So even this past season, Camden would have likely been a major contender in Group 2.

One of the things that Savage did so well at Camden was help drum up interest in the football program.

When he took over, football participation wasn’t high at Camden. Savage worked hard with the youth leagues and it didn’t take long until the youngsters wanted to play for the high school.

Several players graduated from Camden and played college football. Savage established great working relationships with the colleges.

Now he faces similar challenges with Camden Catholic. The Irish had a successful season going 6-4, but it was in a division that won’t be as difficult as this year.

All the South Jersey teams are in the West Jersey Football League and every two years the divisions change to account for teams that have played well and those who haven’t.

Camden Catholic will now be in a division with Camden, Haddonfield, Haddon Heights, West Deptford and Sterling.

In addition, the program only had about 30 players at the end of last season. Conversely, Camden, according to Savage, had about 75 players in the program.

“My goal is for every kid in the Camden Diocese to want to go to Camden Catholic,” Savage said. “We had a very nice run at Camden and hopefully we can do that here and my goal is to compete with some of the big Catholic schools.”

The two biggest parochial schools in South Jersey are Paul VI, which is Camden Catholic’s South Jersey rival, and St. Augustine; both are Non-Public Group 4 schools.

St. Augustine has built its program to the point where the Hermits are an annual contender for the No. 1 spot in South Jersey. Paul VI, under former St. Augustine and Camden Catholic head coach Dennis Scuderi, has gone 12-5 over the last two years in what has been a successful rebuild.

Savage, who was a standout fullback-linebacker at Rancocas Valley and helped the Red Devils win the 1987 SJ Group 3 title, has ambitious goals, but he proved at Camden he knows how to build a program and that the success he had in the past decade should suit him well with his new team.
 


Author: Marc Narducci

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