Legendary coach Paul Sacco leaving St. Joseph Academy after this season

by Marc Narducci | Aug 10, 2022
Legendary coach Paul Sacco leaving St. Joseph Academy after this season
Paul Sacco, whose legendary football head coaching career at St. Joseph Hammonton began in 1982, has said that this will be his 41st and final season guiding the Wildcats.

That doesn’t mean that the 65-year-old Sacco is ready to step down from coaching. It’s just that he is parting ways with a school he not has been a coaching fixture, but also attended as a 1975 graduate. 

“I guess that things don’t last forever,” Sacco said in an interview with SouthJersey.com.

The administration insists that it wanted Sacco to stay. Without either side wanting to get in the details, there was definitely a difference of opinion in the future direction of the program.

“That would be a way to put it,” Sacco said.

Sacco is the all-time South Jersey leader in coaching wins with a 352-71-5 mark. He has guided the Wildcats to 27 South Jersey championships. Since the advent of NJSIAA state playoffs for Non-Public schools in 1993, St. Joseph has won 20 state championships.

Sacco said he originally was going to resign immediately, but he was talked into guiding the team by several members of the current squad along with countless alumni.

“I told the non-seniors that I wouldn’t be their coach going forward and they still said they wanted me to coach,” he said. “I was so taken back by that.”

Sacco said he has been deluged with alumni calling him along with several in the coaching fraternity.

“I have had great support from former players and students, high school and college coaches,” he said.

While his excellence in football is well-documented, one of Sacco’s best feats was helping the school stay open after the Camden Diocese announced in April of 2020 that St. Joseph Hammonton would be among five schools that would be closing by the end of that school year.

Without the financial backing of the Camden Diocese, St. Joseph has remained open, changing its name to St. Joseph Academy.

Sacco was a big part of this revival, helping get several donors. This will now be the third school year that the school will be operating independently.

In October, St. Joseph Academy named Stephen Cappuccio the school president.

Cappuccio is a 1996 St. Augustine graduate.

Cappuccio said the school’s enrollment is moving up. He said it stood at 146 at the end of this past school year and is up to about 160 now. He says the freshman class has shown a 40 percent increase.

The biggest job task the school faces is to continue to increase enrollment. Not quite as big, but still huge, will be finding Sacco’s successor.

Cappuccio is certainly a big football proponent. He began his high school career playing football for St. Joseph, but transferred to St. Augustine, where he played two seasons and graduated in 1996. He was a two-way lineman for the football team.

‘We are adding new programs and doing new things and football is a major part of what St. Joseph Academy is all about,” Cappuccio told SouthJersey.com.

The programs the school is adding are boys’ and girls’ lacrosse and ice hockey.

Cappuccio, who had spent the previous 18 years before being hired at St. Joseph Academy as an administrator at St. Augustine said he wanted Sacco to stay on as coach.

Anybody who knows Sacco, realizes that he is a football coach 365 days a year. Not surprisingly, he says he is not ready to stop coaching.

“Maybe I could be an assistant somewhere,” he said.

More likely, there will be head coaching offers waiting. For now, he is preparing for the upcoming season. The Wildcats were 9-3 last year and were hit hard by graduation. 

They also compete in one of the top divisions in South Jersey, the West Jersey Football League Independence Division, which includes defending sectional champions Cedar Creek and Winslow Township, along with sectional finalists Delsea and Ocean City.

So St. Joseph Academy will face a big challenge in Sacco’s final season, but none bigger than the person who has to replace him in 2023.

Author: Marc Narducci


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