Sciarappa Takes Over at Mater Dei and More…

Posted by Scott Stump –


As detailed in my story here, Mater Dei principal Steven Sciarappa is now also going to be the school’s head football coach now that former coach Ron Raymond and his staff are not being brought back. All the details are pretty much discussed in the story, but I will say that when I heard rumblings of all this happening early in the week, I thought the football program at Mater Dei was going to be disbanded.

Sciarappa said that is certainly not the case, and that it was more of a case of having the coaches be in the building and work at Mater Dei. I know athletic director Gary Carmody is a staunch proponent of the football program despite its woes, as the Seraphs have had less than 30 players on the roster and have gone 1-29 in the last three years and ended a 29-game losing streak in the fall with a 7-0 win over Newark Academy in their NJSIAA consolation game.

Certainly the main questions raised will be whether a principal who already has a lot on his plate has the time to dedicate to a serious rebuilding effort and how the team will increase its numbers at a school that only has 340 total kids and offers soccer and cross country in the fall as well. The other issue is continuity – Sciarappa is the third head coach in the last three years. Every year, these players here about how this is a new regime that is dedicated to changing things and establishing a foundation, and every year there is a change, so it makes it hard to want to buy in to what the latest coach is selling, even if it is the school’s principal.

Sciarappa stressed that what he seeks and is proud of are high participation levels. I may be reading between the lines here and don’t want to put words in Sciarappa’s mouth, but it sounds like Raymond ran off some players he felt were dogging it or going through the motions because he wanted kids committed to rebuilding and winning, while Sciarappa is not so much focused on winning as on having a lot of kids participate.

Also, this point has been raised by others I’ve spoken with and I think it may be one to look into – playing an independent schedule. The Seraphs have simply not even been competitive within the Shore Conference, where they are now part of the newly created Class B Central division. If they can get games with other programs in their similar situation rather than getting beat 55-0 by Asbury Park, that might help instill enthusiasm and build a solid base to one day return to the Shore. I know that would be a scheduling challenge for Carmody and would be a pain for Shore teams that have Mater Dei penciled in as a divisional opponent, but it’s worth looking at.

All in all, it’s obviously a tough situation at Mater Dei. Sciarappa is young (35) and very energetic, so I certainly wouldn’t put it past him to help resurrect this program, but that is the biggest challenge north of Warren Wolf’s adventure at Lakewood.

The change at Mater Dei means that there is still one job left to be filled in the Shore Conference, which is at three-time defending Central Jersey Group I champion Asbury Park. The common wisdom is still that lead assistant and offensive coordinator Matt Ardizzone will replace the departed Don Sofilkanich, who is now the head coach at rival Neptune. Asbury’s next Board of Education meeting is on May 26, so hopefully they can get someone in place by then in order to get a summer program going. That staff features a lot of non-tenured employees, so we’ll see if there is fallout from the budget cuts. That would be a real shame if that program took a big step back because of circumstances beyond the players’ and coaches’ control because they’ve really built something for the community to be proud of there.

I’m also not convinced that some other openings/changes among the head coaching ranks may occur at the 11th hour because of school budgets failing, particularly in the Freehold Regional District. Also, with Wolf now on the Board of Education in Brick, you would have to think Green Dragons head coach Pat Dowling is on thin ice because Wolf never wanted him there and ran for the Board because he was frustrated with the politics that led to Dowling being approved as his successor. Dowling has been nothing but professional and accommodating in any dealings I have had with him and I hate to speculate about his job, but how can you not after seeing Wolf get elected? My guess is that former Brick assistant Len Zdanowicz, who was one of the applicants when Wolf retired, may end up as Brick’s head coach by the time the season rolls around. I honestly hope it all doesn’t go down that way because it would have nothing to do with football and everything to do with politics, but we’ll see.


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