VINELAND - Vineland High School will hire Josh Hedgeman as its new head football coach, school officials said Wednesday night.

Hedgeman, who spent five years as head coach of Schalick High School in neighboring Pittsgrove Township, is expected to be appointed to the job next week after completing negotiations with school officials, school board members said.

Hedgeman will replace Ed Belfi, who resigned as head football coach last year after producing a 30-60 record over nine seasons.

Hedgeman coached Schalick from 1999 to 2004 and turned a struggling program into one that won South Jersey Group 1 championships in 2003 and 2004. In 2004, Schalick went undefeated, and Hedgeman was named coach of the year by the Touchdown Club of Southern New Jersey.

Prior to his coaching career, Hedgeman played linebacker for Rutgers University in the early 1990s and also starred at Schalick as a player while growing up in Elmer.

Hedgeman's hire prompted optimism from Vineland school board members who are looking to revive a program that went 2-8 last year. Board member Tom Ulrich said Hedgeman's stress on youth development could help the program.

Brian DeWinne, another board member, expressed disappointment with the current state of Vineland's football program, saying it had underperformed in recent years, but he was hopeful Hedgeman could improve matters.

"We should be a perennial powerhouse," said DeWinne, a former Vineland High School player who helped restart one of the school's booster clubs.

Vineland's program does offer some challenges. Most notably, Schalick was a Group I school, the sectional for the state's smallest schools, while Vineland is Group IV, which includes the state's biggest public schools.

In addition to coaching, Hedgeman taught social studies at Pittsgrove Township Middle School from 1994 through 2009, according to his Web site. He resigned from the district effective Dec. 23, according to Pittsgrove school records.

While at Pittsgrove, Hedgeman also spent time as the township middle school's basketball coach and an assistant girls track coach. He graduated Rutgers with degree in administration of justice and obtained his master's degree in education school leadership from Wilmington University (Del.), according to his Web site.

Hedgeman could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.

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