The Holy Spirit High School football team needs a new coach.
It's a job search few, if any, saw coming.
Former head coach Charles Roman left Friday to become the offensive coordinator at St. Augustine Prep. Roman joins his best friend - former Villanova defensive coordinator Mark Reardon - who was named St. Augustine's head coach Friday.
The move stunned the South Jersey football community. Roman is one of the most successful coaches in Holy Spirit history regardless of sport, coaching the Spartans to state titles this year and last.
"Leaving the institution of Holy Spirit isn't as hard as leaving the kids," Roman said. "Many of those kids came to (Holy Spirit) because of football. We spent hours upon hours together."
Some people connected with local high school football speculated that Roman was leaving because Spirit is in financial trouble.
Spartans athletic director Keith Gorman called such talk ridiculous.
"This is a sports issue," Gorman said. "The school is going to be here for a long time to come."
News of Roman's move spread quickly throughout the local high school football community Friday afternoon. He had hoped to keep it quiet until he had a chance to tell the Spartans himself Monday. Spirit had no school Friday.
"It got out there so quickly," Roman said. "There was no easy way to see them in person. That's my biggest regret in the whole process. I'm sick about how they're going to feel. For them to find out this way isn't right."
Roman grew up in Absecon and graduated from Spirit in 1987. He became a Spirit assistant in 2003.
The Spartans won the state Non-Public III tile in 2007. Roman replaced Bill Walsh as head coach after that season. The Spartans were 35-9 under Roman in four seasons. They won the state Non-Public III title last season and beat previously undefeated Camden Catholic 51-7 to win the state Non-Public II championship last Friday.
Roman said the chance to work with Reardon was too good to pass up. Roman, 42, and Reardon, 40, both played football for Lafayette College. They vacation together.
"It's an opportunity to work for a guy who is my best friend," Roman said. "He's 'Uncle Mark' to my kids. We are together every second of the summer. We take our vacations together. It was always a dream to one day work together."
Gorman said the Spartans already have started to put together a committee to find a new coach. Gorman said he'd like to hire a coach by the middle of January at the latest.
"I think there's going to be a ton of qualified applicants that we're going to have to make a tough decision about," he said. "We're not going to rush and make the wrong decision."
What makes Roman's move intriguing is St. Augustine and Spirit are intense rivals in every sport.
"It's a unique situation," Gorman said. "He's not leaving to go to a college or a school out of the conference. But one of his best, lifelong friends is coaching (at St. Augustine). I know both of them. I wish both of them well - except when we play them."
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