Coach Mark Reardon came to St. Augustine Prep with a simple message for his players.
"That was our whole thing," he said during the preseason. "You have to show up, and we'll show you how to work like any coach would do."
Reardon makes his St. Augustine debut when the Hermits host Middle Township in a Cape-Atlantic League National Conference game at 7 p.m. today.
St. Augustine's hiring of Reardon was a high-profile move. Reardon, a Margate resident, was previously the defensive coordinator at Villanova University.
He helped the Wildcats win the 2009 NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision title. It's not every day that a high-profile college assistant takes over a high school program.
But the demands of college coaching were too much on his family. Reardon and wife Tiffany have two children younger than 10.
"You're doing the same things that football coaches do at any level (in high school)," Reardon said. "Football is football. But when I was a college football coach, I would leave Aug. 1 and I wouldn't see my family again until after our first game in the first weekend of September. Those things haven't happened this year."
Reardon's success at Villanova gave him instant credibility at St. Augustine.
"There was a lot of confidence in him as soon as he walked in the door," Hermits running back Calvin Cass. "We were hoping he would bring his (college success) to the high school level."
Nearly all football teams train and lift weights from January to the start of preseason practices.
"Good football teams get stronger, faster and bigger in the off-season," Reardon said.
But St. Augustine faces a unique challenge when it comes to offseason workouts. The school is located in Buena Vista Township and many of its students and players live a 40-minute or more drive from the school.
"He had our students who come from all over South Jersey here at 7 a.m. two days a week and one night a week," St. Augustine athletic director Dennis Foreman said.
St. Augustine excels in nearly every sport. But the Hermits have had sporadic football success.
The Hermits won the 1995 state Parochial I title under coach Frank Fucetola. St. Augustine went 27-4 under coach Dennis Scuderi from 2007-09.
But the school has losing seasons six of the last nine years.
St. Augustine Prep always turns the its first home football game into a school-wide celebration.
This season, the Hermits have even more reason to be excited.
Foreman said 93 percent of the school's nearly 700-student body, including 175-of-191 freshmen, have brought tickets for the game. The whole day is dubbed HermitsFest and the event will serve as a fundraiser for a St. Augustine student who was diagnosed with leukemia during the summer.
A student band will play before the game. There will be ice cream, hamburgers and hot dogs.
And there will be a new coach beginning a new era of St. Augustine football.
Reardon works at the school as a guidance a counselor. His presence in the building haas helped build interest in the football team.
"He has intensity that turns into enthusiasm, Foreman said. "His intensity is contagious."
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