Pete Lancetta survived one day in the business world.
He's lasted 24 years as the Hammonton High School football coach.
Lancetta, 50, can become just the fourth local coach to win 200 career games when Hammonton (2-0) plays at Egg Harbor Township (1-1) at 7 p.m. Friday. Lancetta's career record is 199-52-2.
"It's not an individual thing in my mind or heart," Lancetta said of the milestone. "They're our wins - the players, the coaches, the parents and the administrators."
Lancetta took over the Blue Devils in 1989. He has led Hammonton to four South Jersey titles.
Yet his historic career almost didn't happen.
He pursued a career as an accountant after graduating college with a degree in finance. Lancetta even landed a corporate job in the mid-1980s. He doesn't even remember the name of the business now.
"I got a job with benefits," he said. "My parents were real proud. It was up the Garden State Parkway somewhere. I was a management trainee, whatever that is."
Lancetta worked one day.
"I was sick to my stomach because I wasn't going to be able to coach anymore," he said.
He quit and came home to Hammonton and told his parents, Peter and Rita, that he wanted to be a football coach.
"I was mortified," Lancetta said. "Thank God they stuck by me. They weren't happy, but I finally knew what I wanted to do."
Lancetta's high school coach, Chuck Donohue, knew right away that Lancetta would be a standout coach. Lancetta grew up with the game. He played for the Hammonton Hawks of the Atlantic County Junior Football League. He excelled for Donohue at St. Joseph in Hammonton from 1976-79. Donohue, now the coach at Southern Regional, has 219 career victories.
Lancetta played running back and defensive back at St. Joe. He did the little things to make the team successful. He willingly shifted from quarterback to running back because that's where St. Joe needed him.
"Pete would have been a great accountant," Donohue said. "But I just felt he would be outstanding at football. Pete was disciplined and a student of the game. I knew he had all the things necessary to be a coach and he really loved the game."
Lancetta began his coaching career while still pursing his college degree at Richard Stockton College in Galloway Township.
Current St. Joe coach Paul Sacco, who leads the area with 258 career wins, hired Lancetta as an assistant.
But Lancetta still struggled with his career choice.
"I loved (coaching), but I was so far along with my business degree, I didn't know what to do," Lancetta said.
Turning Hammonton around
Things didn't suddenly become easy once he decided to coach full-time. Lancetta left St. Joe to become an assistant at Bishop Eustace under Clyde Folsom, now the head coach at perennial power West Deptford. Lancetta taught economics at Eustace, while pursing his public school teacher certification.
Lancetta applied for four head-coaching jobs before the 1989 season.
Three schools turned him down. Hammonton hired him, but even that wasn't a foregone conclusion.
"They (Hammonton school officials) were a little apprehensive because I was a St. Joe grad," Lancetta said.
The Blue Devils went 2-7 in Lancetta's first season. The next year, 1990, they finished 9-1-1 and lost in the South Jersey Group II final to Delran. Hammonton hasn't stopped winning since.
Lancetta still coaches with the same enthusiasm as when he first started. He keeps a yellow legal pad by his school desk and constantly diagrams plays on it.
His wife, Mary, son, Pete, and daughter, Brianna, see him staring at the pad at home.
"They ask me what am I staring at, but I honestly don't know what else I would do," he said.
Lancetta also can deliver a pep talk to motivate his team. When current Hammonton quarterback Christian Mortellite was a freshman, Lancetta talked all week of Hammonton acting like a sledgehammer during an upcoming game. Moments before kickoff in the Hammonton locker room, Lancetta took an actual sledgehammer and smashed a cinder block.
"People were going nuts," Mortellite said.
Lancetta demands a lot from his players. Hammonton relies on strength, conditioning and precise execution. The Blue Devils have had few players earn scholarships to Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) schools. Few high schools have a better relationship with their feeder teams than the Blue Devils have with the Hawks.
"He pushes everybody every day. If you make a mistake (during practice), he's going to yell," Mortellite said. "He's one of those people who, when they speak, you listen to them."
As the years have gone on, Lancetta has leaned more and more on his assistant coaches to allow him to spend more time with his family. His son, Pete, a Hammonton junior, is one of the Cape-Atlantic League's top tennis players. Brianna is a sophomore lacrosse player at Holy Family University in Philadelphia.
There hasn't been much turnover with Lancetta's staff. His brother, Pat, and Matt Lenguadoro were assistant coaches for years. Former players Jim Rasso and Mike Scibilia now coach with him.
Hammonton is known around the South Jersey sports scene as a football town where people are passionate about the game. Lancetta is a big reason for that.
"Football is important in Hammonton," Lancetta said, "and as long as I can remember, it always has been. Our kids are tough. I feel very fortunate to have the players I've had."
Contact Michael McGarry:
Tenure: Took over the Hammonton program in 1989
Championships: Led the Blue Devils to South Jersey titles in 1993, 1994, 1996 and 2009.
Local high school football coaching victory leaders
Paul Sacco, St. Joseph 258-54-5 (31st season)
Lou Vircillo, Lacey Township 250-112-3 (37th season)
Chuck Donohue, Southern Regional 219-147-4 (40th season)
Pete Lancetta, Hammonton 199-52-2 (25th season)
John Boyd, Atlantic City 173-87-16*
Bob Coffey, Mainland Regional 171-92-2 (28th season)
*Boyd coached Atlantic City from 1936-1972. He died in 1997 at the age of 87.