GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - Some moments can't be put into words no matter how hard you try. You search for the right thing to say, but nothing comes out.

Instead, you look for the gestures that show the true meaning.

A son giving his father the game ball, both with tears in their eyes.

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Former players standing on the sideline in solidarity.

Current players lining up to hug and say goodbye to coaches. Tears freely falling from football men.

That's the way it was Friday night when Absegami High School hosted St. Augustine Prep in a football game - when Dennis Scuderi Jr., coached against his father, Dennis Scuderi Sr., probably for the last time.

It was the older Scuderi's last game for the Hermits, even though there are still several games left in the season. Scuderi Sr. was told this week that he will no longer be the coach of St. Augustine Prep following last night's game. In announcing the firing Thursday, the St. Augustine Prep administration cited "a philosophical impasse" with the elder Scuderi.

The Hermits lost 27-7 to Absegami, which got 225 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries from junior running back Tyler Bing.

But the score didn't matter to some people on this night.

"I am looking at the clock and just saying, 'It's done, it's over,' " Scuderi Sr. said. "It's just done."

As the final seconds ticked off, coaches, sideline personnel and others shook Scuderi Sr.'s hand. Many of them told him how much he will be missed and how he didn't deserve to be let go in the middle of a season.

He received phone calls once the news came out, even from people he hadn't heard from in years.

But the toughest part was saying goodbye to the players.

They lined up, one by one, waiting to hug their coach and hear just a few more words from him.

"I'd rather him stay the rest of the year and then have them make a decision," said senior lineman Austin Johnson, who has verbally committed to Penn State. "I'm mad and upset, but as a captain I have to rally the team."

Johnson talked about playing under Scuderi Sr. for four years. Practices were tough, but Scuderi pushed the Hermits to get the most out of them, Johnson said.

He had a fun side as well, Johnson said. The team would run unusual drills, but they were done to bond the players.

"He was motivating. He would make us better players," Johnson said. "He's going to push you to your limits. Even when you break down and get mad and all that, he's going to be there to pick you up."

High school coaches don't often get fired during a season. Coaches come and go, but usually during the quiet of the offseason.

But it seemed that's all anyone wanted to talk about now. The younger Scuderi had to answer questions about his father from his own players. They read the articles and asked him how could they help.

Then the Braves told Scuderi Jr. they would stick by him Friday.

"The theme tonight for us before the game was family and sticking together," Scuderi Jr. said. "I think that proved true tonight."

Absegami's star quarterback Rashad Kinlaw went down in the first quarter with a leg injury. He's been the heart of the offense for the Braves and they had to find other players to fill the gap. Bing helped fill the gap with his memorable performance.

Absegami's Scuderi, who holds a 2-1 edge against his father in this series, found it difficult to coach on a night when he knew it could be the last time he sees his father across the field - so close to a goal he may now never reach.

Scuderi Sr. wanted to get 100 career wins. After finishing 37-20 with St. Augustine, his career record sits at 90-41.

"To not see him get there …," Scuderi Jr. said before having to pause. "I gave him the ball and told him in my book he's worth more than 100 wins."

Contact Susan Lulgjuraj:


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