During the spring of 2002, after it was settled that Barnegat Township would start building a high school and secede from Southern Regional’s school district, the Bengal was officially unveiled as the school mascot.
“The Bengal beat out the pirate, bulldog and bear, and I liked the Bengal myself,” said Barnegat athletic director John Germano, who at the time was at the Russell O. Brackman Middle School. “A lot of people wanted the pirate, because that was the mascot of the original high school, but the Bengal turned out to be the favorite. It was a close vote from what I know.
“What I liked was that we didn’t have to share a mascot with anybody in the Shore Conference, and nobody else in Ocean County had black and orange as their color scheme.”
A couple of years later, it was time to select the uniform design for the new Bengals as they embarked on their freshman season. Germano, who was slated to take over for Rich Kane in 2005, and head coach Rob Davis convened with Kane during the selection process.
“When we were given the green light to select uniforms, we looked at a bunch of designs,” Davis said. “But at about the same time, the Cincinnati Bengals had just come out with its new color scheme and design, and we liked it. So, we went with that.”
Cincinnati’s helmet style came along with it.
It’s been a hit, as Asbury Park Press readers selected Barnegat as the top football uniform at the Shore in a recent online poll. Barnegat’s 41 percent topped Jackson Memorial’s 32 percent, Red Bank Catholic’s 15 percent, Matawan’s 8 percent and Keyport’s 3 percent.
“We liked the orange with the black tiger stripes, because it created our own identity in the Shore Conference,” Germano said. “When you see those helmets you know who we are, and we like having our own identity.”
Davis likes the orange helmet for another reason — it’s an easy target for a quarterback to see.
“I thought we’d be more of a spread-offense team and that we’d be throwing the ball a lot,” he said. “But we also looked at other designs like the Clemson paw print and plain orange helmet with a big-block B on it. They just didn’t appeal like the tiger stripes.”
When it came time to developing the football program, how the uniform looked was important to Germano and Davis. They wanted to make sure the players felt like they belonged to a program that mattered.
“We gave them the best right away,” Davis said. “We didn’t want to get a few years down the road and start saying, ‘Oh, we’ll ge better of this or better of that.’ We wanted our kids to look special.”
Germano said the way the uniform looked was a vital detail in selling the program to kids in the new school, knowing that numbers would be low at the outset.
“We had to get them to buy in and we set the bar high right from the beginning,” he said. “We had to sell the program and we used a lot of catchy phrases the kids liked, such as ‘Wear Tour Stripes With Pride’ and ‘Earn Your Stripes.’ We need to entice some of these kids.”
Interestingly, the Bengals used their original uniform design through last season before altering their digs a bit for this season. Ampro Sports Inc. in Pennsylvania developed the new uniforms.
“These new uniforms are awesome,” said senior Pat Moran, the team’s current quarterback. “They’re skin tight and give better mobility, especially rotation of the arms because they’re sleeveless tops. The pants are lighter and tighter, and they feel a lot better when running.”
After wearing their new road-white uniforms last Friday, the Bengals will unveil their new home-black uniforms during their home opener against Manchester Friday night.
“I loved the old uniforms but the new ones feel really great,” Moran said. “These new uniforms look really sharp.”