The seeds for Colts Neck’s 2012 season were probably planted in 2010.
The 2010 Colts Neck team, when this year’s seniors were sophomores, was probably one of the best two-win teams in the history of the Shore Conference. That Cougars’ team lost six games to teams that qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs by a combined 26 points, including a one-point loss in overtime and another one-point loss in double overtime.
“It was year two in the program,” said Greg LaCava, who recently completed his fourth season as Colts Neck’s head coach. “We were trying to change everything about it — how we walked, how we talked, how we handled ourselves on and off the football field.
“But those kids battled. They battled hard, week in and week out against a difficult schedule. But, like I said this year a lot, our kids have short memories. Nothing seems to faze them. They kept plugging along every week.”
Colts Neck has made noticeable strides from the heartbreak of 2010.
Last season, the Cougars went 6-4 and might have been the best non-playoff team in the Shore.
This season, Colts Neck, which had a lot of success under former coach Mike McArthur, was one of the Shore’s best teams this year. The Cougars went 9-2, set a school-record for wins, hosted playoff games for the first time since they began playing varsity football in 2000, and won a playoff game for just the second time in their history and also recorded a regular season win over Middletown South.
“This (being Coach of the Year) is a tremendous individual honor,” said LaCava, who played his scholastic ball at Middletown South from 1984-86 and was then an assistant coach at Middletown South under head coach Bob Generelli or four seasons and then an assistant coach at Long Branch for head coach Fred Sprengel. “But, anyone that’s in the coaching profession knows this is a team effort.
“Special players and special coaches enabled me to win this (Coach of the Year) award. I accept this on behalf of the entire Colts Neck football program.”
LaCava, who was the head coach at Allentown for five seasons from 1999-2003 and an assistant coach at Manchester for three seasons from 2004-06, has an assistant coach with a distinct Middletown South flavor. His defensive coordinator is Tom Letson, who was the defensive coordinator at Middletown South when LaCava was an assistant coach to Generelli. His quarterbacks coach is John Andl, a former Middletown South head coach.
“I’ve always believed that most of the core values I got in regards to coaching I got from those guys,” LaCava said. “To be able to get them to work with me is a great honor that they would want to do it.”
Colts Neck was a well-rounded football team. It had a solid defense. The Cougars allowed just 99 points in their first 10 games. They also had a balanced offense. Junior running back Anthony Gargiulo rushed for almost 1,300 yards. Senior quarterback Mike Campbell, in his first season as the starter, threw for almost 2,200 yards and 24 TDs and senior receiver Tim Vangelas had over 1,000 yards in receiving and 14 TDs.