The coach was even-keeled, measured in his words during a postgame ceremony in his honor.
Glenn Howard — unusually smooth by high school football coaching standards — accepted praise for his 300th career win in his signature charm. He took the milestone in stride, heaping praise back onto his players and fellow coaches over 34 years at Paulsboro.
“It’s been a blessing coaching here,” he said.
Howard’s personality is one of the hallmarks of the Paulsboro community. And his teams tend to absorb his swagger. The game Saturday afternoon was a clear example of why that’s been such a good thing over 34 years.
“He’s the G.O.A.T.,” said Paulsboro wide receiver and defensive back Jacob Perez-Eli, referring to the greatest-of-all time label after the Red Raiders beat visiting Gateway, 28-8, in the South Jersey Group 1 semifinals.
The win improved Howard’s record to 300-67. He joins Florence’s Joe Frappolli and St. Joseph’s Paul Sacco as South Jersey’s only active coaches in the 300-win club.
“I’ve known a lot of great people and hopefully touched a lot of people’s lives in a positive way,” Howard said. “I think that’s why the Lord put me here.”
Paulsboro was losing, 8-0, at halftime. In the third quarter, quarterback Tyree Thomas was knocked out of the game with an ankle injury. That meant the team was down to its fourth-string quarterback. Three other quarterbacks had already been lost for the season before this game.
But when asked what it was like to roll out a fourth-string quarterback — freshman Rocco Pellegrini — in such a critical spot in the season, Howard was true to form.
“You know what?” he said, ever calm and cool. “We just didn’t hit the panic button.”
And so they didn’t.
Players — assuming that even-keeled mentality — never lost composure and methodically wore down Gateway in the second half.
Paulsboro, in fact, only got stronger and didn’t allow a first down over the final two quarters.
Running back Bhayshul Tuten, playing through a toe injury, was the team’s rock. He pounded his way to 133 yards on 28 carries. He scored two second-half touchdowns, including a 1-yard run — a direct snap out of the wildcat formation — to give his team the 28-8 lead with 4 minutes, 36 seconds to play.
Pellegrini threw only one pass, a 19-yard completion. Tuten spent a portion of the second half playing quarterback in a wildcat formation. Tuten and fellow running back Juan Lopez (8 rushes for 64 yards and a touchdown) executed the offense flawlessly.
“It was fun, honestly,” said Tuten, whose team advances to the South Jersey Group 1 championship game on Saturday, Nov. 23, against Penns Grove. “It was a change. It was different, but we’ve practiced it before, and we worked it out.”
Prior to his injury, Thomas did his part to turn momentum back in Paulsboro’s favor. He completed just 3-of-12 passes for 33 yards in the first half. But on his first throw of the second half, Thomas hit Perez-Eli in stride for a 55-yard touchdown.
“At halftime, I told [Thomas] that the safety keeps biting over on sprint-out passes. [On that play] I just caught him, faked right, came back, was wide open and tracked the ball down,” said Perez-Eli, who also had an interception that set up Tuten’s final touchdown. “We just trusted our coaches, trusted our play-calling and made it happen.”
It was another example of the preparation and savvy the Paulsboro football program is known for. It’s also a window to the remarkable consistency of Howard’s 34-year tenure.
The Red Raiders (8-1) will play for the 16th sectional title of Howard's tenure.
After the game, Howard was firm in his stance that he doesn’t see himself coaching many more years.
But it was just as clear that he still loves what he does. The passion is there. And he still loves to win.
“When I’m out on the football field, it’s almost like Denzel Washington said in [Remember the Titans]. When you’re out here, you just feel good,” Howard said. “It’s like your sanctuary. You feel at home.”
Gateway 0 8 0 0 — 8
Paulsboro 0 0 14 14 — 28
G: Derrick Parker 4 run (Parker run)
P: Jacob Perez-Eli 48 pass from Tyree Thomas (Perez-Eli run)
P: Bhayshul Tuten 5 run (pass failed)
P: Tuten 1 run (Giovanni Serrano kick)