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Football: St. Augustine shoots for the stars

Make no mistake: St. Augustine Prep didn't hire Mark Reardon as its football coach on Friday to go 7-4.

And Reardon didn't leave Villanova as a defensive coordinator to go 7-4.

And Chalie Roman isn't leaving Holy Spirit to become Reardon's offensive coordinator to go 7-4.

Leave it to Roman to sum up this remarkable series of events, this seismic shift in South Jersey football: "St. Augustine Prep made an unbelievable commitment to beat Don Bosco."

That's Don Bosco Prep. That's the No. 1 football team in the nation in both 2010 and in 2011.

St. Augustine is a long, long way from that level of competition. Actually, they are light years from that level of competition.

But the Hermits clearly want to win, and win big -- and that could have a major impact on all of South Jersey football.

Their enrollment is up, in spite of the economy, and they know the value of great sports teams in terms of school spirit, alumni engagement and as a boost to fund-raising.

Football never has been a great sport at the Prep, although Dennis Scuderi had a few very good teams in recent seasons. But when Scuderi was fired midway through this season, it was fair to wonder just how much the school wanted to win in the sport.

Answer: Reardon.

He has been Villanova's defensive coordinator the last seven years and an assistant for Andy Talley the last 11 years. He also was an assistant at Lafayette, Siena and Albany.

Like Clint Wiley, whio left Villanova to become the head coach at Sterling this past season, Reardon has a young family and the demands of being a college assistant -- time and travel, especially -- probably were tough on his homelife.

"This was a family decision, a lifestyle decision," Reardon said.

But after years in college, these guys don't become high school head coaches to be anything but successul. They're used to recruiting, to competing at a high level, to dealing with top, top high school athletes.

Reardon said his goal is to "win championships." When you compete in Non-Public 4, that means beating Don Bosco Prep.

"That's the goal," Reardon said. "We're a long way from that. I undersdtand that. But I'm not shying away from the fact that I'm taking this job to win football games."

Reardon called Don Bosco Prep, "the white elephant in the room."

He said, "It needs to be addressed and it will be addressed at our first team meeting."

The Prep has tremendous facilities and its recruiting reach has stretched all the way to Cape May and up to the Lenape district and everywhere in between. Obviously, that $15,000 or so a year in tution is a factor in the pool of students from which they can draw.

But there always is financial aid. There are ways around some of those obstacles if a school really, really wants to be great in football.

Sounds like St. Augustine really, really wants to be great in football. That will have a major impact on other Cape Atlantic League teams, especially Holy Spirit (which is a whole another story as far as declining enrollment and the uncertain future of that school) and St. Joseph but other private schools such as Camden Catholic and Paul VI and Gloucester Catholic.

And remember, every kid that enrolls in a private school has a public-school program in his home district that he's deciding not to join. So a powerhouse at the Prep that attracts big-time talent from all over South Jersey could impact lots and lots of South Jersey football programs.

Nothing happens overnight. The Hermits won't be challenging Don Bosco in 2012. Or 2013. They probably won't be challenging St. Joseph or Holy Spirit -- unless a bunch of those kids jump ship with Roman and follow their old coach to the woods of Richland -- in 2012. And maybe not in 2013, either.

But these guys are dreaming big and their aspirations are likely to make a major impact on the entire SJ football scene.

This is a significant commitment at the adminstrative level. And when things happen at the administrative level at a school with the stature, reputation, reach, alumni pipeline and connections of a St. Augustine Prep, watch out.

Did you feel the earth move? Maybe that's an overstatement. But I swear I felt a rumble.

This could be that big of a deal. It could alter the South Jersey football landscape.

-- Phil Anastasia