The Inquirer will announce its South Jersey football coach of the year Sunday, and although it was difficult to pare down the list, here are my leading contenders, listed alphabetically:
Bob Coffey, Mainland.
Coffey directed the Mustangs to a 10-2 record, the Cape-Atlantic American title, and a spot in the South Jersey Group 4 final. To reach the final, third-seeded Mainland jolted second-seeded Eastern, 17-14. The Mustangs won five more games than they did last year, when they were 5-5.
John Doherty, Paul VI.
The Eagles went 9-2, the second-most victories in the school's 40-season history. Paul VI won the Olympic Patriot title, its first league crown since 1981, when the team finished 10-0 under Dave Capozzi.
Clyde Folsom, West Deptford.
Despite a season-ending injury to standout running back Jimmy Owens in the second week, Folsom directed the Eagles (10-2) to the Group 2 title with a 31-17 upset of top-seeded Point Pleasant Borough. West Deptford also won the Colonial Liberty crown. This may have been the best coaching performance of Folsom's superb career.
Joe Frappolli, Florence.
Frappolli became the winningest coach in South Jersey history (236 victories) during an 8-2 season in which the Flashes captured the Burlco Freedom title and upset powerful Holy Cross in a nonleague contest.
Frank Fucetola, Williamstown.
Fucetola directed Williamstown to its first league title since the varsity program started in 1959. The Braves won four one-point decisions and finished 8-2, including a 7-1 mark in the loaded Tri-County Royal. The eight wins equaled the school record.
Tim Gushue, Shawnee.
After a 2-3 start, Shawnee had little margin for error if it was going to qualify for the South Jersey Group 3 playoffs. Not only did the Renegades qualify, but they also won the title as the fifth seed - defeating Cumberland, Hammonton and Lacey Township, all on the road. Shawnee finished 9-3, equaling the third-highest win total in the program's 38-season history.
Rob Hinson, Timber Creek.
In his second year, Hinson guided the Chargers to their first winning season and first playoff berth in the program's seven-year history. The Chargers finished 6-4, including a 33-6 win that knocked Lenape out of the Group 4 playoff picture.
Russ Horton, Moorestown.
Horton directed 12-0 Moorestown to its first undefeated season since 1957. Despite losing their starting quarterback to an injury for the last six games, the Quakers won the Central Jersey Group 3 and Burlco Liberty titles and set a school record for wins in a year.
Tom Lake, Cumberland.
Cumberland, rebounding from a 1-9 campaign, qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs for the first time and set a school record for wins in a year. The Colts finished 7-3, their first winning season since 1988 - and just the fifth since Tex Robinson started the program in 1977.
Herb Neilio, Glassboro.
Neilio's Bulldogs finished 12-0 for the second time in history; the other time was in 1999, under Bob Cleary. Glassboro won the South Jersey Group 1 and Tri-County Classic crowns while outscoring its opponents, 456-63.
Charlie Pirrello, Holy Cross.
Pirrello directed the Lancers to the Non-Public 2 state championship - even though they played almost the entire state final without record-setting quarterback Tom Reilly, who was injured. Holy Cross finished 9-2. In two years, Pirrello has instilled a terrific defense to complement a feared passing attack.
Dennis Scuderi, St. Augustine.
Scuderi led the Hermits to an 8-2 record, their first winning season since 1995, when Fucetola's team went 9-2, and just the third since the program started in 1989. Scuderi, in just two seasons at St. Augustine, has revived the program.
Dan Spittal, Eastern.
With just 15 seniors on the team, the Vikings were a year ahead of schedule, going 9-2 and reaching the South Jersey Group 4 semifinals. The victories were the most in Spittal's impressive eight-year tenure - and the most since Larry Ginsburg's 1999 team went 11-1.
Bill Walsh, Holy Spirit.
The Spartans went 12-0 for the first time and captured their first state title, knocking off previously undefeated Immaculata, 26-13, in the Non-Public 3 final. Holy Spirit finished No. 1 in The Inquirer's South Jersey rankings, and Walsh lifted his five-year record to 41-13.
Mark Wechter, Washington Township.
The Minutemen won the title in the rugged Burlco/Olympic American with a 6-0 record and a 27-21 season-ending win over Eastern. Township, which finished 8-2 overall, was 5-0 in games decided by eight points or fewer.
And the envelope, please . . .