Herb Neilio knows football. He knows history, too.
Neilio knows his Glassboro team has done something special over the last two seasons. He also knows the Bulldogs, for all their gaudy success, are just a shiny link in a chain that stretches back over generations at the small Gloucester County school.
"There's a great tradition here," said Neilio, the Inquirer's South Jersey football coach of the year. "It goes back to Bob Cleary and John Aveni and Marvin Slomsky and even before that.
"It's part of this town. They'll still be winning football games around here long after I'm gone."
Glassboro went 12-0 again this season and captured its second consecutive South Jersey Group 1 championship. The Bulldogs have a 24-game winning streak.
Glassboro won the sectional title Dec. 6 on Marvin Slomsky Field, named after the beloved coach who died before the start of the 1975 season. Those Bulldogs went 11-0 and dedicated the season and the football stadium to the old coach.
Slomsky went 56-26-1 from 1966 through 1974. He was replaced by John Aveni, who went 72-34-1. Aveni was replaced by Bob Cleary, who went 121-42-1.
Neilio replaced Cleary, his old boss, seven years ago.
"That's four coaches in more than 40 years," Glassboro athletic director Jeff Cusack said. "That's the kind of tradition and consistency that you don't find at a lot of places.
"Herb has a great sense of that."
The 52-year-old Neilio isn't the kind of coach who compares his record to the men who came before him. He believes he's building on their success, not overshadowing it.
But the truth is that Neilio has taken the Glassboro program to another level. He is 65-14 in seven seasons. He has won back-to-back sectional titles and put together the longest winning streak in the history of the program.
He's also has raised Glassboro to an eye-to-eye level with perennial Group 1 and Gloucester County power Paulsboro, at least in recent seasons. Neilio is 2-2 against the Red Raiders, with victories in the Group 1 playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
"As a coach, that's the program you want to try to emulate," Neilio said of Paulsboro. "That's the team the kids shoot for. They've won so many titles. You always see them celebrating."
Neilio credits his assistants for much of the team's success this season. The head coach says Greg Maccarone, Mark Maccarone, Merritt Bowman, Sakeem Wright and Bryan Broughton played a big role in the Bulldogs' drive to another Tri-County Classic and South Jersey Group 1 title.
The Glassboro staff had some work to do this season. After going 12-0 in 2007, the Bulldogs lost their entire offensive line to graduation.
"That was a big challenge," Neilio said. "We lost some excellent kids. It's tough to rebuild up front."
By the end of the year, Glassboro's front line of tackles Matt Sands and Anthony Ellis, guards Na'lym Topping and Gary Scruggs and center Ron Anderson, along with veteran tight end Danien Green, was a team strength.
With Sands, Ellis, Scruggs and Anderson set to return, Neilio and his staff have the building blocks in place for another successful season, especially considering the potential of talented sophomore twins PJ James and Christian James.
"We'll have some work to do at the skill positions," Neilio said. "But it's always good to have experience along the front line."
Behind seniors Green, Tim Breaker, Ricky Tunstall and Stephen Davis, among others, Glassboro rolled through the 2008 season. The Bulldogs outscored opponents by 478-66, beating Gloucester and Penns Grove twice and defeating Paulsboro on the Red Raiders' field in the sectional semifinals.
"He's the man for the award," Breaker said of Neilio. "Coach Neilio is a great coach. He puts us in the right position. He keeps us focused."
Neilio is a football lifer. He played quarterback at Gloucester Catholic and Rowan, and was a longtime assistant to Cleary before becoming Glassboro's head coach in 2002.
He also has a great sense of the sport's history, especially in South Jersey. His father, Herb Neilio Sr., helped found the midget program in Westville - on a field down the street from the family's home - in 1955 and has been coaching there ever since.
Neilio Sr. also is a founding member and longtime official of the South Jersey Touchdown Club, which has been meeting in Woodbury since the mid-1960s.
Glassboro had some great teams before Neilio became their head coach, including that undefeated 1975 team, the Gordie Lockbaum-Sean Redman teams in the early 1980s, and the sectional title teams in 1987 and 1999.
And the current coach is probably right: They will have some more great teams after he is gone.
But this is a golden age for Glassboro, with consecutive 12-0 seasons, with back-to-back sectional titles, with a winning streak that conceivably could stretch into the 30s.
And the coach is front and center on that.
"I'm fortunate," Neilio said. "There's a lot of great tradition here, they've got a great midget program in town and we get some great athletes. These kids make plays in big games.
"As coaches, we just try to stay consistent and keep them focused on one game at a time. We tell them to take care of that week, that game, and everything else will take care of itself."
That's how history is made, one moment at a time.