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Marc Narducci: Team was everything to A.C. coach Weiss

Bob Weiss has been involved in football for half a century, since he put the pads on at the age of 7, and now he is taking a step back.

Bob Weiss has been involved in football for half a century, since he put the pads on at the age of 7, and now he is taking a step back.

Weiss earlier this month announced his resignation as head football coach at Atlantic City High after 22 years.

At Atlantic City, Weiss went 116-95-1 and earned induction into the South Jersey Football Hall of Fame, but one must go well beyond the record to see the positive impact he had on the program.

Since the advent of NJSIAA playoffs in 1974, Atlantic City had never made it to the postseason until the Vikings earned a berth in 1999. That season, Atlantic City won the South Jersey Group 4 title and finished as The Inquirer's No. 1-ranked team.

The Vikings would later make four straight Group 4 playoff appearances, from 2004 through 2007.

This past season, Atlantic City slumped to 1-9 after going 5-5 the previous year, and the 57-year-old Weiss said he felt it was time for a change.

"The hardest part is going out 1-9, but one good thing is there will be eight back on both sides of the ball," Weiss said. "I was there 22 seasons, and after 34 years [as a coach] it is not the way guys like me want to walk away. It was best to do for the program and myself."

Typical coach, always thinking of the team, even though he won't be the one in charge.

Weiss was also a head coach for three seasons each at two North Jersey schools, Voorhees and Phillipsburg Catholic. He was also an assistant for six seasons at two other schools.

Few realize the time that coaching high school football consumes, and the sacrifices both a coach and his family make.

"High school football is 13 months a year and eight days a week," said Weiss, only slightly overstating the fact. "It's not easy on a family, and you can't be at three places at once."

It meant that sometimes, he had to miss the football games of his sons Joe and Robert, who were standouts at Mainland.

What's interesting is that in the memorable 1999 season the only Atlantic City loss was a 19-7 regular-season defeat to Mainland, where Joe was a fullback and linebacker and would earn honors as The Inquirer's South Jersey defensive player of the year.

Heading into the sectional finals, Eastern was ranked No. 1, Mainland was No. 2, and Atlantic City was No. 3.

Mainland lost in the Group 3 final to Ocean City, 21-18, in the first game of a doubleheader at Rutgers, with Atlantic City-Eastern in the nightcap.

So Bob Weiss's team got a shot at No. 1 because his son's team lost the opening game.

"I was heartbroken when my son's team lost," Weiss said.

To show how much sacrifice is needed, Weiss said he got to see only about a quarter of Mainland's title game before he had to turn his attention to getting his own team prepared.

Conversely, his son Joe didn't ride home on the Mainland bus, choosing to watch his father's game.

"A teacher told me that when we won, my son was jumping for joy," Weiss said. "You would have never known his team got beat that day, and I thought that was amazing."

Atlantic City was the underdog against an Eastern team that was unbeaten and featured the great Adam Taliaferro, who would be The Inquirer's South Jersey offensive player of the year.

When Eastern jumped out to a 17-0 lead, it appeared as if form would hold.

Atlantic City kept battling and eventually earned a 31-29 victory on a 31-yard field goal by Mike Lockwood with 15 seconds remaining. It was Lockwood's first field goal of the season.

"I said if we ever played those guys 10 times, we would lose nine," Weiss said candidly. "We were down 17-0 and it was a miraculous victory with divine intervention, and it's something that will always be with me."

Weiss says he isn't closing the book on his coaching career. He conceded that he thought about inquiring about the vacant Vineland job, but at least for now, he has decided to take a year away from coaching.

"I want to step away and see how I feel," he said.

Whether Weiss returns or not, he should feel proud about turning a so-called basketball school into one of South Jersey's most respected football programs.