Geographically, Richland, Hammonton, and Absecon don't form an isosceles triangle.

But when it comes to non-public high school football, St. Augustine Prep, St. Joseph, and Holy Spirit represent a practically perfect three-way rivalry.

Especially now that Pete Lancetta, of all people, is the new head coach at St. Augustine Prep.

Lancetta, 55, is one of the most successful and highly respected coaches in South Jersey history. But he was a public-school guy for his first 26 seasons as a head coach and he used to make no secret of his belief that non-public schools had an unfair advantage over his Hammonton High School teams.

"I was critical of what I thought was an unfair playing field," Lancetta said. "But times have changed. Now you see some of that permeating the public schools. It's a little like the Wild West out there."

It's more than a little ironic that Lancetta, at this stage of his illustrious career, is taking over one of the non-public schools that used to compete against his Hammonton powerhouses in the Cape-Atlantic League.

Along with St. Joseph and Holy Spirit, of course.

Now, all those schools and everybody else in South Jersey is a member of the West Jersey Football League.

And St. Augustine, St. Joseph, and Holy Spirit are scheduled to play each other during the 2017 season.

So Lancetta will be back competing against his alma mater, St. Joseph, and matching wits with long-time Wildcats' coach Paul Sacco.

Lancetta is a St. Joseph graduate and started his career as an assistant under Sacco in the early 1980s. And for the first 25 of Lancetta's 26 seasons at Hammonton, the Blue Devils and Wildcats would square off on Thanksgiving weekend in one of South Jersey's fiercest rivalries.

Lancetta's teams at Hammonton also regularly competed against Holy Spirit in Cape-Atlantic League play.

With the veteran coach now at St. Augustine, those two rivalries will get an extra jolt of excitement, especially now that former St. Augustine assistant coach Chalie Roman has returned to Holy Spirit, where he won two state titles as a head coach.

Holy Spirit is coming off a 9-3 season that included an appearance in the Non-Public 2 state finals. With Roman on board as a top assistant to head coach A.J. Russo, the Spartans are not going anywhere.

St. Joseph is coming off its version of a down season, a 7-4 mark that ended a streak of seven straight state titles. But the Wildcats are planning a big bounce-back behind some talented younger players.

St. Augustine has won 25 in a row against South Jersey opponents and appeared to open a gap on its non-public rivals in recent years. In 2016, the Hermits beat Holy Spirit and St. Joseph by a combined score of 83-0.

When St. Augustine's program appeared to be rocked by the abrupt departures earlier this month of former head coach Mark Reardon as well as Roman, St. Joseph and Holy Spirit seemed in position to gain ground on the prestigious prep school.

Now an old and familiar foe is standing in the way of that.

And none of this happens in a vacuum. The three non-public powers are trying to maintain their status among South Jersey's top programs - which means attracting top players - even as Millville has re-emerged as a dominant team, as Vineland has surged into the top-10 conversation and as Washington Township has hired a dynamic new coach in Lamont Robinson.

All of which could serve to limit the pool of top players available to the non-public programs.

The task before Lancetta and his staff - which is likely to include some well-known coaches in South Jersey circles - will be to maintain the Hermits' dominance of area competition while trying to figure out a way to compete with the North Jersey non-public superpowers in the Non-Public 4 tournament.

Lancetta is a great football coach. He showed that in a 26-year run at Hammonton in which his teams went 215-65-1 and captured four South Jersey titles.

Although he's familiar with non-public education - he went to St. Joseph, spent some time as a teacher and coach at Bishop Eustace and his daughter attended the prep school in Pennsauken as well - Lancetta has spent the overwhelming majority of his coaching career at a public school.

While those football games on Friday nights or Saturday afternoons are the visible manifestations of the rivalries between the three non-public schools, a lot of battles happen behind the scenes.

Particularly when it comes to attracting top student-athletes.

Lancetta said that at this stage of his career, he's not likely to be attending youth-football games to schmooze with parents and try to convince eighth-graders to attend St. Augustine Prep.

"There's other ways - camps, open houses that we have, different things that the school does to show students the opportunities that are there," Lancetta said. "A very good program will recruit itself."

For years and years, Lancetta worried about keeping Hammonton kids at Hammonton High and developing those tough, blue-collar players into one of South Jersey's best public-school programs.

Nobody did it better.

He always viewed the non-public powers from a respectful distance, with high regard for the hard work by the coaches and players but with little in the way of common ground.

That's changed in a big way. Now he's smack dab in the middle of a three-way rivalry that suddenly got a lot more interesting with his arrival in Richland.

@PhilAnastasia