One of the great careers in Shore Conference football has come to an end, as Hall of Famer Mike Ciccotelli has retired at Keyport after 36 seasons.

"It's time,'' Ciccotelli said. "I spent 40 years of my life down there. It became my home. I had opportunities to leave but never left because of the kids, the students. I always felt like they didn't owe me, I owed them. There's just a lot of emotions right now."

Ciccotelli, whose retirement was first reported by the Asbury Park Press, is one of only six coaches in Shore Conference history to register more than 200 victories. He finished with a career record of 231-131-3, and his six NJSIAA sectional titles are tied for the second-most by any coach in Shore Conference history. He was the longest-tenured coach at one school in the Shore before stepping down on the heels of a 5-5 season in the fall.

Keyport Hall of Famer Mike Ciccotelli has retired after 36 seasons, 6 state titles and 231 wins with the Red Raiders. (Photo by Bill Normile)

In 2012, he was inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame. Since taking over at Keyport in 1978, Ciccotelli led Keyport to Central Jersey Group I championships in 1987, 1988, 1992, 1998, 1999, and 2002. He also led the Red Raiders to 12 Shore Conference division titles, including three straight from 1987-89. His teams made 16 state playoff appearances and had a career playoff record of 21-11.

"You'll always remember your first state championship, and there's been great players who have gone through there,'' Ciccotelli said. "The kids that played the game, no matter how good they were, they played hard and they sacrificed every day. There was never a quit in Keyport."

In addition to the game and the camaraderie, Ciccotelli will also miss the little things.

"McDonald's breakfast on Saturdays with the coaches and the kids is something I will miss,'' he said. "We would all go together. It wasn't the best pregame meal, but the purpose was to get together as a team."

With teams known for their punishing Delaware Wing-T running attack and physical defense, Ciccotelli led the Red Raiders to a single-season school record 11 wins in 1999, 2002 and 2003, including an 11-0 season in 2002 led by the Shore Conference's all-time leading rusher, Ken Cattouse, and the late J.J. Bedle, a star wide receiver who played at Syracuse.

Ciccotelli also twice served as the Monmouth County head coach in the U.S. Army All-Shore Gridiron Classic, winning both times. One of his former players has become a coaching great in his own right, Middletown South's Steve Antonucci, whose teams have won five NJSIAA sectional titles and eight division titles. Also, Ciccotelli's longtime assistant, Jay Graham, is now the new head coach at Holmdel.

Ciccotelli was an All-County running back/defensive back at A.L. Johnson High School, graduating in 1969 and moving on to be a four-year starter and earning all-conference honors at defensive back at Trenton State College, which is now The College of New Jersey. He took a teaching job at Keyport right out of college and remained there ever since, retiring from teaching in 2011 but staying on as the head football coach through 2013.

Ciccotelli is also part of a successful family of high school football coaches. His younger brother Mark is currently the head coach at St. John Vianney and has won three NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III titles in his career between two at Freehold and one in his first season at Neptune. His brother Steve was also the head coach at Scotch Plains-Fanwood in North Jersey for 20 seasons and led the Raiders to a state final in 2003.

He added that Mark has reached out to have him come help out at St. John Vianney, so that is a possibility he is considering.