Football – John Wagner Steps Down as Point Beach Head Coach
The man who transformed Point Beach’s football program from an annual basement dweller to a yearly state title contender is stepping down.
John Wagner has resigned as Point Beach head coach, he told Shore Sports Network on Sunday morning, ending an unprecedented seven-year run at the smallest public school in Ocean County.
Wagner went 51-26 during his tenure with the Garnet Gulls, which included the 2012 Class B Central division title, the program’s first division championship since 1997, and the 2013 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I championship, the program’s first since the inception of the playoff system in 1974. This past season, Point Beach went 7-5 and reached the Central Jersey Group I final before falling to Middlesex.
Point Beach went 29-71 in the 10 seasons before Wagner arrived in 2011, and it took the Garnet Gulls just four seasons to eclipse that win total. Point Beach went 28-6 in Wagner’s first three seasons, twice winning a school-record 10 games.
Wagner was already an NJFCA Hall of Famer and a legendary Middlesex County coach when he came to the Shore Conference in 2011. He spent 25 years as the head coach at his alma mater, Roselle Park, from 1981-2005 and is the school’s all-time winningest coach with a 150-92-2 record. The Panthers had 18 winning seasons, made 14 playoff appearances and were undefeated North Jersey Section 2, Group I champions in 1992 and 1993.
Already retired as a teacher, Wagner took over a struggling Point Beach program in 2011 and immediately led the Garnet Gulls to success. Point Beach went 8-3 in 2011 for its first winning season since 1997 while tying the single-season school wins record. The following season the Garnet Gulls went 10-1 and won the Class B Central division title for their first division championship since 1997. Superstorm Sandy decimated the sending district for Point Pleasant Beach during the 2012 season, and Wagner led his team in community outreach efforts that helped the towns recover.
It all came together in 2013 when Point Beach went 10-2 and defeated Shore Regional, 12-7, in the Central Jersey Group I championship game to give the Garnet Gulls their first NJSIAA sectional title in program history. Wagner was then selected as the 2013 Shore Sports Network Coach of the Year.
Wagner’s coaching philosophies enabled Point Beach to maximize its talent and sustain success year after year. He made sure to get freshman and sophomores into games so they would be ready when their time came to start. His motto to his players was to “stay close’ because they could find themselves in the game at any time.
The newfound winning ways of the program boosted participation numbers into the 40s - nearly 20 percent of the male population of the school. The success of the football team spread throughout the school’s athletic programs, most notably with the wrestling team. Head wrestling coach Jeff Bower and wrestling assistant Mike McGee are both assistant football coaches and there are several athletes who participate in both sports. The Garnet Gulls wrestling team recently won its third straight Central Jersey Group I sectional title.
Wagner is currently the interim athletic director at Point Beach and will remain in that position through the current school year.
Wagner’s resignation leaves vacancies at Point Beach and Keyport. Colts Neck’s vacancy is expected to be filled Monday with the hiring of Matt Ahearn.
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