End of an Era: Mark Costantino steps down as Shore Regional head coach
The notepad and pen he so frequently used to draw up plays are no longer within arm's reach when he's watching a college football game. His office, packed with decades of football knowledge and memories, is slowly being cleared out.
After 32 years at the helm of Shore Regional's football program, Mark Costantino announced he is stepping down as the longtime head coach of one of the Shore Conference's flagship programs. His intentions weren't exactly a secret at the West Long Branch school, but Costantino officially informed the team he was stepping down during the team's banquet last Sunday.
"It's all I've done my whole life and for the past 37 years at Shore. It's time for a different chapter of life," Costantino said. "I turned 62 (on December 13) and my last day teaching is January 31. Our superintendent wanted me to keep coaching - and I have a lot left in me - but my whole staff is awesome and I have guys ready to step in. I've reached my goals and I felt it was time."
A graduate of Bloomfield High School who played collegiately at William Paterson University, Costantino made his way to the Shore Conference in 1987 when a teaching job opened in the district. The job offer itself was great, but Costantino made it clear he had stipulations that needed to be met.
"I was 25 when I got to Shore as a special education teacher," Costantino said. "When I interviewed for the job I said if I can't coach football at any level I don't want the job. I met Bob Rolak and we talked and I was very fortunate that he was a great mentor to me. On staff were (former Shore head coaches) Nick Cammarano and Pete Sciarabba. For me, as a young guy, to have three head coaches on the staff, I showed up and listened. By my second year I was calling the defense, we were state champs in 1988, and it went from there."
Costantino was an assistant under Rolak for five seasons before becoming Shore's head coach ahead of the 1992 season. The Blue Devils had won three NJSIAA sectional championships in their history before Costantino took over, and he took the program to new heights during his three-plus decades at Feeney Field. Shore went 7-2 and won the Class C Division title his first year. They were division champions again in 1994 and 1996 before bringing home the Central Jersey Group 1 championship in 1997.
That was the first of four sectional championships the Blue Devils captured under Costantino's direction. They went 11-1 and won the Central Jersey Group 1 title in 2010. The 2014 team also went 11-1 and won the Central Jersey Group 1 championship. Then came maybe the best Shore Regional team of all time, the 2015 squad led by running back/linebacker Doug Goldsmith and two-way lineman Erik Graham, which finished 12-0 and won the Central Jersey Group 1 championship with a dominant 56-28 win over a high-scoring Palmyra team.
Another highlight was coaching his son, Mark, who was a sophomore on the 2010 sectional championship team and a senior on the team that went 9-3 and reached the Central Jersey Group 1 final.
The Blue Devils became one of the best small-school programs in the state under Costantino and had their fair share of wins over larger schools. Most notable among those were Thanksgiving week victories over Rumson-Fair Haven teams that went on to win sectional titles the following week.
"We take great pride in playing up, so to speak," Costantino said. "We loved playing big schools and beating them. We always say, those schools don't worry about us - until they have to play us."
Costantino compiled a 210-118-1 record with 10 Shore Conference division championships and four NJSIAA sectional titles during his tenure. He was inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame in 2015.
"We have a tremendous football culture we've developed," Costantino said. "I inherited a great program and took it f further. Shore Regional is a special place."
Costantino isn't done with football for good. He anticipates being back on a sideline somewhere in the future, but not before taking at least a year off. He is looking forward to spending more time with his granddaughter Lucia and traveling with his wife Felicia. Costantino is an avid fisherman and hunter who also loves to restore classic cars, and he'll have plenty of time to dive into those hobbies a little more, as well.
"I remember my first practice as head coach in August of 1992 and I couldn't believe I was the head coach," Costantino said. "I love the school, I live in town, I met my wife at the school, and my daughter and son went through the school. It's been a great ride. I love teaching and the high school but it's time to move on and do other things. You can't stay at the same place forever."