Face of the Franchise: Colts Neck football
When a Shore Conference football program is mentioned there are certain people that always come to mind. For some, it’s unanimous no matter what era you are from. For others, it’s a fun debate comparing all-time greats from different eras whether they roamed the sidelines as coaches or broke records between the lines.
That got us at the Shore Sports Network wondering: when you think of Shore Conference football, who are the most prominent figures in each program’s history? And if there was a mountain nearby and we knew a sculptor, whose faces should be carved on its side to be forever honored?
With that in mind, we came up with a football feature that will run throughout this summer, and it’s called Face of the Franchise.
We reached out to all 43 football programs in the Shore Conference and in conjunction came up with five nominees for each school. The five names and their accomplishments will be listed and fans will have a chance to cast their votes to select who they feel is the Face of the Franchise for each program. Our SSN football crew of Bob Badders, Kevin Williams, Ed Sarluca and Matt Harmon will also put their heads together to make a selection. The polls will run for one week each.
At the end of the summer when the Face of the Franchise has been determined for all 43 programs, we’ll run one final poll to see who the fans think should go on top of the mountain; five legends to represent the history of Shore Conference football.
A 2009 graduate who excelled at both wide receiver and outside linebacker, Smith was a three-year starter who also saw time as a freshman to help the new program win 24 games and make four playoff appearances in a four-year span. As a senior, Smith had a huge year, offensively, with over 1,200 yards receiving and 10 touchdowns, plus defensive totals of 87 tackles, three forced fumbles, two interceptions and six pass breakups en route to an All-Shore selection. He finished his career with 234 tackles. Smith went on to play collegiately at Long Island University-Post where he played in 30 games over a three-year span.
Campbell was moved from wide receiver to quarterback for his senior year in 2012, and the result was a record-setting season. The 6-foot-3 Campbell set a school single-season record by throwing for 2,176 yards and 24 touchdowns against just eight interceptions – along with six rushing touchdowns – to lead the Cougars to a 9-2 record. Those nine wins were a school single-season record at the time and the Cougars also hosted their first playoff game. Campbell played collegiately at Long Island University-Post where he played both quarterback and wide receiver.
A 6-foot-3, 300-pound people mover, Wetzel was a first-team All-Shore selection as a senior when he helped Colts Neck set a school record with a 10-1 record and reach the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 final, the program’s first appearance in a sectional title game. His blocking helped pave the way for 1,600-yard rusher Anthony Gargiulo and an offense that averaged 363 yards and 34 points per game. He was also a standout on the defensive line with 61 tackles, three pass break-ups a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Wetzel was a second-team All-Shore pick as a junior when Colts Neck went 9-2 and earned the program's first home playoff game.
Wetzel stayed close to home and played his college football at Monmouth University where he started 44 games as a mainstay along the Hawks' offensive line. In 2017, he was named first-team All-Big South as part of a Monmouth offensive unit that set multiple offensive school records, including touchdowns and rushing yards. As a fifth-year senior, Wetzel was again a first-team All-Big South selection as Monmouth went 8-3, finished second in the Big South and reached the FCS playoffs.
A ferocious linebacker and a battering ram of a running back, the 6-foot-2, 240-pound Gargiulo authored a tremendous career in which he was a two-time, first-team All-Shore selection – once on each side of the ball. He had a magnificent all-around senior year in 2013 by rushing for 1,666 yards and scoring a school-record 27 touchdowns for his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season. He had a career-high 275 yards and four touchdowns in a playoff win over Neptune and ran for 160 yards and four touchdowns in a semifinal victory over Nottingham that put Colts Neck into the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 final for the first time in program history. The Cougars also went 10-1 to set a school single-season record for wins. On defense, Gargiulo set a school single-season record with 140 tackles and added four sacks and an interception return for a touchdown. He finished his career with school records for rushing yards (3,436), touchdowns (47), tackles (367) and starts (31).
Gargiulo had multiple scholarship offers from FCS programs but ultimately signed with Navy where he played in 25 games with 11 starts at fullback, totaling 879 yards rushing and four touchdowns. He was selected as Navy’s offensive captain by his teammates for the 2018 season. During the 2017 season, Gargiulo ran for a career-high 145 yards on 15 carries and scored a touchdown during a 43-40 win over Southern Methodist University that made the Midshipmen bowl eligible. A week later, Gargiulo ran for 87 yards on a career-high 20 carries against Notre Dame.
An injury that forced him to miss one-and-a-half games during his junior year was likely the only thing that prevented Thomas from posting back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. The 2020 graduate played in nine games as a junior and rushed for 960 yards and eight touchdowns on an average of seven yards per carry to be named a Shore Sports Network third-team All-Shore running back. As a senior, Thomas rushed for 1,282 yards and 19 touchdowns on 6.8 yards per carry and added a touchdown reception as the Cougars went 8-2 for their first winning season since 2013. Thomas was a second-team All-Shore selection this past fall.
Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.