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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 to six 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.

Steve Meyer
Steve Meyer



John Cannon

A 1978 graduate, Cannon was a dominant two-way player as a middle linebacker and offensive tackle. Playing for head coach Greg Semenza, Cannon was a starter both ways from his sophomore to senior year and was an All-Monmouth County selection and an Asbury Park Press All-Scholar Athlete recipient.

After high school, Cannon was a three-year starter at defensive end for William & Mary where his career began to take off. As a senior in 1981, the 6-foot-5, 260-pounder was a preseason All American selection. Cannon was inducted into the William & Mary Hall of Fame in 1996.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Gannon in the third round of the 1982 NFL Draft and he enjoyed nearly a decade-long career in the NFL. He played nine years in the league for the Bucs, starting 76 games and appearing in a total of 122 games. Cannon posted 22 sacks and 11 fumble recoveries in his career and still holds the record for the most fumble recoveries in franchise history. In 1986 he was Tampa Bay’s nominee for the NFL/Miller Lite Defensive Player of the Year award. Cannon also served as the Bucs’ NFL Players Association union representative for five years. He was the recipient of the NFL Ed Block Courage Award in 1991 and was recently selected as one of the Top 100 Greatest Bucs of All Time (#82).

After retirement, Cannon became a firefighter and paramedic for Tampa Fire & Rescue and he is still in the department today. Cannon was the oldest firefighter rookie in Tampa Fire & Rescue history. He was also a world-class competitor in triathlons and in 1995 ran in the NYC Marathon with a time of three hours and 18mins. From 1995 thru 1999, Cannon competed at the highest level of triathlons and was first place at the Hawaiian Ironman both in 1997 & 1999 in the Clydesdale division (minimum of 220 pounds) with his best time was 11 hours and 20 minutes.


Tom Dexter

Dexter graduated from Holmdel High School in 1987 where he was a three-year starter at fullback and linebacker. He served as a team captain and led the Hornets to a Class D division title and to the Group 2 state playoffs his senior year in 1986. Dexter garnered first-team All-State Group 2, second-team All-Shore and first-team All-Monmouth County honors his senior year. He was named honorable mention All-Monmouth his junior year. Following his senior year, Dexter was selected to play in the All-Shore Gridiron Classic.

Dexter was also a three-year letterman wrestler and four-year letterman in track and field while being a state qualifier in both sports.

Following high school, Dexter accepted a full athletic scholarship to The College of William & Mary over Army, Navy and Holy Cross. At W&M, Dexter was a three-year starter at linebacker and team captain his senior year, leading a class that was the winningest in school history. Dexter earned Special Teams Player of the Year honors his sophomore year.

Dexter is a former nominee for the W&M Athletics Hall of Fame and current Emeritus Trustee of the W&M Foundation Board of Directors.


John Burke 

Burke was a three-year varsity player for Holmdel, graduating in 1989 and playing for both Greg Semenza and Skip Edwards, two of the most successful head coaches in Holmdel history. He was a member of the 1986 and 1988 division championship teams and played in two state semifinal games losing to eventual state champion Manasquan in 1986 and in overtime to top-seeded South Plainfield in 1988. Standing 6-foot-3, Burke played defensive end and quarterback his sophomore and junior years before converting to tight end where he earned All-Division, All-Monmouth and All-Shore accolades.

Burke went on to play college football at Virginia Tech and was a four-year letterman for the Hokies.  He captained the 1993 Independence Bowl championship team and was a second-team All-Big East tight end. In the 1994 NFL draft, he was selected in the 4th round (121st overall) by Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcells and the New England Patriots. As a Patriot, he played on the 1996 AFC Championship team but lost in Super Bowl XXXI to the Green Bay Packers.  After three years in New England, he followed Parcells to the New York Jets for one season in 1997 before ending his career as a San Diego Charger in 1998.


Kevin DeMaio

The 6-foot-4, 280-pound DeMaio was a three-year starter across the offensive and defensive lines from 2005 to a2007, leading the Hornets to a division championship, a school-record 10 wins and a state semifinal playoff appearance in 2007. As a junior, he was the Hornets’ most valuable lineman and had 89 tackles on defense. As a senior, he started at center and defensive tackle, racking up 63.5 tackles and five sacks. During his senior campaign, he earned first-team All-State and first-team All-Shore honors in addition to being selected as one of New Jersey’s top 50 recruits.

DeMaio continued his playing career at Princeton University, where he was a three-year starter for the Tigers. He accumulated 25 tackles and two sacks as a sophomore defensive tackle before switching to the offensive side of the ball and starting at right tackle for his junior and senior seasons.


Dean Gallo 

Gallo was a three-year, three-way starter for the Hornets from 2016 to 2018, serving as a captain in his senior season. He was the team’s leading rusher in each of his three seasons and topped the 1,000-yard mark during both his junior and senior seasons, becoming the only Hornet to ever have multiple 1,000-yard rushing campaigns.

A slashing back with great speed and vision, he graduated as the program’s all-time leading rusher with 2,786 yards. His senior year saw the Hornets culminate a tremendous program turnaround, charging to an 8-2 season and the National Division championship. Gallo saved his best performances for the biggest stages. A three-touchdown, 200-plus-yard performance in a home playoff win vs. Nottingham was highlighted by a 90-yard TD run on the game’s first offensive snap. He added two more touchdowns in the semifinals, including a 95-yard KO return to cap an outstanding career. Gallo ran for 1,193 yards and 15 touchdowns on an average of 9.9 yards per carry as a senior. He was an All-Division player as both a junior and a senior, earned National Division Offensive Player of the Year and was a second-team All-Shore selection as a senior in 2018.





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Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.


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