Face of the Franchise – Matawan 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.
Check out the names below and cast your votes. The poll will run for one week through Thursday, July 16, at midnight.
Rizzo coached some of the legendary players in Shore Conference history, including Kenny Mandeville and former Dallas Cowboys great Jim Jeffcoat, during his tenure from 1953 to 1980. Rizzo finished with a career record of 147-61-9 and his teams captured four state titles, including the Central Jersey Group 4 title in 1975, which was the second year of the current state playoff system. Rizzo’s teams also were awarded state titles by the NJSIAA in 1953 (Central Jersey Group I), 1958 (CJ Group II) and 1973 (CJ Group III). The Huskies also won eight division titles under Rizzo, and Matawan’s home stadium is named after him.
The winningest coach in Matawan’s illustrious history, Martucci racked up a career record of 197-91-1 in 27 seasons with the Huskies. His teams won five NJSIAA sectional titles, tied for the third-most of any head coach in Shore Conference history. Matawan also captured nine Shore Conference division titles during Martucci’s tenure.
The Huskies finished undefeated in 1988 for the first of Martucci’s five titles, which also included 1991, 1992, 2009 and in his final season in 2011. His 1988 and 2009 teams tied the school record with 11 wins. Also Matawan’s athletic director, Martucci retired from his administrative position in 2012. Martucci began his 40-year high school coaching career as an assistant at St. John Vianney for one season before serving as an assistant and then the head coach at Matawan for the remainder of his tenure. He is the all-time wins leader at Matawan, having passed his old coach, Barry Rizzo, who was inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame in 2009. In his final season in 2011, the Huskies stunned Rumson-Fair Haven 3-0 to win their second Central Jersey Group II title in three seasons in their third straight appearance in the finals. Martucci’s teams were 5-1 overall in NJSIAA championship games and reached the state playoffs in 18 of his 27 seasons.
Martucci also coached several Shore Conference greats, including former NFL players Jay Bellamy and Charlie Rogers. Martucci is a 1968 Matawan graduate who was an all-state linebacker under Rizzo and went on to play linebacker at the University of Connecticut, where he graduated in 1972. He then served as an assistant under Rizzo for 11 seasons before taking over as head coach in 1984. He also is a member of the New Jersey Football Coaches Hall of Fame.
On of Matawan’s earliest coaches, Nuccio set the foundation for the Huskies’ prolific success in the playoff era when he led the program in the 1940s and 1950s. Under Nuccio, Matawan captured four state championships awarded by the NJSIAA in 1943, 1948, 1952 and 1953 before the creation of the state playoffs. He coached the team in two stints, first from 1943-1945 and again from 1948-1953, compiling a 36-29 record.
A 1979 graduate, Jeffcoat was a dominant defensive end who played for longtime head coach Barry Rizzo. The Huskies won two Class A North division titles during Jeffcoat’s varsity seasons and went 20-9, including two playoff berths. Jeffcoat was a high school All-American as well as a member of the school’s wrestling team.
It was after high school where Jeffcoat’s career began to skyrocket. He was a three-year starter at Arizona State University and was an honorable mention All-American selection in 1982 when the Sun Devils’ defense was ranked No. 1 in the nation. As a senior, Jeffcoat totaled 95 tackles, four sacks, four pass deflections and two forced fumbles. He was inducted into the Arizona State Hall of Fame in 1994.
Jeffcoat was selected by the Dallas Cowboys with the 23rd overall pick in the 1983 NFL Draft and would play in the league for 15 years, playing in 227 games and registering 102.5 sacks, 11 fumble recoveries, two interceptions and two defensive touchdowns. In 1992, Jeffcoat led the Cowboys with 10.5 sacks and helped them win Super Bowl XXVII with a 52-17 win over the Buffalo Bills. He played 12 seasons with the Cowboys and never missed a game. He was also the franchise’s all-time sack leader when he left for free agency in 1995. Jeffcoat signed with the Buffalo Bills in 1995 where he played three seasons before retiring after the 1997 season.
Following his retirement, Jeffcoat was a Cowboys’ defensive line coach for seven seasons. He has also been an assistant coach with the University of Houston, San Jose State University, the University of Colorado and the Orlando Apollos of the Alliance of American Football. He was most recently the defensive line coach for the Dallas Renegades in the XFL.
While his professional career would be in the defensive backfield, Bellamy was a do-it-all player for Matawan under head coach Joe Martucci, playing quarterback, free safety and kick returner. As a junior in 1988, Bellamy led the Huskies to an 11-0 record, the Class B North division title and the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 3 title, the program’s third sectional title and first of five Matawan would win with Martucci at the helm. Bellamy finished his high school career with 16 interceptions, including 12 combined during his junior and senior seasons.
Bellamy played collegiately at Rutgers where he was a two-time second-team All-Big East defensive back, finishing his career with eight interceptions. He went undrafted in the 1994 NFL Draft but earned a tryout with the Seattle Seahawks and made the team as a backup safety and special teams player. Bellamy took advantage of the opportunity and embarked on a 14-year pro career with the Seahawks and New Orleans Saints. Bellamy won the starting strong safety job with Seattle in 1997 and played for the Seahawks through the 2000 season, accumulating 15 interceptions. Bellamy signed with the Saints ahead of the 2001 season and was their starting free safety for four seasons, picking off nine passes and recording over 90 tackles each season.
Bellamy retired following the 2007 season with career totals of 179 games played with 125 starts, 24 interceptions, 759 tackles, 23 tackles for loss, 8 forced fumbles, 8 fumble recoveries, 47 passes defended and one defensive touchdown.
Following his playing career, Bellamy was an assistant coach at Matawan and St. John Vianney under Martucci.
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.