Face of the Franchise: Wall 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 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.
A Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Famer, Amabile was Wall’s head coach from 1976 to 1984 and compiled a 55-31-2 record that included two state sectional titles, two additional championship-game appearances, five division titles and a 33-game winning streak.
Following a college playing career at Boston College where Amabile quarterbacked the Eagles from 1958-1960, he began his coaching career at Lincoln High School in Jersey City before moving to the Shore where he would become a legend. His Jersey Shore tenure began at Middletown North before heading to Wall in 1976. After three losing seasons, things turned around for good beginning with a 6-2-1 season in 1979.
Two years later in 1981, Wall was 9-1, Class B South champions and Central Jersey Group 3 finalist, ushering in a dominant era of Crimson Knights football. In 1982 and 1983, Wall won back-to-back Central Jersey Group 3 titles with perfect 11-0 seasons. In 1984, Wall started 10-0 and extended its winning streak to 33 games before falling in the Central Jersey Group 3 final. From 1981 to 1984, Wall went 41-2 with four division titles and two state championships.
Although Amabile’s coaching career was far from over – he would win three state titles at Neptune - his stint at Wall ended with the 1984 season.
A star running back at Middletown North and then a fullback at Syracuse, Barnes was Wall’s head coach from 2000-2011 and finished as the winningest head coach in program history. Barnes went 90-38 over those 12 seasons, winning six Shore Conference division titles and leading Wall to the 2002 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 3 championship.
Following a six-year stint as the head coach at Jackson Memorial where he led the Jaguars to their first state playoff victory and set the foundation for their juggernaut squads of 2000 and 2001, Barnes came to Wall and quickly found success with a 9-2 season and the Liberty Division title. In 2001, Wall went 10-1 and once again captured the division crown before losing to Middletown South in the sectional semifinals. The following year, Wall finished off a championship run by taking down Middletown South, 24-0, in the Central Jersey Group 3 title game to finish 11-1. Wall won another division title in 2003 and went 10-2 and reached another sectional final in 2004. In Barnes’ final season, Wall went 8-2 and won the Class C Central division title.
Barnes was inducted into the Shore Football Coaches Foundation Hall of Fame in 2015.
A rugged two-way standout as a running back and linebacker, the 6-foot-1, 225-pound Caponegro held five program records by the time he graduated in 2009.
His senior season in 2008 was one of the best in the history of the Crimson Knights’ football program as he was selected as the Shore Conference Offensive Player of the Year and named to the Group 3 All-State team. Caponegro rushed for a single-season record 1,814 yards on a record 266 carries. On Thanksgiving in 2008, Caponegro ran for a school single-game record 346 yards plus four touchdowns on a record 40 carries. His 413 career carries are also the most in program history. Caponegro had seven games of 200-plus rushing yards in his career.
Caponegro played collegiately at Temple University where he was a linebacker. He played in 31 games with 15 starts coming during his junior and senior years. He finished with 110 tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 3 passes defensed and one fumble recovery. He was awarded a single-digit jersey as a senior, which Temple gives to its nine toughest players on the team.
The most prolific quarterback in school history, Cluley graduated in 2012 as an All-Shore and All-State player with three career offensive records to his credit.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Cluley was a first-team All-Shore quarterback and a Group 3 All-State selection in 2011 when he led Wall to an 8-2 record and the Class C Central Division title. His 3,290 passing yards and 30 passing touchdowns are the most in program history, as are his 4,364 yards of total offense.
Following high school, Cluley was a three-year starting quarterback at the College of William & Mary. He was one of most productive quarterbacks in Tribe history, starting 35 straight games and ranking in the top 10 in passing yards (6,864), total offense (7,128), passing attempts (959), completions (577), completion percentage (60.2), passing touchdowns (39) and 200-yard games (16).
Cluley was invited to training camp with the New York Giants before signing with the Frankfurt Universe of the German Football League.
The starting center and a defensive lineman on the consecutive 11-0 Central Jersey Group 3 championship teams of 1982 and 1983, Curran was the best lineman of the John Amabile era and arguably the best lineman in program history. He was a first-team All-Shore and first-team All-State selection as a senior when Wall outscored opponents 283-37, ranking No. 1 in offense and No. 3 in defense.
An All-Shore player who starred as both a running back and a wide receiver, Wright blossomed into a solid college wide receiver before finding success in the NFL as a tight end and winning a Super Bowl title.
Playing for Greg Schiano at Rutgers, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound wide receiver had a slow start to his college career, redshirting as a freshman and suffering a season-ending torn ACL in what was set to be his redshirt sophomore year. He didn’t record his first catch until his junior year in 2011, but as a senior he hauled in 39 passes for 449 yards and two touchdowns.
Following the 2013 NFL Draft, Schiano, who was now the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, brought Wright aboard as an undrafted free agent and switched his position from receiver to tight end. The move paid immediate and historic dividends as Wright played in all 16 games with eight starts, setting an NFL record for yards and touchdowns by an undrafted rookie tight end. Wright caught 54 passes for 571 yards and 5 touchdowns and was the only rookie tight end in 2013 to have more than 500 receiving yards.
In 2014 Wright was traded to the New England Patriots to provide insurance for the oft-injured Rob Gronkowski and delivered 26 receptions for 259 yard and a career-high six touchdowns. Wright played in Super Bowl XLIX and earned a Super Bowl ring when the Patriots defeated the Seattle Seahawks.
Wright also spent time with the Detroit Lions in 2015. He finished his NFL career with 89 receptions for 907 yards and 13 touchdowns.
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Managing editor Bob Badders can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Bob_Badders. Like Shore Sports Network on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube channel for all the latest video highlights.