One of the Shore Conference’s most storied football programs has its new head coach.

Allentown’s Jay Graber was approved as Matawan’s new head coach during Monday night’s Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District Board of Education meeting, becoming the 12th coach in program history.

“I’ve always wanted to coach in the Shore Conference,” Graber said. “It’s a great place and Matawan, specifically, to me is an elite program not only in the Shore Conference but as a public school in the state of New Jersey. It has an incredible tradition starting with Barry Rizzo to Joe Martucci to John Kaye.”

Graber’s first and only head coaching job was at Allentown where he did a marvelous job in turning a perennial doormat into a yearly playoff team that reached two sectional championship games and won the program’s only state sectional championship.

Prior to Graber becoming the Redbirds’ head coach in 2010, Allentown had an 11-59 record in the previous seven seasons, including a streak of 31 straight losses from 2005 to 2008. The program had never qualified for the NJSIAA playoffs. Allentown went 6-4 during Graber’s first season, which was the only season during his tenure the Redbirds didn’t make the playoffs. Allentown reached the postseason the next seven seasons, including advancing to the South Jersey Group 3 championship game in 2014 where it fell to Delsea, 43-35 in overtime. Two years later, Allentown did what once seemed impossible by routing Brick, 41-6, to win the Central Jersey Group 4 championship. Graber went 61-34 with seven playoff appearances, two trips to the title game and one state sectional championship in eight seasons leading Allentown.

“At Allentown the kids are incredible and I really can’t thank our former superintendent, Dr. [Richard] Fitzpatrick, enough,” Graber said. “He believed in me at a young age when no one else did. I’ll always be indebted to them and I’m thankful for all the kids in my time there. But when the Matawan job opened I jumped at the opportunity because of everything it can bring.”

Graber starred as a left-handed quarterback at Notre Dame High School in Lawrenceville where he threw for 2,802 yards and 35 touchdowns as a senior in 2002. He was selected as the South Jersey Player of the Year and also named to the All-State team by the Star-Ledger. He totaled 4,322 yards passing and 56 touchdowns in two seasons as Notre Dame’s starting quarterback under legendary coach Chappy Moore.

Graber played collegiately at Bryant University where he threw for 1,773 yards and 14 touchdowns in one-plus seasons as the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback. He also spent a season at Trinity-Pawling Prep where he was the All-New England Player of the year in 2003 and spent his freshman and sophomore years at Hofstra University before transferring to Bryant.

Graber succeeds John Kaye, who resigned shortly after the conclusion of the 2018 season. Kaye went 31-39 in seven seasons leading the Huskies, including going 8-4 and winning the Central Jersey Group 2 state sectional title in 2014. However, after eight consecutive winning seasons where the Huskies won three sectional titles, Matawan has struggled the last three years with a 5-24 record, including 1-8 last season.

Matawan has also lost several standout players to different high schools over the past handful of seasons through either transfer or directly from eighth grade.

“I’m very aware of the situation and I just think we can get in there and build the program the right way through discipline and commitment,” Graber said. “We hope to be the option for the kids when it’s time for high school.”

Graber knows what it’s like to build a program from the ground up, and while that isn’t the case at Matawan, the Huskies do not have many key returners in 2019.

“Right now I’m just focused on being at the school as often as possible and building relationships with the kids and getting started on our program,” Graber said.

Matawan will compete in the Shore Conference’s Freedom Division in 2019 with Colts Neck, Jackson Liberty, Lakewood, Neptune, Toms River East and Toms River South.


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