Former Holmdel head coach and Rumson-Fair Haven assistant Frank Papalia was approved as Point Beach’s new head football coach at the Point Pleasant Beach School District Board of Education meeting on Tuesday night.

Papalia will succeed John Wagner, who stepped down in February after leading the Garnet Gulls to an unprecedented run of success during his seven years.

Papalia has been an assistant at Rumson for the past four seasons where he was part of a staff that guided the Bulldogs to three NJSIAA sectional titles and four trips to the championship game. He works at Holmdel High School and lives in Lacey, so the opportunity to become a head coach again and do it at an Ocean County school was the perfect fit for Papalia.

“I just had twins in December and I have three kids now, so the chance to coach in Ocean County was big,” Papalia said. “And the academic focus of the school and the community is a big thing. John Wagner did such a great job with the culture he built. It’s a strong, tight-knit community.”

Frank Papalia

Papalia played high school football at Central Regional under Dan Duddy and got his first coaching job at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, Md. under current Keyport head coach Andy Carlstrom. Papalia then came back to New Jersey and was an assistant under Duddy at Central for three seasons. He then moved on to Holmdel where he was the defensive coordinator under Carlstrom for three seasons, including the 2007 season when the Hornets went 10-1 to set the program record for wins in a season. Papalia succeeded Carlstrom in 2009 and was Holmdel’s head coach for five seasons before going to Rumson.

“It was not easy to leave Rumson and I can’t emphasize that enough,” Papalia said. “It wasn’t just the winning, (Rumson head coach) Jerry (Schulte) is the best to be around, not just as a coach but as a human being. And the whole staff, really.”

Papalia has plenty to live up to in following Wagner, a Hall of Fame coach who transformed Point Beach from a struggling program to one that became an annual contender for a state sectional title. Point Beach went 29-71 in the 10 seasons before Wagner arrive in 2011, but went 28-6 in Wagner’s first three seasons, including twice winning a school-record 10 games. Wagner was 51-26 at Point Beach, including leading the Garnet Gulls to the 2013 NJSIAA Central Jersey Group I championship, the program’s first sectional title since the inception of the playoff system in 1974. This past season, Point Beach went 7-5 and reached the Central Jersey Group I championship game.

“You can’t focus on the past but, that being said, you’re not a human being if you don’t realize what a great coach and person John Wanger is and what kind of impact he’s had on this school and community,” Papalia said. “I think when you follow the process and focus on what’s ahead of you it’s not as daunting. John Wagner is a great coach who’s had success everywhere he’s been. I’m going to have my own personality but we’re going to stress a lot of the same things on and off the field as coach Wagner did.”

Point Beach graduated an impactful senior class that included quarterback/linebacker Luke Frauenheim, running back/defensive end John Nista, running back/linebacker Chris Webber, wide receiver Josh Yates, defensive back/kicker Sean Gould and lineman Tony Lipari. That group formed the nucleus of the team, so Papalia and his coaching staff will be looking to reload quickly and keep the Garnet Gulls contending for championships.

Point Beach’s hiring of Papalia fills the last vacant head-coaching position in the Shore. Papalia joins Carlstrom at Keyport, Matt Ahearn at Colts Neck and Joe Martucci at St. John Vianney as coaches in new places for 2018.


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