As I made my way to the parking lot, I walked up to Sparta coach Pat Shea and congratulated him on his team's effort and the great game plan he put together with his staff.
just smiled, and in typical Pat Shea fashion, he
gave all the credit to his
kids and his
staff, deflecting the praise.
Little did I know, that would be the last game Shea would guide the Spartans as their head football coach.
decided to step down as coach last week to concentrate on his
ever-expanding duties as the school's athletic director.
office confirmed that he
stepped down and that he
wouldn't have any public comment until his
replacement is named by the district's board of education.
went 102-50 (.671) in a combined 15 seasons with the Spartans in two stints.
led the squad from 1991-2003 and he
came back to the sidelines in 2008 and guided Sparta to a share of the final Sussex County Interscholastic League crown with Jefferson and Pope John.
Sparta went 18-4 in his
final two seasons, including last season's 9-2 mark.
The former Pope John standout guided Sparta to four SCIL titles (2000, 2002, 2003, and 2008) and to the North 1, Group 2 championship with a win over Dover at Giants Stadium in 2003.
In 15 seasons, the Spartans made the state playoffs 10 times.
career record is an outstanding 112-68 (.622) which includes a stop at Monsignor Donovan in Toms River.
Numbers not withstanding, Shea
did something more important for the Sparta program-he brought it back to its glory days of yesterday when the boys in Columbia Blue were biggest, baddest guys on the block.
In stepped an unlikely choice, Pat Shea---a man who made his name as a player in the SCIL as a star at (gulp) Pope John of all places.
quickly made the Spartans an annual contender for the state playoffs and led the Spartans back into upper echelon of the league.
and the Spartans then went on a run that brought back memories of the old days, winning league titles in 2002 and 2003 and the section crown in 2003 as they became the first and only Sussex County school to go 12-0.
Shea, who had become the school's athletic director during that time, went out on top and stepped down after the championship season.
After a disappointing 2007 season, Shea
came back to the sidelines and immediately helped Sparta share the final SCIL title with a 9-2 mark.
But some people, namely the Sparta Education Association
, wanted Shea out because as an administrator he
was taking a job away from a union member.
Thankfully, the protest was tossed and Shea
came back and Spartans had a great season in 2009, which included an epic 20-13 win over Roxbury, the eventual North 1, Group 4 champs in Week 9.
So the question now is, who will take over for Shea?
After games, Shea
always let Marchiano address the team first, and to me, it looked like the team really responded to him.