When Joe Goerge resigned as the head varsity football coach of South Brunswick HS in New Jersey, he insisted it wasn’t the end of his career on the gridiron.
“I don’t really know for sure what I’d like to do or where, but I definitely don’t want to retire,” Goerge told the Star-Ledger approximately 15 months ago. “I love this game, I love to coach and I know I still have a little something left in the tank.”
And Goerge wasn’t just whistling Dixie, either.
Truth be told, the long-time mentor, who last coached on Staten Island 29 years ago when he ended a 10-year stint as Port Richmond’s coach, has tried to get another coaching gig and for one reason or another, it just hasn’t worked out.
But Goerge will finally return to the sideline in the fall of 2020 after he was formally introduced as St. Joseph by-the-Sea’s new varsity football coach during a welcoming ceremony at the Huguenot school on Thursday night.
The 65-year-old Goerge, who has 37 years of experience overall as a head football coach, replaces Mike Corona, who stepped down from his post a little more than two weeks ago. Corona, who led the Vikings to the CHSFL AA-2 division championship game last fall, cited family reasons for returning to his native upstate New York, where he’ll become head coach at St. Joseph’s Collegiate in Buffalo.
In essence, it was a classic case of being in the right place at the right time for Goerge, who received a phone call from Sea athletic director Richard Bruno approximately a week ago gauging his interest in the sudden opening.
“I can’t really say I thought about Staten Island and to be coaching at Sea was the furthest from my thoughts,” admitted Goerge, who was actually an assistant at Matawan HS last season. “I knew one day that I’d be a head coach again and that I wanted to coach with my sons (Michael and Jason).
“I’ve been aggressively pursuing a head coaching job for over a year, but the only way I’d do it is if I can coach with my two sons, who I’ve coached with for 14 years.”
That wasn’t a problem for Bruno.
“We were shocked to learn we were losing coach Corona, who was moving back to Buffalo for the benefit of his family, and we suddenly found ourselves with the daunting task of finding a new football coach. That’s obviously an integral part of any high school,” said Bruno. “We interviewed many worthy candidates and I received a call that coach Goerge was retiring (as a teacher) from the New Jersey school system and he was looking to coach at a private school.
“The timing couldn’t be more perfect,” said Bruno, who referred to Goerge being named New Jersey’s Coach of the Year in 2015. “Not in my wildest dreams did we think that a coach (of coach Goerge’s stature) would be available — he has been immensely successful. We’re looking forward to a bright future with coach Goerge.”
Fr. Reilly, meanwhile, said hiring Goerge will benefit Sea’s student-athletes for a few reasons.
“I like that he’s a good man, a good person and that he shares my values and the values of the school community,” said Fr. Reilly, who has been principal at Sea since 2009. “He’s a man of faith that welcomes the opportunity to pray with his team. That’s the kind of person we want spending a lot of time with our young men.
“And on top of that all, he’s a very good coach,” the principal added. “Based on seeing his career record and spending some time with him, I can’t think of anyone who would give our kids a better chance to succeed than coach Goerge.”
Goerge’s record, in fact, speaks for itself. In 37 years as a head coach, he boasts a 221-137-4 mark that includes five sectional titles in New Jersey.
Goerge is a Monsignor Farrell product who played defensive back for legendary coach Dennis Barrett. He later got his first coaching job as a 20-year-old under Barrett at Farrell.
The Somerset, N.J., resident, who was joined at Thursday’s ceremony by his wife Robyn, his sons, daughters Jen and Courtney and five grandsons, got his first head coaching job when Port Richmond hired him in 1982.
After compiling a 56-37-2 mark following 10 seasons with the Raiders, he took the head coaching job at Franklin HS in New Jersey. He spent 13 years there and made three consecutive Central Jersey Group III title game appearances between 1994-96. He won the first and last of those championship games.
Goerge then started the football program from Dayton HS from scratch — beginning with a JV team — and stayed there for seven seasons before landing the job at South Brunswick.
It was at his last stop that he enjoyed arguably the most success as he led the Vikings (South Brunswick’s nickname) to seven Group 5 Sectional semifinals, four championship games and three titles. In three of his last five seasons at SB, the coach notched 11-1 records each time.
Goerge, to say the least, is elated for his newest opportunity with Sea.
“What’s not to like?” he said matter-of-factly. “You’re talking about a school that develops you spiritually, athletically, academically and socially. And it all starts with Fr. Reilly, (Dean of Men) Greg Manos and Richard Bruno and the vision they have for this place.
“The facility is state-of-the-art — one of the finest you’ll find in the tri-state area. You’re really talking about a place that’s comparable to any facility nationally on the high school level.
“I’m very impressed.”
Goerge, who will also teach at Sea, said it feels good to be back on Staten Island and a part of its rich high school football tradition.
“The irony of this whole thing is just recently I was in contact with Rich Fugazzi and (former New Dorp head coach) Joe Avena about attending the Fugazzi Dinner, which is (March 7). I wanted to go back,” he said. “There’s no doubt it’s great to be back here where I started — and then I found out we’re playing (Farrell, St. Peter’s and Moore) this season — Oh My God!
“It’s exactly what the Island should be,” he said. “I remember when Farrell played New Dorp and 8,000 people would be in the stands.”
Goerge, whose wife is a Sea alum, said his sons will have big roles with the Vikings. Jason Goerge will be his offensive coordinator, as well as the offensive and defensive line coach. Michael Goerge will be his defensive coordinator and running backs coach.
He said he’s been a proponent of the triple-option offense for the last 10-12 years.
“It’s all about the culture,” he said shortly before addressing a large crowd of players, parents and Sea personnel in the school’s Viking Student Center. “It’s built around a player-coach relationship that’s driven by love.
“That’s the greatest motivator,” the coach concluded, noting that starting Friday, players, other students, faculty and the like will have the opportunity to meet him because he’ll be at school every day.