• Dan Russoman

Joe Cacia to be honored by Hammonton High School


Former Hammonton High School football coach Joe Cacia helps the Blue Devils warm up prior to a game in 1969. A monument honoring Cacia will be unveiled on September 9. (Courtesy Photo)

HAMMONTON—Few coaches in Hammonton High School history are as well-remembered as Joe Cacia.


The former head football coach and athletic director at Hammonton died last November, and this fall the Blue Devils will remember Cacia when they dedicate a monument outside the field house at Robert Capoferri Field.


The idea for the monument came from two of Cacia’s former players, Frank Fucetola and Lee Chappine.


“Lee [Chappine] and I were talking about Coach Cacia a few weeks after he passed away and we decided that we needed to do something to honor what he meant to Hammonton football. We came up with this idea and it didn’t take long to get others involved and we raised the money pretty quickly,” Fucetola said.


The result will be a large stone with a plaque embedded in it that will be placed outside the field house. Before taking the field prior to every game, Hammonton players will tap the stone, similar to how many colleges and high schools around the nation honor legendary figures.


The unveiling of the monument will happen at halftime of Hammonton’s September 9 game against Highland.


Many involved with Hammonton’s football program both now and when Cacia coached are excited for the event.


“It’s great to honor Coach Cacia,” current Hammonton head coach Jim Raso said.


“From the stories I’ve heard, he did a lot for the program. Many former players of Coach Cacia talk about the work ethic he instilled and setting a good example for our community,” Raso said.


Others echoed Raso’s comments about how Cacia demanded much of his players as he built Hammonton into a perennial championship contender.


When Cacia took over in 1968, Hammonton had suffered through six-straight losing seasons. With Cacia, they became Cape Atlantic League (CAL) champions four-straight years.


“I was on the coaching staff when he [Cacia] came to Hammonton and he immediately changed the culture. We had been struggling for a while and no one really thought of Hammonton as a football power, but Joe changed all that,” former Hammonton assistant coach Ron Caputo said.


“We weren’t the biggest or the most talented but we were the toughest team. We had great character and that all came from Joe. He always wanted to win and he put his best effort out all the time,” Caputo said.


Hammonton Mayor Stephen DiDonato played for Cacia in the 1970s.


“I only played for Coach Cacia for two seasons at the end of his career and he was just an awesome guy. He taught me and a lot of other kids how to be men. He stressed that no one was more important than the team,” DiDonato said.


Cacia was noted for his attention to detail. Few coaches worked harder to prepare for games or practices.


“He put in a lot of time every day. He would focus on every little thing, anything to help make us better,” Caputo said.


While producing winning teams was important to Cacia, he was equally focused on developing good people off the field.


“He loved all those kids without question and he had his way of doing things to make them all better people. He made them better men. I know he made me a better man. He was without question a great guy,” Caputo said.


Charlotte Cessato was Hammonton’s cheerleading coach during Cacia’s tenure and recalled many fun times with him and his wife.


“We were all such good friends. He created a whole new culture at Hammonton. He built that football program up and it was contagious. Every team wanted to be as competitive as the football team. And he took an interest in all of them. Even when the band would go to competitions, Joe couldn’t wait to find out how they did,” Cessato said.


“Once he [Cacia] started having success, the school began to be respected in many areas,” she said.


Because of his success on the field and his impact off it, many are pleased to see Cacia be honored this fall.


“I’m very excited to honor the coach who started it all and taught us how to be winners. I look forward to what should be a very exciting evening,” Hammonton Board of Education President Sam Mento III said.


New Hammonton High School Athletic Director Chris Sacco agreed.


“I think the monument is a great honor and well-deserved. Coach Cacia came to Hammonton and ignited the football program in 1968. He taught the program how to win. His work ethic and mentality had carried on through the many players that he coached who have gone on to be coaches themselves. The impact he had on Hammonton football and the community as a whole cannot be understated. The monument will be a daily reminder for everyone that sees it that hard work and dedication will take you where you want in life,” Sacco said.


“I can’t wait to be there. It’s a great honor for a great man,” Cessato said.


Caputo was also glad to see his old friend celebrated.


“It’s been a long time and people still remember the outstanding man and coach that he was and they’re going to honor him. I can’t think of anyone more deserving,” Caputo said.


Game time on September 9 is 7 p.m. The ceremony for Cacia will be at halftime.