By Phil Anastasia
Dan Spittal knew the time was right.
His last two football teams are Eastern won a total of 17 games and struck deep in the South Jersey Group 5 tournament in 2012 and 2013.
His pension as a retired physical-education teacher wasn't likely to get any better in the current political and economic climate in New Jersey.
And his urge to try his hand at college coaching was getting stronger.
"It was the perfect time to go," Spittal said Tuesday of his decision to resign as Eastern's football coach and to announce his plans to retire from teaching at the end of the school year. "It wasn't one thing. It was a lot of things."
Spittal's teams were 86-61 in 14 seasons. His 2013 team went 10-2 and reached the South Jersey Group 5 title game.
In 2003, Spittal led Eastern to the South Jersey Group 4 title as a No. 8 seed -- the Vikings' only sectional title in football.
"It is with regret that I have accepted Dan Spittal's resignation," Eastern athletic director Phil Smart said in a statement.
Smart said that Spittal led Eastern football players "to the highest athletic accomplishments, while understanding his greatest purpose is to lead them to be successful in the accomplishments of life."
Spittal said he recently interviewed for a position of offensive-line coach at an Division I college program. While he didn't get the job, the process increased his interest in pursuing an assistant coaching position at the college level at this stage of his career.
Spittal spent 22 years in the Eastern football program, the first eight as an assistant coach under former head coach Larry Ginsberg.
His most memorable season as a head coach might have been 2003. The Vikings were a No. 8 seed that knocked off top-seeded Mainland 14-13 in the first round, then beat Cherokee 50-47 in two overtimes in the semifinals before edging Washington Township 14-7 in the South Jersey Group 4 title game.
"Dan's Eastern teams were always fast, physical and well-coached," Cherokee coach P.J. Mehigan said. "We played some great games over the years, including one of the most exciting games in SJ over the last 10 years in 2003 semifinals."
Eastern went 17-6 in Spittal's last two seasons. The 2012 team reached the South Jersey Group 5 semifinals and the 2013 team lost just two games, both to Cherokee -- one in WJFL American play and the other in the South Jersey Group 5 title game Dec. 6 at Rowan.
"I took over a good program and hopefully I'm leaving a good program," Spittal said. "We play in such a good league with such good coaches. That's what made it do fun and so challenging.
"Those guys (other coaches) always made you better. They made you prepare. You couldn't slide by in our league."
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