Mike Schatzman, Joe Wojceichowski face different challenges as new football coaches

Mike Schatzman is trying to change things at Washington Township.

Joe Wojceichowski is trying to keep things the same at Lenape.

That’s the shorthand on the challenge as perceived by two of South Jersey’s newest, youngest football coaches as they take over two of the area’s largest programs.

Schatzman, 28, is looking to bring stability to Washington Township and ultimately to return the Minutemen to South Jersey prominence.

He is the program’s third head coach in three years. Mark Wechter resigned after the 2016 season and Lamont Robinson resigned after one season.

“These kids want consistency,” Schatzman said. “It’s been tough on them, with all the changes. They’re trying to find something consistent that they can hold on.”

Schatzman is a Washington Township guy, through and through. He grew up in town, and was a standout athlete for the Minutemen in both football and baseball who graduated in 2008.

He has been an assistant coach for the football program for the last seven seasons.

“Some people dream about being a doctor or a lawyer,” Schatzman said. “I dreamed about being a football coach or baseball coach at Washington Township.”

Schatzman remembers attending clinics for young football players in town run by late Washington Township coach Tom Brown.

“I grew up part of this,” Schatzman said. “I was always there on Friday night.”

Once one of South Jersey’s top programs, Washington Township has receded a bit from the ranks of the elite in recent seasons. The Minutemen last won a playoff game in 2011. They were 2-8 in 2017.

Schatzman said former Lenape coach Greg Harvey will join the staff and likely serve as defensive coordinator.

Schatzman also plans to fill his staff with men with ties to the program, such as former players Ryan D’Imperio and Jesse Cooper. Holdovers will include longtime assistants such as Will Fennel and John Wallace.

“We want to get that hometown feel back,” Schatzman said. “When I was growing up, that’s what you did on Friday night. You went to a Washington Township football game, even if you didn’t like football. It was the place to be.

“That’s the atmosphere we’re trying to re-create.”

Schatzman, who was hired Feb. 27, knows he’s looking at a rebuilding process. The Minutemen were 14-26 in the last four seasons and haven’t made the post-season tournament since 2012.

“It’s going to take some time,” said Schatzman, a health and physical education teacher in the school system. “I’m not going anywhere. I bleed red, white and blue.”

Wojceichowski, 26, faces a different sort of challenge at Lenape. He’s trying to maintain the standards set by Tim McAneney, who resigned after leading the Indians to the first sectional title in program history in 2017.

McAneney was Lenape’s coach for seven seasons. He invigorated the program and created a winning culture.

“My job is to try to uphold what Tim did here,” said Wojceichowski, who played for McAneney at Holy Cross Academy and served as an assistant under his old coach for the last four years. “Tim built a tradition here when one didn’t exist. My job is to try to maintain that.”

Wojceichowski said most of McAneney’s staff plans to remain in place. Wojceichowski said he will run the defense, with John Martino taking over as offensive coordinator.

“That was so important to me, as a young guy, for those experienced guys to stick around and for me to be able to lean on them,” Wojceichowski said.

Wojceichowski said the departure of the popular McAneney, whose teams were 39-6 over the last four seasons, was a shock to the players.

He said he empathized with them during his first meeting with the players after being named head coach Feb. 21.

“I told them I wasn’t as happy as they would think,” said Wojceichowski, a special-education teacher at Lenape. “I didn’t want to see Tim going. He’s meant so much to me. But it’s like he told me, ‘The king is dead, long live the king.’

“We have to stick together. These kids, it’s their team. They need to play for each other, and to represent their school, no matter who has the job as head coach.”

Coaching moves

Pete Miles has resigned after 27 seasons at Delran and Thomas Kelly has resigned after eight seasons at Atlantic City.

“It’s time,” said Miles, whose teams were 139-131 in his tenure.

Counting 10 years as an assistant, Miles was part of the Delran program for nearly 40 years.

“I’ve been lucky,” Miles said. “I’ve had so many great players, great assistants.”

Kelly’s teams were 45-37 and made the playoffs six times despite playing one of South Jersey’s toughest schedules.

Schedule stuff

Camden Catholic will host Rancocas Valley in the season opener on Friday night, Aug. 31 . . . Timber Creek will take to the road for the second year in a row as the Chargers will open Sept. 1 at Central Catholic of Toledo, Ohio. … Camden, which opened the 2017 season in East St. Louis, Ill., is looking to play another out-of-state game to start the 2018 season, according to coach Dwayne Savage. … St. Joseph, which returns several players from a 12-0 team that finished No. 1 in the rankings in 2017, also is investigating the possibility of opening the season with an out-of-state game, according to coach Paul Sacco.