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Cape-Atlantic Junior Football League inducts two Hall of Fame classes

The 2020 Cape-Atlantic Junior Football League Hall of Fame class (from left): Ray Ellis, Ernie Troiano, Bob Bethel, Kurt Seer, Tina Glassford, Mary Calfina. Missing Hobie Young.

The following is a summary of recent Cape-Atlantic Junior Football League Hall of Fame inductees, as submitted by league president Bob Bethel. The league inducted two classes, 2020 and 2021, earlier this year after not holding a ceremony last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our night started off with Tina Glassford being inducted into the 2020 Hall of Fame Class by her husband, 2019 Hall of Famer Dave. Dave talked about how the both of them started Dennis Township Football Organization in 1992 and they are both doing it 30 years later. Congratulations Tina on your Induction.

The second inductee was Tom Henry, an Army veteran of the Korean War who later worked for 30 years for Bell Atlantic. Tom passed away in 2018. Among his accomplishments in the CAJFL were coaching the first Cape May County Midget Football League championship team in 1959, posting a career coaching record of 33-3-1 and winning five championships in six seasons as a coach.

Our third inductee was Tom Germana who was inducted in by his youngest son Billy Germana. Billy talked about the kind of father that Tom was by being involved in him and his brothers football lives. Tom played for the Margate Colts and was part of the varsity championship teams from 1973-1975 then went on to play for Atlantic City High School. Tom and his wife Jennifer raised five kids and the three boys went on to play football. Tom coached Dan & Nick with the Ventnor Pirates for 8 years and then went on to coach Billy with the Egg Harbor Township Youth Organization. After coaching, Tom became a CAJFL Representative for EHT and then became President of the CAJFL. Tom has spent 25+ years involved with youth football. Tom’s proudest moment is when former players still come up to him and calls him coach.

I had the honor to induct our 4th nominee, Coach Brian Evans, who wasn’t able to make it to the dinner due to a health issue. He thanked all of his fellow coaches and the board for honoring all the men and women who put their time in community involvement. Coach Brian has won two championships but the thing he is most proud of is his 4 Sportsmanship Awards he got as coach which to him showed character and respect. This is a picture of Brian holding his plaque for being in the 2021 CAJFL Hall of Fame.

Our 5th member to be put into the Hall of Fame is Kurt Seer. Sam Caraballo inducted Kurt into the 2020 class. Kurt has been a member of the CAJFL for over 30 years as a coach for Lower Township and Middle Township, a Representative for Lower and an Executive Board as Sergeant at Arms.

Our 6th nominee is former Lower Township Coach and Executive Board Member Mary Calfina. Mary was inducted into the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 by Bob Bethel. Mary got involved with coaching Lower Township cheerleaders in 1981 and continued coaching for 12 years. She started out with football as a Team Mom and then in 2000, Mary started to get involved with with 2019 Hall of Fame Coach Frank Simonsen. She was also Lower Township’s League Representative for many years and also served on the Executive Board as Secretary and Treasurer. Bob Bethel also talked about a female being an Assistant Coach in an All-Male dominant world and that Mary was a trendsetter and inspiration to her community. He also says with her over 25 years of service in the CMCJFL and CAJFL, she is more than deserving and became the first female to join the Hall of Fame.

Our 7th nominee was Ernie Troiano Jr. who was inducted by his son, Ernie Troiano III. Ernie talked about how his father does a lot in the community for the children for the City of Wildwood. When he was Mayor, he moved the recreation center from a heavily traveled road on the east side of the city to the west where J Byrne Community Center is now. When the Commissioners were giving them shelves raises, he donated his portion back into the recreation department. When Wildwood Jr. Warriors folded for the three years, Ernie was a big influence to get it back up and running. Ernie Jr. says he accepts the award on behalf of the Recreation Dept., coaches, players and parents because without the community effort, none of this would be possible.

Our 8th member to go into the CAJFL Hall of Fame is Matt Szczur. Matt wasn’t able to make this year so Bob Bethel inducted him into the 2021 class. Matt grew up in Erma section of Lower Township where he went to Lower Cape May Regional High School where he varsity lettered in Football, baseball and track. Matt was drafted out of high school by Los Angeles Dodgers in the 38th round but decided to attend Villanova University where he played baseball and football. In football, Matt played wide receiver, running back, wildcat quarterback and was a return specialist on special teams. During his junior season, Matt was a consensus All-American and was named CAA Offensive Player of the Year as Villanova went on to win it first-ever FCS National Championship. In the National Championship Game, he gained 270 all-purpose yards and was awarded MVP honors. Matt decided to play baseball instead of going to NFL draft. He made his Major League Baseball (MLB) debut with the Chicago Cubs in 2014 and has played for the San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies and is currently with the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

Our 9th nominee was inducted by Executive Board member Chris Souder. Chris spoke about Ray’s proudest moment when one of his 8th grade class came to graduate high school, 19 of the 20 kids went off to college. Nine of them had received scholarships for either football, track or lacrosse. Chris spoke about if Ray heard about one of his players had an issue at school, Coach was there to take care of the issue. Chris also spoke about the time when Egg Harbor Township Pal folded and Elite was formed, Ray funded everything to make sure that the program got off the ground. Ray continued to talk about him becoming the new Councilman for Egg Harbor Township and says he must be doing something right since he got more than 3000 votes than his opponent. Ray spoke about one of his players that went to the pros, and how his coaching compared to the college and pro level and the player said “Coach you would be in jail”, that is the respect that Coach Ray has on his players. Ray says that the generations have changed in his 42 years of coaching but wouldn’t change it for the world and would love to coach for 8 more years to give him 50 years of coaching. We can only hope his wish comes true.

Our 10th nominee to be inducted was Gary Melton. Hamilton Township Representative Bobby Laws inducted Gary into the Hall of Fame. He started off by thanking everyone that is involved with the CAJFL and people has approached him about leaving the league, but because of the brotherhood here, it will never happen on his watch. Bobby talked about Gary Melton starting the Hamilton Township Patriots (now called the Knights) about 13 years ago. He started the Patriots because the other organization that also was a part of another league was limited in weight and the bigger kids couldn’t play football. Gary has a lot of knowledge of the game as he was a running back for the Washington Redskins in the 80’s and uses that to teach his players and his three sons who played at his Alma Mater Rutgers University. After youth football, Gary went on to coach Cedar Creek High School to 3 State Championships. Gary came up to the podium and talked about how important it was to start the Patriots. He would drive around and see the kids in the streets. He said an amazing quote “it takes a village to raise a child”. He used his upbringing that if he got in trouble down the street from home, it would go to every house in the block until it got to his home, then he knew he was in trouble. Gary believes kids are more talented than going to 4-year university. Education is more important than sitting in a classroom. Learning a trade such as plumber, electrician, carpenter, etc. is also an education. He said he would trade in his degree in a heartbeat just to see a child succeed in life.

Our 11th nominee to be put into the CAJFL Hall of Fame in Bob Bethel. Chip Harshaw inducted Bob into the Hall of Fame and told a story about the time in 1992 how Bob was writing for a local sports paper and he would always come to the field and ask me questions with a tape recorder in hand about the upcoming game. So finally towards the end of the season I asked Bob if he would like to coach next year and he was excited that I asked him. So he was around for a couple of years when we decided we were going to go to a coaches clinic in Penn State and it was going to be held during their spring game. So we were eating dinner and that is when Joe Paterno walked up to our table and asked where we were from and we told him Wildwood. So since he says he had a house in Avalon, he proceeded to sit down right next to Bob and have dinner with us. That is the time I knew Bob was hooked on coaching. So with Bob around between 1992-2022 shows you the dedication he has for his community, the kids and of course the league. Bob Bethel said he owes everything to Chip Harshaw because if it wasn’t for Chip asking Bob to coach, he knows he would not be here today. Bob talked about after coming back from Florida and wanted to get back into coaching, the new regime put him with the Taxi Division. Bob was very hesitant because he was use to coaching the 7th-8th grade teams but never the 1st-2nd graders. But since they said Bob was new to coaching it would help out the new level. Bob talked about how exciting it was to coach those kids since they were 5-6 year olds all the way to coaching them for a few years in high school where in 2012 that team made the playoffs for the first time since the 60’s. Bob was President of the league for 6 years and also coached at Lower Township for 2 years and Middle Township for 1 year.

Our 12th nominee was Wildwood’s Wes Hills. Wes was inducted by his niece Sinaia who is a sophomore at Wildwood High School. She says that Wes was not only a great football player but is also an amazing uncle to her and little brother Xavier. She couldn’t be happier with all of his accomplishments that he achieved. Wes says he wished that could be as great as all of the other Hall of Famers. He thanked all of the coaches for molding him into the person he is today. He also mentioned that every Coach weather you know it or not has had an impact on their players. Wes played football for Delaware and Slippery Rock. He was invited to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in Pasadena where he was named MVP of the game. The following week, he went to the Reese’s Bowl Game. He was an undrafted player for Arizona Cardinals and was one of the last cuts before being picked up by the Detroit Lions. Wes started one game and had two rushing touchdowns against Tampa Bay. Wes is currently in the Canadian Football League playing for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Our 13th nominee is Hobie Young, who couldn’t make it to dinner. Hobie was inducted by Carl Gansert. Carl met Hobie in 1973 when Hobie was coaching in Ocean City and Carl was playing for Sea Isle City. Hobie tried to start football in 1971 in Upper Township but they said at 19 years old that he was too young. Hobie was a players coach and that is why Carl became a coach and owes it all to Hobie. Carl also had a good story about Hobie. Carl met his wife Kim and her son was playing football for Upper Township and Kim asked Carl if he would like to go to the game. Carl agreed to go and when he gets to the field, he sees Hobie coaching Upper Township. So Hobie pulls Kim aside and proceeds to tell her that Carl needs to be on this field to coach. Carl didn’t find this out until later. So at the next practice Carl goes and leans against the fence. Hobie walks over and says “you’re on the wrong side of the fence” and with those words, Carl started coaching football. Hobie has coached for 45 years from pee wee level all the way up to semi-pro. Hobie was Carl’s mentor and says that Hobie is the #1 guy to ever coach.

Our last nominee of the night is Carl Gansert who was inducted by Sammy Caraballo. Carl started to play for Sea Isle City Chiefs when he was 7 years old. He then went off to play fullback for Ocean City High School. After high school, he started his family and coached for three different organizations for many years, Dennis Township, Upper Township and Ocean City. Carl also coached three different semi-pro teams, South Jersey Knights, South Jersey Storm and Atlantic City Devils. Sammy’s proudest moment as administrator was writing his nomination and calling him to tell him he was in. 

Carl talked about how the league was going in the wrong direction, especially with the weight limits. So he reached out to some of the representatives about getting on the Executive Board. So he got voted in as President. So his first duty as President was to grow and expand the league. Carl was responsible for getting teams outside of Cape May County. The first team was Marlboro who lasted for one year. He would travel all over the state. He got teams from Atlantic County (Egg Harbor Township Youth, Egg Harbor Township Pal, Galloway Township and Hamilton Township) Ocean County (Pinelands, Southern and Barnegat) and Cumberland County (Bridgeton). Carl was also responsible for starting the Taxi Division. When he became President, their were only 7 teams and in three years he got up it to 64 different teams. Carl says it wasn’t only him but everyone in this room and previous Hall of Famers. He also wanted to thank his wife Kim, who has been by his side for the last 25+ years. Also talked about when a former player who is in his 40’s comes up and still calls him and introduces him to his family. That still puts a tear in his eye.

The 2021 Cape-Atlantic Junior Football League Hall of Fame class (from left): Gary Melton-Carl Gansert-Tom Germana-Wes Hills. Missing Tom Henry, Matt Szczur, Brian Evans.