- Mike Mazzeo, ESPN Staff Writer
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Brothers Nunzio and Anthony Campanile have coached against each other once before.
Just don’t expect that it’s going to be any easier on their mother Maura the second time around -- especially with the stakes much higher.
“She’ll probably be rooting for both of us,” Anthony said. “That’s the only way she can handle it.”
Maura -- along with several other members of the Campanile family -- will be in attendance Friday night at the New Meadowlands as the top two teams in New Jersey, rivals Don Bosco and Bergen Catholic, square off to determine the Group IV Non-Public High School football champion.
Bosco (11-0), which has won 33 consecutive games and is ranked in the top 10 in many nationwide high school football polls, will be seeking its sixth consecutive Group IV Non-Public title, while a Bergen Catholic (10-1) upset of the Ironmen would mean its first championship since 2004.
That, coupled with the fact that these teams run similar spread offenses and regularly have their players recruited by the elite FBS college football programs in the country, makes this matchup an intriguing one. And when Nunzio, 33, formerly the offensive coordinator under Greg Toal for 10 seasons at Bosco (111-6 record, six championships), decided to leave the program and fill the head coaching vacancy at BC in the offseason, leaving his 27-year-old younger brother Anthony to take over as the Crusaders’ offensive coordinator, the move only added even more intrigue to a rivalry that doesn’t need it.
It was certainly all the fervor earlier this season, right before the brothers’ first encounter, a game that was won by Bosco, 38-18, on Oct. 2 before a standing room only crowd of about 7,000.
“It was odd,” Anthony said of seeing his older brother Nunzio, the same older brother he coached with his first four seasons at Bosco, on the opposite sideline. “It was the first time we ever competed against each other directly [as coaches]. Obviously we’d done it playing sports as we were growing up, but it was strange.
“My brother is the best coach I know. He’s taught me more football than anybody I know. A lot of things we do at Bosco are a tribute to him.
“This is still his offense.”
• • •
Nunzio and Anthony Campanile came from a family deeply rooted in football.
Their father, Mike, was a successful head coach at Paramus Catholic for 10 seasons.
Their oldest brother, Vito, starred for Mike as a quarterback at PC, where he set a then N.J. all-time record, passing for 6,755 yards. He later went on to play collegiately at UMass and eventually joined the high school coaching ranks himself. He’s currently at the helm at Westwood.
Like Vito, Nunzio also played QB for his dad before pursuing his college degree and continuing his playing career at Amherst. He finished up his undergraduate studies at Montclair State.
In fact, all four of Mike’s sons -- Nick, currently the offensive coordinator at Becton is the other -- went on to play quarterback in high school before becoming coaches.
“Pretty incredible, isn’t it?” Anthony said. “He’s really proud of all of us.”
If the infamous Hurley family owns high school basketball in New Jersey, it’s only a matter of time before the quickly ascending Campanile family lays claim to similar football acclaim in the state.
• • •
Mike Campanile dabbled with the spread offense -- long before it became the success it has become for coaches like his sons and Florida coach Urban Meyer.
“The only difference was he didn’t run it out of the shotgun,” said Nunzio.
Both the Ironmen and Crusaders do. And they’ve been able to have success out of the spread because of their personnel, notably their stars under center.
Bergen’s 6-foot-6 Tanner McEvoy, a highly-sought after BCS recruit, has combined to throw and run for 42 touchdowns, while Bosco’s 6-foot-2 Gary Nova, who will take his skills to Pitt, has passed for 18 TDs and thrown just two interceptions.
Of course, as both coaches have pointed out, McEvoy and Nova are just two of the special kids that are going to see the field on Friday night.
“I know everyone wants to make this about us,” said Nunzio, whose team has outscored its opposition 476-164. “But it should really be about these kids.”
“Our kids have done everything we’ve asked them to do,” said Anthony, whose team has scored 498 points, while allowing just 70. “They’re selfless. It doesn’t matter who gets the ball.
“You just want them to be successful. That’s the most gratifying thing as a coach.”
For Anthony and Nunzio’s father, at least, it’s gratifying seeing his two sons on the field coaching against one another.
“He gets a real kick out of it,” Nunzio said.
Their mother? Not so much.
“She just wants this whole thing to be over,” Anthony said.
So do the brothers themselves, although each would like to hold the trophy when it’s all said and done Friday night.
“We don’t talk about it too much,” Anthony said. “We talked about the first game. You’re gonna talk about it after. It’s a tough situation because one of us is gonna be upset at the end of the day.”
Unfortunately, that part is inevitable.
• • •
Anthony Campanile was trying to watch the Cowboys-Saints game on Thanksgiving.
And that didn’t make Nunzio’s son, 7-year-old Mikey, very happy.
“He was punching me and kicking me in the stomach,” Anthony said.
A bit of foreshadowing, perhaps?
Anthony spent a lot more time playing with Mikey than he did talking with Nunzio.
“It’s not really different talking to Mikey than Nunzio anyway, they have the same mental capacity,” Anthony laughed.
Sounded like payback for when Nunzio was sarcastically talking up his brother as the greatest coach since Vince Lombardi at the dinner table.
“I meant most of it,” Nunzio said. “My family just wasn’t buying it.”
On Friday night, though, there won’t be any joking around.
Then Nunzio and Anthony will go out to dinner with their staffs. And after that -- likely on Saturday -- they’ll get together and rehash the game, just as they have their entire lives.
Hopefully, their aren’t any arguments.