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Wayne Hills High School Football

FACES

Hard work has led to success for John Jacob in high school football

Growing up in Roselle Park, New Jersey, John Jacob enjoyed playing baseball and basketball. But as the years passed, Jacob gravitated more towards football.

Eventually, Jacob landed a spot on his high school football team where he played outside linebacker.

“[It was] a great experience… I built up a lot of lifelong friendships while I was there,” Jacob said. “It was a really tough, blue-collar neighborhood, and I grew up around a lot of kids who had an appreciation for all the simpler things in life.”

 

Westfield, West Orange, and Wayne Hills

After spending two years attending Kean University, Jacob moved on to Westfield High School where he coached for a couple of years. Jacob’s big break would culminate with being named the head coach of the West Orange High School football team.

In a ten-year run, Jacob becoming the winningest coach in the program’s history and led the team to its third ever playoff appearance.

“It was obvious they were coming off some struggling years,” John Jacob explained. “The community and administration was very supportive and receptive in facilitating any changes to make things better and re-establish a place where the kids felt really proud to be a part of the football program.”

In his time with West Orange High School, Jacob only had good things to say about his players.

“Our players were great. They were enthusiastic kids that were committed. They were good kids in the community as well as on the field,” Jacob said. “I think our teachers, staff and even town leadership felt the same way about the kids.”

 

Most recently, Jacob spent six years at Wayne Hills High School as the football team’s offensive coordinator.

The Patriots offense thrived under Jacob. They reached the state championship finals three out of the last four years, while breaking numerous records and amassing vast amounts of total offense and passing yardage.

In 2018, Wayne Hills won a North 1 Group 4 state title and defeated Phillipsburg in the North Group 4 Bowl Championship at MetLife Stadium.

“When it comes to a football community, the Wayne Hills community is second to none,” Jacob explained. “They love, care and support football. The kids were great to coach and willing to adhere to the team concept.”

However, Jacob had a tough act to follow at Wayne Hills. Former head football coach Chris Olsen went 263-94-6 in 34 seasons, including a 55-game win streak and eight state championships.

“Coach Olsen was a legendary and iconic Hall of Fame coach,” Jacob praised. “Sometimes there is a transition in leadership and adjustments have to be made. They [Jacob’s players] saw the big picture, believed in the process and what we learned in 2015 and started a pretty good run from there.”

 

Seeking redemption

Wayne Hills registered a 10-3 record in 2015 that ended with a 17-0 loss to the Old Tappan Golden Knights in the North 1 Group 4 state championship game at MetLife Stadium. But the next season was a different tale.

The Patriots roared back in 2016 going undefeated at 12-0. Their season ended in a dramatic 31-24 overtime victory over Wayne Valley in the North 1 Group 4 Final.

“It was a great season… Wayne Valley was an exceptionally talented team that year,” John Jacob remarked. “They were one of the strongest teams at every level, offensively and defensively. We were a talented team and very resilient as well. We had a dominant will to win, never felt discouraged and had multiple tough games.”

After noting that this game was one of the most exhausting, hard-fought games of his career, Jacob emphasized how important it was for the team to have marquees wins at the start of the season. Plus, he made it a cultural experience for his players.

“It was chance to see what it’s like in another state and other college campuses,” Jacob said. “We could see the inner workings of other communities and how they operate and how other football programs conduct their business. It turned into real broadening experience for our kids and encompassed a lot more than just a football game.”

 

Dropping to 7-4 in 2017, the Wayne Hills Patriots rebounded in 2018 by going 11-2. On seven occasions, the team scored 40-plus points. Atoning for the 2015 state championship loss to Old Tappan, the Patriots defeated the Golden Knights 20-13 for the sectional title.

“Old Tappan is a storied North Jersey program where there is a great deal of mutual respect between both programs and coaching staffs,” said John Jacob. “It was rewarding to win because of how hard our kids worked.”

The icing on the cake?

The Patriots finished off a successful season by outlasting Phillipsburg 35-21 in the North 1 Group 4 Bowl Championship Game.

“That team was just incredible and we broke the school record, Jacob said. They all wanted the ball in their hands and believed strongly in the team concept. I think the nature of sports, the sport itself it lends to that kind of connectivity. It’s about 11 guys performing at the optimal level, and that’s something unique about football.”

 

Commissioner Jacob

In addition to coaching football, Jacob is commissioner of the New Jersey Football Coaches Association (NJFCA). He also served on the Executive Committee and as Communications Director and Super 100 Chairman.

“It was a great honor, mainly because I was voted on by my peers,” John Jacob described. “It’s significant in that sense you have garnered the trust of coaches that you admire and respect.”

Jacob’s initial involvement was as a member. Eventually, he was voted into the executive committee. Later on, he became the communications director. Then, in the summer of 2019, he was nominated to be the commissioner.

The new year has presented many challenges for Jacob in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and death of George Floyd, not just as a human, but as a leader for the Coaches Association. In June, the association held a panel discussion for fellow coaches to engage in.

“We had 120 coaches in attendance from around the state,” Jacob said. “I don’t know how as an American citizen you can’t be hurt by this very painful and disturbing image. It has caused our nation to hit the pause and recalibrate as a society.”

Jacob isn’t just prioritizing his fellow coaches. Together, they’re working to keep the connectivity and discussions alive amongst their teams.

“We have been hosting coaches clinics on Monday nights,” Jacob said. “Coaches have found them to be a great source of information and professional growth. It has allowed us to still connect with each other while we’re in quarantine.

 

Family Man

During his football coaching career, Jacob has relied on the support from his family. He currently resides in East Hanover with his wife Denise and daughter Sophia.

“My wife’s amazing. She’s a rare breed,” Jacob said. “She made a lot of sacrifices, as does my daughter too. You miss a lot of things you wish you didn’t, but you got a family that believes you are there for a higher calling. My wife really believes in the effect coaching has on kids.”

For someone who has been invested in the game for as long as he has, Jacob had just one thing to say:

“I’m trying to give back to football everything it has given me… I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pay it back.”

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Sunil Sunder Raj

Sunil is the Rockland Boulders Beat Writer for DoubleGSports.com and also covers North Jersey High School Sports
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