By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Burlington, NJ – Joe Frappolli bleeds blue and gold as much as anybody.
Frappolli has spent nearly all of his life in his hometown of Florence. His only time outside of Florence was when he went to college at Wilkes University, in Wilkes-Barre, PA. And he was offered jobs outside of Florence; however, he decided to stay at home, in Florence.
He even turned down a job in Connecticut to stay at Florence.
Frappolli, a 1965 graduate of Florence Twp. Memorial High, was the head baseball coach when he was offered the Connecticut job. He would later give up the head baseball position to focus mainly on the football team.
He used to be a Flashes football player, and then became an assistant coach in 1970, under Joe Papp. He was an assistant coach under Papp for two years. The Flashes were 4-14 in Papp’s final two years at the school.
He would stay as an assistant coach when George Besette took over the head coaching position after the 1972 season. Besette would only last two years on the Flashes sideline. He would have a 5-13 record in two years.
The losing ways would change with one hire. Before the 1974 season, the Florence Athletic Department would hire Frappolli, as the new head football coach. And it’s turned out to be the best sports hire in school history.
“He’s very proud of being from Florence,” longtime defensive coordinator Nick Lubrano said. “That means he’s been here for a very long time. He was born and raised in Florence. To be born, raised, coach and teach here, it’s pretty rewarding for Frappolli.”
Frappolli has guided the Flashes football team for the last 34-years. Frappolli has had more winning seasons than any football coach in Burlington County. He has coached 26 teams that were .500 or better, while he has won 15 division titles.
His team hasn’t lost a division title since 2001 when Burlington City won the Freedom Division.
Frappolli also guided Florence to the 1985 South Jersey, Group 1 State Championship. And his teams have won 49 of their last 50 games, with the only loss during this unbelievable streak coming last year at home to Holy Cross.
Florence had a chance to win that game; however, fumbles caused an end to their 43-game win streak, which is the second-longest win streak in South Jersey history. The Flashes have won 4 straight Central Jersey, Group 1 State Championships.
Frappolli has recently won his 230th career game that ties the all-time South Jersey football wins record. He is currently tied with the former Delsea head coach John Oberg, who was 230-67-16 in his coaching career at one school. And Frappolli is expected to break the record in the very near future.
“Coach is not really an arrogant person,” senior running back Quentin Loftin said. “He doesn’t talk about it at practice — about him being a legend. He never mentioned that he has 230 wins coming. He just told us to come out and play our best. That’s the way he is. He really doesn’t care about how many wins he has.
“That’s why he’s a good person, also. I really think coach doesn’t care if he has 230 wins or not. He cares more about Florence, the program, the people, and the players. He just so happens to have 230 wins. He never really thinks about it (the record).”
Yet, his current players wanted to be a part of his huge accomplishment.
“It’s an accomplishment to know that he has 230 wins,” Loftin said. “We’re a part of that with him. It feels good to be a part of that. And to win this historic game for coach means a lot to us.”
And he’s seen many players come and go. Yet, it’s always been about the team to him.
“It’s never about the person,” Lubrano said. “That was the way he was born and raised. Family always came first. That’s the way he’s always been.”
“We play as a team but we all play for this town,” senior guard and linebacker Chris Salaga said. “It’s all one big family. Coach always says family is a big part of it. He’s always preaching to us that we’re a family — a second family to him.”
Many of his former players stay close to the football program after they graduate high school. Most of them attend the football games throughout the season, while some former players are Frappolli’s assistant coaches, including his own son. Only one assistant coach didn’t graduate from Florence.
“It shows a lot about Frappolli,” Salaga said. “Most of the staff is made up of Florence graduates. They all want to be around the program. They all want to help us get better.”