As first reported by Mike McGarry of the Press of Atlantic City, Pleasantville football coach Chris Sacco has stepped down, and as he does he leaves behind a legacy of not only one of the biggest turnarounds in South Jersey history but — more importantly — improving the lives of his players.

Sacco coached the Greyhounds for five seasons and finished with a 27-25 record, which may not seem all that impressive until you consider the team was just 3-47 in the five previous seasons and Sacco’s team went 0-10 in his first year. The past couple of years, Pleasantville has become one of the top teams in South Jersey and played in back-to-back sectional semifinals in 2018 and 2019.

Sacco was a guidance counselor at Pleasantville for four years but took a job in the same position at Absegami prior to this school year, and he said that was a big factor in his decision to step down.

“Obviously, not working in the building this year took its toll and had its hardships. I loved my time there and I think what we’ve been able to do with the staff and players, as a team, is something I’m always going to look back on and appreciate,” he said via a phone interview tonight. “I loved my time with these guys and building the relationships with the players and the coaches, and the staff and community there. I wish them nothing but the best moving forward. Not working in the building is really what the deciding factor was.”

Sacco was a relative unknown when he came over from the Hammonton area prior to the 2015 season, and he knew it was going to take some time to turn around a program that had suffered several winless seasons prior to his arrival.

“That’s with anything — whether it’s building a business or anything like that — you have to go in with a plan. There were a ton of doubters, but there will always be doubters no matter what you do. But we used that as motivation, and that’s what we told the kids. They kept showing up and working hard, the staff worked really hard, and we were able to start stringing together some wins and start building relationships with the kids and their families. Ultimately, that’s what helped turn things around,” he said. “(Glory Days) was there our first year and saw our practices, not having a lot of guys, but I credit that first-year team for sticking it out and helping to build a foundation. Everything we wanted to build we were able to do relatively quickly because those guys — even though we didn’t win that year — they bought in, we got right back in the weight room that second year, in January of 2016, and started building that foundation.”

After that initial 0-10 season, Sacco’s Greyhounds rebounded with a 4-6 record in 2016, then they went 7-3 and earned a berth in the state playoffs in 2017. In 2018, Pleasantville went 8-3 and recorded a playoff win over Cedar Creek while making it to the sectional semifinals, and this past fall the Greyhounds won eight games again, made it back to the sectional semis and won the West Jersey Football League’s United Division title. The school also started producing some high level NCAA Division I recruits, including Mohamed Toure (Rutgers), Elijah Glover (Villanova), Sahmir Jones (Boston University, track) and Ernest Howard (Sacred Heart). Sacco said that is the biggest accomplishment for he and his staff, getting the players ready for college, the military or the workforce.

“I love the kids and I’m going to miss them. I enjoyed my five seasons there a lot. Winning is very important in high school, but there’s nothing more important than treating these guys like young men and helping them get ready for the next stage of their life, whatever it is. Seeing these guys go off to college, even guys who went to a two-year college or right into the workforce or military, they come back and they are doing well. That’s the most rewarding part about being a high school coach, to see those guys come back when they are doing well,” Sacco said. “This is the first year we’ve been able to see guys start to come back around who have been out of the program for three or four years, and it was nice to see those guys and what they are doing now. We always tell them the program is where it is now because they put in that work, and I think the younger guys see that and appreciate that. They were only 10 or 11 years old when we came here and tried to turn this thing around. It’s been a great run and hopefully they can keep it rolling. Those kids deserve everything, they really do.”

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