Back to the Future: Orio returns as Spartans football coach

Al Orio takes over the program from Scuderi, who went 9-12 in two seasons but helped guide the team to its first winning season since 2006 this fall, when the Spartans won five of their first six games and clinched a spot in the Group 3 playoffs, where they lost to Delsea in the first round. (RYAN LAWRENCE, The Sun)

The search for a new football coach at Deptford Township High School didn’t take very long.

The school’s athletic department, seeking someone with Deptford ties and a strong sense of community, as well as coaching experience and football expertise, went into its recent history books to find a solution for the future of the program.

Al Orio was announced as the Spartans new football coach on Dec. 11, less than three weeks after Steve Scuderi announced his resignation.

Orio previously coached at Deptford from 1998 to 2010, leading the team to three South Jersey championships, including their undefeated campaign (12-0) in 2003.

“Al has a ton of coaching experience and recent success,” Deptford High School athletic director Irv McFarland III said in a press release on the school’s website. “We’re excited to have someone like him from within the school district. We are going to rely on his knowledge and experience to turn the program back in the direction we think it should be.”

Al Orio, a Deptford Township High School alum who went 67-57 with three South Jersey championships in his previous stint as the Spartans head coach, was recently announced as the replacement for Steve Scuderi as the school’s new head football coach. (Photo provided)

McFarland is banking on Orio, a former All-South Jersey lineman at Deptford and a social studies teacher at the school for the last 20 years, to provide some much-needed stability to the program.

The Spartans have had three different head coaches in the eight years since Orio’s last stint. Since Orio left after the 2010 season, no class at Deptford had the same football coach for the duration of its high school career.

Orio had most recently worked as an assistant coach at West Deptford, but also had assisting jobs at Kingsway, Clearview, and Overbrook. He is eager to return home.

“I am Deptford Football,” he said in a statement. “You know what I thought about during my years coaching elsewhere? I was helping other kids get into college. That was great, but it wasn’t Deptford kids. That weighs on you being a Deptford guy. I want to help our students succeed on and off the field.”

Orio takes over the program from Scuderi, who went 9-12 in two seasons but helped guide the team to its first winning season since 2006 this fall, when the Spartans won five of their first six games and clinched a spot in the Group 3 playoffs (where they lost to Delsea in the first round).

“I can’t wait to get started,” Orio said. “Working with other schools you see what works well and what doesn’t. The people involved in Deptford have been supportive of doing what needs to be done to be successful. … Longevity builds a program. Once you’re done improving, you’re done. I’m always trying to get better. Staying with football makes you better – you grow. That’s what I see happening here. Am I a better coach? Yeah. Why? Because I continue to coach.”

Orio went 67-57 in his previous, 13-season stint at Deptford’s football coach. The Spartans alum has been involved with football for more than 40 years, including playing collegiately at West Point and the University of Pennsylvania after his high school playing career.

“We want to get (Deptford) back the way it was – an elite program,” he said.