Local high school football coach Charlie Roman is going back to his roots.
Roman, 48, confirmed Thursday he is returning to Holy Spirit High School as an assistant coach under A.J. Russo after five seasons as an assistant at rival St. Augustine Prep.
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Roman’s connection to the Spartans stretches more than three decades. The 1987 Holy Spirit graduate played for the Spartans, was an assistant coach for five seasons and was their head coach from 2008-11.
“There were two major things behind my decision,” Roman said. “Holy Spirit is a place where I feel like I belong. It just feels right. It’s home for me. And I also get a chance to work with (Spartans assistant coach) Billy Walsh again.”
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Walsh, 49, was recently diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Roman and Walsh, a 1985 Holy Spirit graduate, were football teammates under the late Ed Byrnes.
Like Roman, Walsh also served as head coach for five seasons (2003-07) and returned as an assistant coach under Russo in 2015.
Roman was Walsh’s defensive coordinator.
Coach Mark Reardon of the St. Augustine Prep football team is happy to keep fighting the fight.
“He’s one of my oldest and dearest friends,” Roman said. “It means a lot to be able to coach with him again.”
Roman is rejoining a program coming off a successful season under Russo, a 1981 alumnus who took over as head coach in 2015.
The Spartans went 9-3 in 2016, reaching the state Non-Public II championship game. They suffered a heartbreaking 26-20 loss to Mater Dei, which scored on a hook-and-lateral play in the final seconds of regulation.
“We’re excited to have Charlie back in our program,” Holy Spirit athletic director Steve Normane said. “We want to surround our kids with as many knowledgeable, passionate and experience coaches as possible, so we’re thrilled to have someone of Charlie’s caliber here.”
Returning to Holy Spirit means leaving another close friend — St. Augustine Prep head coach Mark Reardon, a 1989 Holy Spirit grad who played and coached at Villanova University.
Reardon could not be reached for comment Thursday.
Reardon, with Roman on staff, coached St. Augustine to a 42-9 record in the past five seasons, including 18-2 in 2015-16. The losses came against North Jersey and national powers St. Joseph-Montvale and Bergen Catholic, respectively, in the state Non-Public IV playoffs.
“Mark and I are also very good friends,” Roman said. “I wouldn’t have made this decision without discussing it with him first, and he was very supportive.
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“I’m going back to Holy Spirit, and I’m not leaving. I’m going to be there for the rest of my coaching career.”