Two years ago Dominic Cuniglio was a very last minute replacement to succeed Brian Sheridan as Union High School’s head football coach afterSheridan took a leave of absence one week into practice.
Upon his return to Union County to continue his coaching career, Cuniglio was given a bit more time to mold the team he is now fully in charge of.
In addition, there is no interim tag associated with his position.
Officially hired as the new head football coach at Dayton High School inSpringfield back on May 5 – one day before his 39th birthday – Cuniglio is excited about getting the Bulldogs back to their winning ways.
This is his second time as a head coach, but the first time without an interim tag.
This week, Cuniglio has Dayton at a four-day camp at Middletown South, competing in such non-pad drills as 7-on-7s against returning players from Middletown South and Holmdel.
His returning players will also compete in 7-on-7s this month at UnionHigh School.
“I wanted to be a head coach and wanted to get back into it,” said Cuniglio, who after two years at Union returned to South Jersey last year to spend a season as the offensive coordinator at Nottingham.
The 1993 Steinert graduate was the offensive coordinator at Union in 2011 and then was bumped up to interim head coach in August of 2012, guiding the Farmers that year to a 5-4 playoff campaign.
“I knew a little bit about Dayton when they were playing their home games at Union when I was at Union,” said Cuniglio, a Lumberton resident who is about to enter his fourth year of teaching business at Union High School. “I became good friends with the (Anthony) Cioffi family and saw some of their games.”
Like at Union and the other places he’s coached at, Cuniglio will also be the offensive coordinator at Dayton.
“We’ll do the same stuff we did at Union, we’ll spread it out,” Cuniglio said.
Officially approved as Dayton’s new head coach on May 5, Cuniglio first met with the returning players the next day, May 6 – which was on his birthday.
“We’ve been working hard the last two months, including in the weight room five times a week,” Cuniglio said.
Cuniglio replaces two-season head coach Steve Trivino, who guidedDayton to a 4-6 mark and a North 2, Group 1 playoff appearance in 2012 and then a 2-8 mark last season.
Continuing as the defensive coordinator, which has been his position since Dayton football returned in 2005 with a junior varsity team, is Bob Martin, who is still the head boys’ basketball coach.
“Bob is a great guy to have on the staff,” Cuniglio said. “He knows the ins and outs of the conference and has now been here a long time.
“He gives me a perspective on what’s going on. He’s been in battles on the football field and basketball court. He’s my right-hand guy.”
Cuniglio presently reports that he has a senior class that totals 14, including such key players as running back John Turner, wide receiver Mike Iuliano, quarterback John Apicella, QB-kicker Andrew Lashuk, wide receiver TJ Kanarek and lineman Saverio Salcfas.
“I don’t know much about what happened last year, but I saw a lot of the film and see great potential,” Cuniglio said. “However, I told the kids that potential never wins you anything.
“They have to take that potential and never miss a beat, never miss a workout and that will, ultimately, lead to winning games.”
Before spending the past three seasons at Group 5 Union and Group 4 Nottingham – which reached the Central Jersey, Group 4 semifinals last year after winning Central Jersey, Group 3 the year before – Cuniglio spent three seasons as the offensive coordinator at Group 1 New Egypt.
“When I started out my first teaching position was at New Egypt, a Group 1 school in its third year of existence,” Cuniglio said. “We took a team that won two games to winning six my first year and then seven in each of my last two.”
The first official day of practice is four weeks from this Monday – Aug. 11 – with the Bulldogs opening their 2014 season at Hillside on Sept. 13. The first home game on Dayton’s new turf field – now in its second season – is set for Sept. 19 vs. Bound Brook.
“It’s nice to get back to North Jersey and in the Mid-State (38 conference) and match wits with some of the best,” Cuniglio said.
Also returning as an assistant coach is freshman football mentor Mike Abbate, who has led the varsity baseball team to 95 wins the last five seasons, including consecutive North 2, Group 1 championships the last two years.
“A lot of the players compete in multiple sports and it was great seeing the baseball team win the sectional title,” Cuniglio said. “The basketball team has had a lot of success lately as well, so I see it hard for us not to have success as well.
“There’s a great community behind you here, a great administration and an unbelievable faculty. We have a 2,000 square foot weight room and a strength and conditioning coach.
“It’s a good situation. It’s a recipe for success.”
NOTES: Trivino is now the offensive coordinator at Chatham under second-year head coach Jason Izsa.
Chatham enters the 2014 season with a 21-game losing streak after going 0-10 the past two years following a season-ending loss in 2011.
DAYTON FOOTBALL 2014
Sept. 13 at Hillside, 1 p.m.
Sept. 19 Bound Brook, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 Brearley, 1 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Belvidere, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 at South Hunterdon, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 New Providence, 7 p.m.
Oct. 24 Roselle Park, 7 p.m.
Oct. 31 at Manville, 7 p.m.
Nov. 7 at Pingry, 7 p.m.
2014 Section: North 2, Group 1
NORTH 2, GROUP 1 FOR 2014:
Bound Brook, Brearley, Dunellen,
Glen Ridge, Hoboken, Dayton,
Shabazz, Middlesex, New Providence,
Newark Collegiate, North Arlington,
Ridgefield Memorial, Roselle Park,
Secaucus, Weehawken, Weequahic.