Phil Anastasia: Coach out to revive Sterling tradition

New Sterling head coach Clint Wiley says he asked his players "to do four things. Play hard. Be tough. Do your job. And care about Sterling football."
New Sterling head coach Clint Wiley says he asked his players "to do four things. Play hard. Be tough. Do your job. And care about Sterling football." (PHIL ANASTASIA / Staff)

Clint Wiley wants a return to the program's glory days.

Posted: September 03, 2011

Penns Grove's tailback was racing toward the end zone, and Clint Wiley was in hot pursuit.

The new Sterling coach wasn't trying to make a tackle. He was trying to make a point.

"Heads up, heads up," Wiley yelled as a few Sterling players took on that dejected, this-feels-familiar look after an opposing touchdown.

Wiley won't have it. Neither will his assistants. If the tri-scrimmage that Sterling hosted the other day against Penns Grove and Cedar Creek is any indication, the Silver Knights are going to be a dramatically different team this season - and for years to come.

That doesn't mean Sterling is ready to win the Colonial Liberty division or make a run at the Group 2 sectional title. It does mean that one of the sleeping powers in South Jersey football is rousing to action.

"This is a process," Wiley said after the scrimmage on a practice field behind the school in Somerdale. "Every day, we need to take another step forward. There's a lot of tradition here. We've got to get back to that tradition."

Sterling might never return to the glory days of the mid-1970s, when the program made four consecutive South Jersey Group 3 title games and won three of them.

But there's no reason why this program can't be a consistent contender in the division and in South Jersey Group 2 as well. There are plenty of students in the building. There is plenty of talent, too.

"I always felt this school was a gold mine," Wiley said.

Wiley was an assistant at Villanova for 13 of the last 14 seasons. He spent the 2005 season as Oakcrest's head coach.

He's from Ohio, but he knows South Jersey football as well as anybody since he recruited the area for Villanova coach Andy Talley. All those South Jersey players on the Villanova roster - including 16 on the two-deep roster for the 2009 national champions - were steered to the Main Line by Wiley.

So why leave a great job at a great college program to take over a high school team that has lost more than its share of games by 40, 50, and sometimes 60 points over the last few years?

"Good question," Wiley said.

It's simple, really. Wiley lives around the corner from Sterling. He and his wife have three children, ages six, five and two. He wanted the stability - and the lack of travel - that comes with a career as a high school teacher and coach.

Plus, he has been looking around that corner at Sterling. He saw the future: Big games under the lights on Friday nights, big crowds, a buzz in the school and in the community.

He saw what a lot of people have seen: Sterling becoming Sterling again, and not a soft spot on anybody's schedule.

"With the tradition they have here, I always felt that if you could get it turned around, this could be one of the best jobs in South Jersey," Wiley said.

There's a different vibration around Sterling football these days. There are 75 players on the roster, a huge increase from previous seasons. The administration is behind this program totally. There's a new weight room on the drawing board.

The Silver Knights are playing with enthusiasm, especially on defense. They still seem to lack some size and muscle up front, and the offense is a work in progress. But there's a lot of talent in the junior class, and the freshman class has been bolstered by a few athletes who decided to attend Sterling in the state's new school-choice program.

Wiley and his assistants were on the move after nearly every whistle during the scrimmage. They were celebrating good defensive plays and pointing out miscues after offensive struggles.

"We're very excited," Wiley said of his coaching staff. "This is a tremendous opportunity. We have unbelievable support from the school board, the superintendent, the principal, the athletic director, the whole school community.

"This is a great place. The people inside that building just love Sterling. We have great kids, and we want to make a difference in their lives. We want them to win in life.

"I've asked them to do four things. Play hard. Be tough. Do your job. And care about Sterling football.

"If we take care of those things, then the wins will take care of themselves."

Phil Anastasia: New S. Jersey Football Coaches

New coach   School   Old coach   

Dom Koehl   Audubon   Jon Caputo   

Jon Caputo   Buena   Paul Callahan   

Gil Brooks   Camden Catholic   Rick Brown   

Ryan Tucker   Clayton   Ryan Caltiabiano   

Jack McConnell   Collingswood   Bob Barikian   

Mike Blackiston   Deptford   Al Orio   

Steve Duncan   Gateway   Mike Karp   

Mike Maccarone   Glassboro   Herb Neilio   

Ralph Schiavo   Haddon Heights   Tim George   

Dave Dale   Haddon Township   Nelson Epley   

Tim McAneney   Lenape   Greg Harvey   

Kevin Smith   Ocean City   Mark Impagliazzo   

David Dudley   Pleasantville   William Burch   

Nelson Hayspell   Riverside   Marc Ballantyne   

Clint Wiley   Sterling   Jared Claybourn   

Calvin Thompson   Winslow Twp.   Mike McBride   

- Phil Anastasia

Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 856-779-3223,,

or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.

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