BELLEVILLE – As the offensive/defensive line assistant coach for the Belleville High School varsity football team for the past two seasons, Mario Cuniglio has seen how hard the Bucs have worked.
Though the results on field didn’t show it, the Bucs’ diligence never waned, especially now in the offseason, with Cuniglio recently promoted as the Bucs head coach.
Cuniglio and his coaching staff have implemented their off-season training program in the high school weight room, four days a week. The program is comprised of the core lifts (bench, squat, dead lifts, and cleans) as well as explosive exercises (speed squats, hurdle jumps, med ball chest passes, and squat jumps).
In addition, a group of 10-12 student-athletes are frequenting “Krank” systems in town two days a week to supplement the strength program at the high school.
The team’s offensive linemen also attended the Rich Alercio Offensive LIne Techniques and Fundamentals for the Trenches Clinic earlier this month in Princeton.
This Sunday, April 3, the linebackers will be attending the TNT linebacker Clinic at Kean University in Union.
Cuniglio joined the Bucs’ coaching staff when Joe Fischer returned for his second stint as the Bucs head coach in 2014. Fischer stepped down after this past season in order to pursue an administrative position.
This marks Cuniglio’s first head coaching position, and he is certainly excited about it.
“I am truly blessed and excited to be a first-time head coach,” said Cuniglio. “I am very humbled by this experience and am extremely grateful that Belleville has given me this outstanding opportunity.”
BHS athletic director Dan Sanacore is confident that Cuniglio will build a successful football program.
In a statement, Sanacore said, “there is a difference between building a football team and a football program. A football team sees success for a season, maybe two, players graduate and the process starts over. A football program is consistently competitive. A football program is all-encompassing, including ensuring the cheerleaders, band, and all other components actively being a part of it. A football program teaches our student-athletes not only how to be better on the field, but off of it, through academic and character education. A football program gives back to its community through regular contact with the junior football program. It does these and many other things, all of which I know Coach Mario Cuniglio himself understands and values. He is energetic, knowledgeable, and as dedicated to our student-athletes as they come. He has big ideas and goals for Belleville Football, both short and long-term. Mario has committed himself to building not just a football team, but a program in Belleville. In this he knows he has my full support.”
Cuniglio was a four-year letterwinner at Steinert High School in Hamilton, serving as captain in his senior year. He also was a two-time Second Team All-County selection as a tight end.
Cuniglio then played two seasons for the Monmouth University football team.
He returned to Steinert to begin his coaching career in 2001 as a volunteer assistant. Cuniglio then went on to coach and pursue his teaching career during the 2005-06 school year at New Egypt High School in which he was the volunteer assistant defensive line coach and freshman defensive coordinator.
Following that school year, he left teaching and didn’t return until 2008 when he was named head freshmen coach at Nottingham High School in Hamilton.
Cuniglio then secured a teaching/coaching position in Hillside in 2009. During that season, he was a volunteer assistant freshmen coach. In 2010-11, Cuniglio became a paid assistant as the offensive coordinator for the freshmen and junior varsity teams. He then went on to become a volunteer assistant offensive/defensive line coach at Burlington City High School as he worked hand-in-hand with his younger brother.
Cuniglio returned to Hillside where he was the offensive coordinator for one season. He then moved on to Columbia High School in Maplewood as the offensive line coach/co-offensive coordinator for one season before moving on to Belleville.
Cuniglio and his coaching staff want to get the best out of their players.
“Our coaching philosophy is simple. We will utilize our personnel to maximize their potential and create favorable match-ups that will in turn put our men in the best possible position to succeed,” Cuniglio said.
The Bucs, indeed, want to turn around their fortunes after going 2-8 in 2014 and 1-9 last season.
“Our goal for the season is to change the overall culture of our program, and in doing so, we believe that it will contribute immensely to improving our level of competition,” Cuniglio said. “As far as a long-term goal, it would be to build a program and restore a rich tradition within the community of Belleville.
“The keys to achieving our team goals are to change our culture. Once we change our culture, everything else will fall in line.”
Helping to create a winning culture is the positive attitude and leadership shown by next year’s seniors.
“We have a close knit group of seniors that have been playing varsity football since their sophomore year,” said Cuniglio “We are looking for these men to take control and pave the way for us as leaders. We have a few underclassmen as well who will be relied upon as invaluable assets to our overall success in all three phases of the game.”