Montclair High School has a new football coach, and it did not have to go far to find one.
The Montclair Board of Education approved Jermain Johnson as the new leader of the football program at its Wednesday, May 4, meeting.
Johnson comes from Belleville, where he was the head coach for the previous four years. During his tenure the varsity was 19-16.
“I’m very excited to have him join us and to meet the players and the coaches,” Montclair Athletics Director P.J. Scarpello said.
Johnson is expected to meet with the players either this week or next, according to Scarpello.
The new coach said that he did not have plans about looking for a new coaching job, but that some friends in Montclair reached out to him to apply since the position is one of the top spots in the state.
“Montclair has generational talent,” he said. “It is the most appealing job in the state of New Jersey. The kids work hard and have won championships where they know how to win.”
While his victory total at Belleville is not gaudy, Johnson took over a program that had won only seven games the previous four years, including just one victory the year before he took over, 2018.
“I don’t think you can compare programs,” Scarpello said. “He came into Belleville after they had [won] only one game the year before. Also, football is not the number one sport at Belleville.”
Johnson takes over for Pete Ramiccio, who was interim head coach while John Fiore was on sabbatical. Under Ramiccio, Montclair was 5-5 in 2021. After finishing his sabbatical, Fiore took the head coaching job at Elizabeth High School. He had a 93-31 record at Montclair.
Ramiccio has been hired as the new head football coach at Governor Livingston High School in Berkeley Heights, Union County.
Scarpello said that there was extensive interest in the position, and 15 candidates were interviewed by a school board committee that included himself.
“It’s a good spot to be in,” he said about having so many candidates.
The athletics director said that what most impressed him was Johnson’s avocation for work in the weight room.
“He really was a supporter of a good weight room program so the student athletes get bigger and stronger,” he said. “That’s what really resonated with me.”
Johnson said that he tells his student-athletes that their responsibility does not end on the football field. “I preach about being a scholar-athlete,” he said. “They have to take care of business in the classroom.”
His first regular season game as head coach is tentatively slated for Labor Day weekend, when the Mounties host West Orange. Montclair is in the North Jersey Super Football Conference Freedom White Division, which also includes Livingston and Irvington.
Along with his four years at Belleville, Johnson was an assistant coach at Montclair State University from 1996 to 1999. He played for the Red Hawks for four years, between 1992 and 1995.
In addition, Johnson saw time in the pros in arena football, in various stints between 1997 and 2004, including playing for the former New Jersey Red Dogs, who played in East Rutherford.
He is a graduate of Bloomfield High School and played against Montclair in the annual Thanksgiving Day game in his freshman and senior years. He also played against Montclair when he participated in youth flag football.
For Ramiccio, it was not a surprise that his contract was not extended to be permanent head coach.
“Like I said before, I thought that they were going in a different direction,” he said on Thursday.
Ramiccio ends his tenure as a Montclair football coach for a dozen years under Fiore and as the interim head coach in 2021.
“It’s been a decade-plus of success to lead these players on and off the field,” he said, and also pointed to several players playing football at the college level. “I thought we reinvigorated and reignited a rich tradition at the school.”
With Ramiccio as an assistant under Fiore, the pair led the Mounties to seven NJSIAA sectional championships, winning in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2017, while also having unbeaten seasons in 2012, 2013 and 2017.