Al Saner, Point Boro's Legendary Football Coach, Dies At 92

POINT PLEASANT, NJ — It’s easy to think of Al Saner, the legendary Point Pleasant Borough High School coach, strictly in terms of football.

After all, Saner was the first football coach when Point Pleasant High School opened in 1963 and coached the Panthers for 29 years over two stints, and he is memorialized at the school where the football field is named in his honor.

But Saner, who died Tuesday at age 92, was so much more, said Tom Farrell, the Brick Township Schools superintendent and longtime friend and the family’s spokesman.

Find out what's happening in Point Pleasantwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

“He was the single most positive, optimistic person ever,” Farrell said Thursday. “He lived life to the fullest,” always busy and even skydiving at the age of 85, Farrell said.

Saner died while on a cruise with his wife, Marie, Farrell said. Funeral arrangements have not yet been settled.

Find out what's happening in Point Pleasantwith free, real-time updates from Patch.

“The Point Pleasant Borough School District Community is saddened by the news of Coach Al Saner’s passing,” Superintendent Adam Angelozzi said in a statement. “His positive impacts on countless athletes, friends, and relatives will reverberate through generations to come.”

“Our current school community and our athletes are proud to have had the privilege to meet and honor Coach Saner this past fall prior to a football game.” Angelozzi wrote. “While we are all saddened by this news, it is essential to take the time to appreciate, fondly remember, and smile about all the great things that Coach Saner brought to our schools, our staff, and, most importantly, our students.”

“We will continue celebrating his namesake and life whenever our student-athletes compete at Al Saner Field,” Angelozzi said.

Saner was born in Guttenberg, NJ, and was an All-State football player at Memorial High School of West New York under Joe Coviello, graduating in 1948. Memorial won 27 games during Saner’s playing days, according to a 1965 biography published in the Asbury Park Press.

Click Here:

Farrell, who said Saner was “like a second father to me,” was a senior when another Shore football legend, Warren Wolf, was beginning his coaching career as an assistant to Coviello. Saner went on to play football for a year at St. Benedict’s Prep, according to the 1965 biography, and then played on a scholarship at Gettysburg College.

After a stint in the Army, where he rose to the rank of captain, Saner began his coaching career at Hawthorne High School, before Wolf recommended him for the head coaching position at Point Boro, Farrell said. Saner taught social studies.

That’s when Saner and his first wife, Janice, moved to the Jersey Shore. The couple met in the Army — Janice was a nurse, Farrell said — and they were married for 50 years before she died in 2011. The couple had two sons, Jim and Gary, and two grandchildren.

He coached at Point Boro until retiring from there in 1992, with a brief stint coaching at then-Kean College, and finished with 161 wins, 98 losses and 9 ties. Saner also coached track and field at Point Boro, according to the 1965 biography.

Farrell, who said he gave the eulogy at Janice’s funeral, said Saner had been married to Marie, his second wife, since June 2013.

“Marie was so doting,” Farrell said, always making sure Saner ate properly and got to all his doctor’s appointments and followed their instructions. Saner had gone on the cruise so Marie could relax a little and not have to take care of him every second, Farrell said.

But even after he put down the clipboard as a head football coach, Saner could be found on the sidelines, serving as an assistant coach to Farrell at New Egypt High School, and to Mark Ciccotelli at St. John Vianney High School and Freehold High School, and later to Len Zdanowitz, the Brick Township High School coach who stepped down last fall.

Saner even shared his thoughts and wisdom with the players at Manchester Township High School, where Farrell’s son, Tommy Jr., is the head coach.

“He was always optimistic and ambitious,” said Farrell, who spoke with Saner nearly every day. When Tommy was considering the job at Manchester, Saner was the one saying he should go for it, Farrell said.

“I wasn’t sure. I thought he was too young to be a head coach,” Farrell said. “Al said, ‘I was young too. Tommy’s perfect.’ “

Farrell, who said he met Saner through Dennis Toddings, the longtime football coach at Donovan Catholic when it was St. Joseph’s High School and later Monsignor Donovan, said Saner was a sounding board whenever he needed advice.

“Every time I had a serious decision to make I would talk to him,” Farrell said.

That included when Farrell was considering the job at superintendent of the Brick Schools, in late 2019.

While others in Farrell’s life were sounding cautionary notes because of the turmoil that existed in the Brick school district at the time — Brick had been through 10 superintendents in as many years — “He was the one who told me to take the job,” Farrell said.

At a gathering honoring Wolf after his death in 2019, “Denny (Toddings) told me to stay away, and Al said, ‘What are you doing? He’s just what Brick needs.'”

Farrell said high school football remained a constant even after Saner was no longer assisting.

“Every weekend (during high school football season) we would go to a game,” Farrell said. On Fridays they would have pizza at Frankie’s and then drive out Route 70 to watch Manchester play. On Saturdays they would head to a diner for breakfast and then take in a game somewhere around the Shore Conference.

Farrell credits Saner with saving his life, saying the coach sent him to one of Saner’s former players, David Mitchell, when Farrell suffered a heart issue.

Saner, a devout Catholic who said the rosary every day, “was my life coach,” Farrell said.

“He told me he loved me every day. He loved my kids and my wife. It’s like losing my father again,” said Farrell, whose father died a few years ago. “He told me I was worthy.

“He’s what everybody needs in their lives, because he cared about everyone,” Farrell said. “I’m going to miss him.”

Get more local news delivered straight to your inbox. Sign up for free Patch newsletters and alerts.