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St. Anthony's running all the right routes under coach Rich Reichert

St. Anthony's head coach Rich Reichert talks to

St. Anthony's head coach Rich Reichert talks to his players during the fourth quarter against Bergen Catholic of N.J. (Sept. 7, 2012) Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

On the paved path that leads from the parking lot to the football field at St. Anthony's High School, there's a street sign that reads Reichert's Way.

The sign is a tribute to the veteran Friars football coach, now in his 26th season and tied with former Bellport coach Joe Cipp Jr. atop the Suffolk County all-time career victory list with 211. Reichert didn't break that tie against powerful Bergen Catholic on Friday night, losing to the nationally ranked New Jersey powerhouse, 59-21. But the milestone victory will come this season and Rich Reichert will stand alone in the 631 area code.

But that sign that he sees every day when he comes to work could also represent the methodology Reichert has used to carve out a niche as one of the elite football coaches in Long Island history.

"As a coach, he's brilliant," St. Anthony's athletic director Don Buckley said. "But first and foremost, he's a classy gentleman. He knows how to treat kids. He respects all of them. He's a special guy and he makes everyone he coaches feel special."

So, what exactly is Reichert's Way?

"Doing things right," said Reichert, who retired in 2003 from the Nassau County police force after 25 years and currently teaches in the physical education department at St. Anthony's. "The kids understand what we're constantly telling them. Do all the little things, pay attention to all the details. Like picking up the garbage, wearing the same uniform to school, not standing out by wearing loud colors. Our school colors are black and gold. That's what you wear. We expect the football players to be examples in the school. We want them in the National Honor Society. We put a big emphasis on recognizing student athletes."

Beyond Xs and Os -- Reichert and staff have stayed with the triple-option offense and 4-3 defense through the years -- the steely-gray, short-haired mentor practices what he preaches. Reichert's Way really is all about all things, big and small. That's how he relates to every one of the 80 players who regularly fill the varsity roster at the CHSFL school that has won 10 of the last 11 league titles. Reichert has a 211-49-3 record after Friday night's defeat that snapped a school-record 29-game winning streak.

"He has that ability to get everyone -- offense, defense, special teams -- to always play as hard as they can. He's like a father figure to the kids. You don't want to disappoint him," said Alex Conlon, who was the quarterback for a pair of unbeaten, championship teams at St. Anthony's in 2001 and 2002 and currently is an offensive assistant at his alma mater. "He treats 16- and 17-year-olds like adults, so that we feel we owe it to him to play our best. He knows his Xs and Os, but so do a lot of coaches. His inspiration and his charisma are a bonus. I listen to his pregame and halftime speeches now and I want to run right on the field and play for him again."

Chris Koepplin, who was the kicker on St. Anthony's 2002 championship team and credits Reichert's tutelage with making him a successful college kicker, said Reichert created "a sense of family" among the Friars. "We have 80 guys and he makes every one of them feel like they're important. Even the kids on the scout team feel like they are part of the team's success."

Reichert's Way is also about taking full advantage of that 80-player roster by using a complete two-platoon system, a rarity among Long Island schools. "The fact that they're only going to play one way means we should be able to win the fourth-quarter battles," Reichert said. "If the players on other teams have their guys going both ways, it takes a toll."

It was Bergen Catholic, another big-time private school with 80 one-way players on its roster, that wore down the Friars on Friday night, something that Reichert suspected might happen during preseason.

"At some point, you're going to have to deal with adversity. That's when we all learn that if you lose a game or two, it's not the end of the world," he said then. "Obviously, you want to win every game, but is that realistic year in and year out? Probably not. Our goal is always to win the Catholic league championship. So if we lose a game or two, so what? We'll learn from it and get better as the year goes on."

Perspective and progress, those, too, are parts of Reichert's Way.

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