Before they coached, skippers in No. 1 vs. No. 2 battle of unbeatens were at NJ college programs

Where in the world is Joe LaSala? He was on this 2011 Montclair State football team, posing for their annual photo.

by Mike Pavlichko

Ready for a blast from the past?

Joe LaSala and Dallas Whitaker are the head coaches of the Number One and Number Two teams in the Big Central Conference at the moment. But less than a decade ago, they were both still in college.

It speaks to the young nature of coaching these days.

Woodbridge head coach Joe LaSala – who starred scholastically at Colonia and was a teammate of Eric LeGrand – played college ball at Montclair State.

Joe LaSala spent four years at Montclair State, with a number of Greater Middlesex Conference products in the same locker room.

Nate Brown, a teammate from Colonia, was a junior DB during LaSala’s senior year. Other local Red Hawks standouts included receivers Billy Merz (a freshman) and Byron Lewin (a senior) from Carteret, linebacker Jermaine Terrel out of New Brunswick (a junior), and LB Matt Recine and TE Malcolm Brooks, both freshmen from Piscataway.

Dallas Whitaker, meanwhile, was just starting his collegiate career that year at Rutgers, where he was a preferred walk-on.

Dallas Whitaker’s profile from the 2011 Rutgers football media guide.

According to a January 2011 article on by Bobby Deren, Whitaker chose the Scarlet Knights before taking a scheduled trip to Boise State. He later became a student assistant under Kyle Flood.

LaSala and Whitaker square off this Friday Night in the 2020 “postseason” as Woodbridge (5-0) entertains Somerville (6-0) in a Week 7 game.

The similarities don’t end there. LaSala is 20-16 in his third season as head coach, but 15-1 in the last two seasons, with a trip to the finals. Whitaker also is in his third season as head coach, with the Pioneers’ 27-3 under his watch, with two finals berths.

Both teams made it to sectional finals in 2019. Woodbridge lost to Northern Highlands in the North 1 Group 4 title game, while Somerville lost to Woodrow Wilson-Camden in the South Group 3 championship tilt.

Woodbridge-Somerville is our Friday night “Big Central Game of the Week” presented by Bellamy & Son Paving, with Mike Pavlichko calling all the action alongside guest color commentator Matt Yascko, the former Carteret coach and Edison offensive coordinator.

Kickoff is at 7 pm. Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 from Priscoe Field in Woodbridge.

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