This time last year at Harrah’s, Brent Caprio- the quarterback at nearby Mainland Regional High School- watched Audobon’s Steve Rizzo become the first New Jersey son to win the Jim Henry Award.
“We were sitting at the table talking about the Henry Award,” recalls Caprio. “I told them I was going to be a senior next year. I was hoping that I could win the award since it was always a dream of mine. It ended up coming true.”
Caprio feels that his winning the 24th Jim Henry Award as the area’s High School Player of the Year is “ironic.” Everyone else familiar with Caprio would use a different adverb: “appropriate.”
Running coach Bob Coffey’s turbo-charged offense, Caprio led his Mustangs to a 12-0 season and a South Jersey Section IV title. Mainland outscored their opponents 472-87 in 2008. In the Section IV title game against Southern Regional, Caprio zipped three touchdown passes in the second quarter to cement a 21-14 win.
“We lost last year in the championship game. Coming off that loss, you saw the senior class and how tough it was for them,” Caprio remembers. “We didn’t want to go out a loser this year. Getting to the championship and winning that final game is the biggest memory that I’ll have.”
This season, Caprio completed 63% of his 223 pass attempts for 2,065 yards and 27 touchdowns. He also ran for 890 yards and 21 touchdowns, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.
“We use the Gettysburg Spread. It’s a very complicated offense,” explains Coffey. “The diversity of the offense is so great that to have a quarterback who can translate that to performance on the field…(Brent) is so smart and so physically able to do things. The play selection that we had with him was endless.”
“All four receivers were starting last year and it was nice to have a good connection with them,” says Caprio. “We opened things up with the pass and we didn’t let teams stack the box. Most of the time teams run to set up the pass. We passed to open the run.
“As much as we passed, I was only sacked seven times all year. We had a veteran offensive line that was a vital part of our success.”
Caprio leaves Mainland having rushed or passed for over 6,100 yards and 89 touchdowns in his career. The Newark Star-Ledger, the Press of Atlantic City and the Philadelphia Inquirer all named Caprio, who will attend William and Mary, to first team All-Region or All-State honors.
His noteworthy senior campaign aside, Caprio’s academics and service helped him to clinch the Henry. He ranks in the top 9% of his class at Mainland and carries a 4.75 GPA.
“In my 30 years of coaching high school football, Brent is the finest person and leader I have ever had the pleasure to coach,” said Coffey. “He is the heart and soul of our team. He leads by example.”
Caprio is a member of National Honor Society, assists his church as an alter server and actively referees and coaches youth sports. But his strongest contributions off the field are to his community’s D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program.
“It’s a great experience coaching the young kids and refereeing basketball. You get to see another aspect of the game and I like that. You really get to feel how good it feels to teach somebody something and watch them put it into play,” explains Caprio. “I just want to be positive in the community and represent Mainland well.”
Writes Somers Point police officer Charles Somers of the D.A.R.E. program, “I think so highly of Brenton that when I need a positive role model or a volunteer to work with children, he is the first person I call…He is very dependable and exhibits excellent leadership qualities, earning the respect of not only the children that look up to him but the adults that have the pleasure of working with him.”
“With all of these accomplishments,” notes Coffey, “Brent is one of the most humble, kind athletes I have ever had the pleasure to coach.”