"There was pressure on them, no question," Ascolese said. "They were caught up in trying to get the 300th for me. I could see that."
So last Friday night, before the Bruins faced Snyder at the newly refurbished Bruins Stadium in North Hudson Braddock Park, Ascolese had a brief talk with his players.
"I told them that the game wasn't about me," Ascolese said. "That this was just like any other game and that victories are achieved by a team. They were tense before the game, but soon after, I could see that they were a lot more relaxed."
The Bruins were definitely loose from the outset and were determined to make sure that there wouldn't be any more failed attempts at getting their beloved coach the long-awaited milestone.
Led by junior running back Reggie Caicedo's 153 yards on 13 carries and two touchdowns, the Bruins steamrolled past Snyder, 32-14, to give Ascolese his 300th career victory.
Ascolese began his coaching career at Hoboken High School in 1962, then moved to North Bergen in 1973, where he has remained since. He has guided his teams to seven state championships during his career, six with North Bergen (1977, 1978, 1984, 1988, 1990 and 1997) and one with Hoboken (1967).
Only two other coaches, Warren Wolf of Brick Township and Vic Paternostro of Pope John (Sparta), had collected 300 coaching victories before Ascolese joined the club with the victory Friday night. It is an elite group of three.
Wolf, a West New York native who began his coaching career at Memorial with the immortal Coviello, was pleased to hear that Ascolese had collected his 300th victory.
"I'm so glad to hear that," Wolf said in a phone interview Sunday night. "Vinnie and I are absolutely good friends. Vinnie is such a great coach, and we go back together a long time. I think it means that we've been around coaching for a very long time, but it also means that Vinnie is such a great coach. I think there's plenty of room in the (300-win) club and I'm happy Vinnie is there. I'm very excited for him."
"He's a class act all the way," Ascolese said, after hearing Wolf's comments. Brick and North Bergen have locked horns several times over the years. "To be mentioned in the same breath with Warren Wolf is an honor for me."
North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco was on hand for Ascolese's milestone and presented him with an honorary football as part of the victory celebration.
"The win places Vinnie in a very elite group and I'm very proud of him," said Sacco, who also honored Ascolese with a special luncheon Tuesday at the Board of Education office, where Ascolese serves as an assistant superintendent of schools, like Sacco.
Sacco added, "It's a credit to North Bergen to have someone who reached this great accomplishment and it's to his credit that these players have done so well for so long." Saccos' son Nick was the starting center on the 1997 North Bergen team that won the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV championship. "He has a very young and inexperienced team this year, and the coaches and the players have worked hard to get Vinnie to this accomplishment. The seniors will forever have the memory that they gave Vinnie his 300th win."
While Ascolese doesn't care to dwell on the fact that he
's reached such a historic milestone, he was impressed with the way he was treated by others. "After the game, I was being interviewed by the local cable television stations," Ascolese said. "And five Snyder kids waited for me to finish to congratulate me. They said, 'Coach, it's an honor to have been here. Congratulations.' That almost took my breath away. Those kids showed me so much class. I couldn't believe it. I'll always remember that."
Just like most North Bergen football followers will remember the countless memorable moments Ascolese has provided as the head coach of the Bruins for the last 30 years, like 300 of those moments.