Pete Orio, the West Deptford High School two-way football star, is actually Pete Orio III in his family.
But, in his football family, he is hoping to be – and should be – Orio VIII.
The Roman numeral tag III behind his name is common since like many offspring, their father is a Junior and their grandfather is a Senior since they share identical names. Orio’s father, Pete, is Pete Jr.
However, the VIII tag is much more extraordinary.
You see, Pete Orio has seven family members who have been All-South Jersey football players over the last four decades.
Yes, seven. Pete III is hoping to be the eighth.
“When at family gatherings, there is always a reminder that everyone was All-South Jersey and I haven’t been that,” Orio said Tuesday night after practice to prepare for Sunday’s Group 2 title mighty matchup with Haddonfield. “My goal is to be All-South Jersey, to live up to my family name.”
Of course, Orio wants to help the Eagles defend their title first. He stressed the game is most important to him. But based on his body of work this season, he is certainly deserving of the All-South Jersey title as a linebacker or quarterback for the Eagles.
But first, the Orio remarkable legacy:
His father, Pete Orio Jr., was an All-South Jersey lineman at Deptford in 1981.
His uncle, Al Orio Sr. – Pete Jr.’s brother – was an All-South Jersey lineman at Deptford in 1975.
Pete Jr. and Al Sr.'s cousin Mike Orio was an All-South Jersey lineman at Paul VI in 1976 and their cousin Tony Orio was an All-South Jersey lineman at Deptford in 1978. Mike and Tony are brothers.
So that’s four.
Now, the next generation:
Al Orio Jr., the son of Al Orio Sr., was an All-South Jersey lineman at Deptford in 2002.
Anthony Orio, the son of Tony, was an All-South Jersey quarterback at Eastern in 2003.
Ray Orio, the son of Al Orio Sr. and the brother of Al Jr., was an All-South Jersey lineman at Deptford in 2006.
So that’s three more.
Add it all up, and seven members of the Orio family have earned All-South Jersey honors.
“In middle school, I found out how all the Orio males that played football were All-South Jersey and I wanted to do that, too,” Pete Orio III said. “That was one of my goals.”
Orio has certainly placed himself on the doorstep of realizing that lofty goal with one game left to play in his exceptional high school career.
Like the Orio name repeating as All-South Jersey, West Deptford is back in the South Jersey Group 2 title game. And, yes, the Eagles will face a familiar foe in the Bulldawgs, their WJFL Colonial Division rivals, when the two meet on Dec. 3 at 11 a.m. at Rowan.
“I’m thinking of the game coming up and will enjoy accolades once the season is over,” Orio stressed. “The biggest game of the years is this Sunday.”
The Eagles defeated Haddonfield 17-14 on Oct. 20 in West Deptford before losing for the only time in two seasons the following week to Cinnaminson, 21-7.
Interestingly, Haddonfield beat Cinnaminson 35-28 in the semifinals to set the stage for this familiar championship rematch.
“I think this game will be different,” Orio said while noting that both teams were missing key injured players. “I think whatever team is more discipline and who ever wins the turnover battle will win.”
West Deptford, which beat Cedar Creek for the championship last year, is making its third straight appearance in the finals.
And, the Eagles seem to be peaking. They dealt Paulsboro its first defeat of the season, a 35-26 loss last Saturday, and the Red Raiders will be playing for the S. J. Group 1 title this weekend. Paulsboro is shooting for its third title in the last four seasons, so West Deptford is primed and prepared coming off the win over the Red Raiders.
Literally, In the middle of West Deptford’s success has been Orio at quarterback and linebacker.
And being in the middle, making plays is what the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Orio learned from his rugged sports family.
“It is kind of how I think how I play,” Orio said. “I might not be the fastest or strongest on the field, but I will play harder than you, that is how I was raised, that is what was expected of me, not just on the football field but in everything, schoolwork, playing in the backyard.”
And, oh yeah, Pete III gets it done in the classroom, too.
“I was told I was one of the Scholar-Athletes by Brooks Irvine,” Orio said about the prestigious football club.
Another scholar athlete Orio is fitting since his father Pete, Anthony Jr. and Ray were also named scholar athletes.
Orio said he is talking to the University of Pennsylvania, Shippensburg and Lafayette the most.
“It is coming down to the point where I will decide pretty soon,” Orio said.
Another option is attending prep school for a year.
“If not, I will to the Hun School,” Orio said about the boarding school in Princeton.
Orio is being recruited as a linebacker. He is thinking of majoring in sports science.
Pete III might not have the glowing measurables of five-star Division I recruits, but what he has that they don’t is he is an Orio.
College coaches should like Pete III for who he is, but mix in his family’s success is to understand how important it is for him to make his family proud. Knowing this, too, should tell any college coach that Pete III will excel in college. He will outwork the five-star athletes, which will challenge them to work harder. So, by just having an Orio on the practice field will make any college team better.
“It didn’t matter what I did, they would say I wasn’t All-South Jersey,” Pete III said with a slight laugh about the family rivalry. “It was fun, it kept me motivated.”
Of course, the Orio name is famous around South Jersey, but not just in football. Anthony Jr.’s brother, Nick, was an outstanding wrestler at Eastern (as was Anthony) in the mid-2000’s, and Pete III’s cousin Christina Orio, the daughter of Mike, enjoyed an outstanding season as the senior captain of the Cherokee field hockey team this year.
Pete III said many of his West Deptford teammates do understand the family legacy he upholds so proudly.
“They know about my dad and my uncle, but not about my other uncles and cousins,” said Orio, who also plays baseball for West Deptford.
Not surprisingly, Pete III, who has a younger brother, Brian, is expecting a large showing of family support for his last high school football game. Perhaps, all the All-South Jersey Orio men – the seven men – could pose with Pete III after the game. The photo will be a keeper as Pete the Third should soon make the Orio family The Great Eight.
“My cousin, Ray, coaches football in Georgia and his season is over so he is going to try and catch a plane,” Orio said. “And I know my uncles will be there.”