Zach DiSalvo donned his jersey and hit the football field for the Newfield High School homecoming pep rally in Selden Friday.

While being introduced with his fellow Wolverines players to cheers from the lively crowd in the bleachers, a smile appeared across his face. He manages to enjoy moments like this, he says, because he knows one other person is looking down on him from heaven -- and that helps him cope with her loss.

DiSalvo and his coaches explain that Colleen DiSalvo, his mother, died suddenly last December at the age of 42.

“My mother had brain cancer and my parents were going through a divorce,” said DiSalvo, now a sophomore center for Newfield's varsity squad. “I took off two weeks from school when it happened. It was a tough time. I take it day by day.”

DiSalvo admitted that he is very grateful for his friends, teachers and coaches at Newfield who have been such a huge source of support for him during difficult times. 

“They were always there for me. It means a lot,” said the 15-year-old.

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He’s found an escape on the football field, making times like homecoming weekend all the more special.

“Zach is tough,” said Newfield assistant head coach Eric Joyner. “He’s a hard worker. You wouldn’t know that he went through something like this.”

Amid the tragedy, Newfield junior varsity football coach and social studies teacher Adam Sabia has served as a confidant for Zach, talking with him after class and over the phone.

But Sabia said he’s just one of many who will be there for DiSalvo for whatever he needs.

“The football team is a brotherhood,” Sabia said. “Zach is a great kid.”