In worst of times, Long Island student-athletes delivered their best
Gregg SarraGregg Sarra
Gregg Sarra is Newsday's high school sports columnist and writer.
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We put a wrap on the fall season and placed a bow on our All-Long Island teams this weekend. We recognized excellence and perseverance in the selection of Long Island's finest student-athletes.
And the process of whittling down the teams to a precious number signified the due diligence of our selection committees and how difficult it is to identify the best of the best when so many are so deserving.
We celebrate those who jumped off the field and onto our pages. Those who lit up our MSG Varsity broadcast with their performances. And those who made it through our roughest fall in recent memory to help lead their teams to championships despite the hardships endured through superstorm Sandy and what was left in her wake.
"It was a challenging fall for so many reasons," said Floyd football coach Paul Longo. "The storm complicated everything and had administrators and coaches and school officials scrambling to finish the fall season. They had to find transportation, practice locations and the means for helping the people in need just to get by."
Longo even half-joked, "maybe we should have had an All-Long Island team devoted to all those that helped make the end of the fall season possible for our students."
Longo pointed toward a fairly quick return to normalcy for most districts and how the people behind the scenes -- those who get most of the grief and none of the accolades on a day-to-day basis -- were responsible for making all of the playoff competition possible.
The offices of Nassau County [Section VIII] and Suffolk County [Section XI] worked feverishly trying to schedule and provide as much pertinent information as quickly as possible during a time when communication efforts were challenged by a loss of electricity and phone outages.
The easy way out for the sectional's executive directors, Nina Van Erk and Ed Cinelli, was clear. The fall season could have been canceled as we recovered from the storm. They could have made that decision and started fresh in the winter.
And only the passion and understanding of those two individuals made our fall finish possible. They would be on my Players of the Year list.
Bay Shore football coach Jim Giattino agreed, and pointed out that the fall gave us so much more than champions crowned and All-Long Island athletes honored. The disaster that interrupted the season helped illuminate our true colors as good neighbors on Long Island when we reached out and helped one another. In the darkest of moments a light was shone on our student-athletes and helped us get through some very tough times.
Community became a battle cry as teams left practice and went to damaged and destroyed areas of our island and offered hands of help. There were food and clothing drives and a general outpouring of aid to our people in need. High school athletes went on clean- up missions to flooded neighborhoods and areas where trees were down.
Those student-athletes should also be counted among the very best of what we had to offer on Long Island. They are the people who will be successful in life because they understand the responsibility and the spirit of community.
We talk about how the community comes out and supports the football teams and how the program galvanizes and brings the community together. Well, this fall it was time to return the favor!
And Long Island's teams received an A-plus.