It was the 10th play of the first quarter of Mepham High School’s homecoming football game against Valley Stream Central High School on Sept. 28. Senior defensive back Anthony Novello was as focused as ever. It was a big day for him for another reason, too — he was nominated for homecoming king and the results would be announced at halftime.
But Novello said his mind was on the game. That is, until one particular play.
“I went to go tackle someone and went to punch the ball out,” recalled Novello, 17. “I missed a little and hit the kid’s shoulder. Then I hung on with my arm and the rest of my body spun around him.”
That’s when Novello felt an “insane pain” in his right shoulder.
“My trainer’s like, ‘You have to go to the hospital,’” he said. “I was in shock.”
Watching from the stands, Novello’s mother, Kristen, saw a big pile of football players below and knew someone was hurt. Once she saw his jersey number — 21 — she knew it was her son.
“And we were off to the hospital in the first quarter,” said Kristen. “He was in excruciating pain. His arm was limp.”
The Novellos headed to Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow by ambulance, where Novello was treated for a dislocated shoulder. While he was getting examined, Kristen checked her phone.
“I was getting messages left and right at halftime,” she said with a laugh. It was announced that her son had won the title of homecoming king. Kristen said she excitedly told him the news after he got his first X-ray.
“He couldn’t wait to get back to the football field,” she added.
Anthony Novello, who kept asking his mother for the score while at the hospital, was able to get his shoulder popped back into place and returned to the sidelines at the end of the fourth quarter with his arm in a sling. He high-fived his teammates as he stepped back onto the field and accepted his crown. Mepham won the game 35-13.
The victories didn’t stop there — Novello’s girlfriend of more than a year, Samantha Bello, won homecoming queen.
“She was ecstatic,” Novello said. “To win, not about the hospital part. She was concerned about me, and at halftime when they announced the winners, she went up there by herself to get her tiara.”
Novello said he has been playing football since age 5 and hopes to continue in college next year. He said he has never suffered an injury as serious as this one, but he will be playing again in two weeks, when he is healed.
Said Novello, “It was a unique homecoming experience, definitely. … But when I was told I could make it back to the end of the game, I was thrilled. I wanted to see all the seniors — my best friends for forever — I wanted to see them and how happy they were to win their last homecoming game.”