Spectators entering Shoreham-Wading River High School’s football field were greeted with some serious stares from the team’s seniors Saturday.
But it had nothing to do with the intensity of soon-to-be graduates wanting to win on the school’s homecoming/senior day. The stares were the product of cardboard cutouts of the seniors’ busts displayed around the field.
Saturday’s festivities honored 23 football players who will be graduating next June. Parent Eugene Santiago, the inspiration for the cardboard display, wasn’t going to let the inclement weather, including on-and-off rain and whipping winds, spoil the fun.
“I came in and got them all up, and by the time I got done today, the rain stopped,” said Santiago’s whose son Max is one of the seniors on the team. “But during the time I was putting it up, it was raining the whole time.”
As it turns out, the weather was no match for the cardboard cutouts. They remained intact and upright against a fence that had only been installed on the field a week before.
“I had to capitalize on how well this worked out,” Santiago said with a laugh.
In addition, Santiago organized the concession stands and was recognized at the game alongside Max and the other parents of all the senior athletes.
Another parent of a senior Wildcat, Linda Condon, took the pictures used for the display. She said the photo shoot took place last month after a practice, but for some of the boys, the appointment slipped their minds.
“It was so comical,” Condon said. “Some of them were running home and running back, some of them forgot about it so we were texting everybody and telling them, ‘Come up, you have to get your picture taken!’ And some of them gave us a hard time. One of them was in bed and I was like, ‘You better get up here now or you’re not going to have a character on the field when it’s homecoming.’”
Once the boys were all in attendance, it was time to strike a pose.
“We told them, ‘Get your arms out, we want to see your cannons and everything,’" Santiago said. "And they did great.”
The display was a huge hit at the homecoming, grabbing the attention of everyone who stopped by. Condon said she loved the way it all came together, but said her favorite part of the day was when she was honored on the football field with her son, Ryan. The parents all received bouquets of flowers.
“There was not a dry eye over there,” she said. “As a parent, it’s just so wonderful to sit on the sidelines and see your child do something that they love to do and be successful at it.”
These moments won’t be forgotten anytime soon, especially with what Santiago cooked up.
“At the end of the day, I had it set up so everybody could stand next to [the cardboard cutouts], take a picture with their kid, and then take them home,” he said. “That’s for them to hang up in their room and keep for memories for the rest of their lives.”