Before every game, members of the Longwood High School varsity football team are sure to run their fingers across the white No. 65 jersey hanging on the wall inside the locker room as they head to the field.
The ritual is part superstition and part tribute to their friend and former teammate Dominic Trionfo. Trionfo, who wore the number 65 as a lineman for the school’s junior varsity squad, was killed when his personal watercraft crashed into the anchor line of a boat in May 2012 at the age of 14.
This year would have been Trionfo’s senior season on the Longwood varsity squad. But for safety Luke Soriano, Trionfo was there on the field with them the whole time, leading them to victory in a 14-13 win against Connetquot.
“We’re a very superstitious team, we have had his jersey in our locker room even when we were junior varsity,” Soriano said. “And when we made that field goal to win the game on Saturday, I knew he was there. It was because of him.”
Before kickoff of the homecoming game last Saturday, the Longwood varsity players, who have also nicknamed themselves the “Dom Squad,” paid special tribute to Trionfo. Members of Trionfo’s family were invited onto the field, where they were presented with a green number 65 jersey as bagpipes played in the background. Trionfo’s stepfather and grandfather were also asked to join the team captains for the coin toss before kickoff.
“It was all very moving,” said John Martinelli, Dominic’s grandfather. “These guys have been playing football together in youth leagues since they were 7 or 8 years old. You never really know how much you can miss someone until they are gone.”
Shortly after Trionfo’s death, family members set up an athletic scholarship in his name, presented to one Longwood senior every year at their senior banquet. Now, the family is looking to expand on their charitable efforts, creating the Dominic Trionfo Memorial Fund as an official nonprofit earlier this year.
The family threw its first fundraiser “Dom’s Day,” at Cathedral Pines County Park in Middle Island on Sunday, the day after homecoming. The event attracted more than 700 people and brought in $25,000 in donations.
“It was kind of a great coincidence, that homecoming fell on that weekend,” Martinelli said. “Almost all of the football team was there, it was a great success.”
Martinelli says the family is looking to use the money to offer more academic scholarships and is working with the Peconic Bay Power Squadron to put together a boating education package that can be implemented in schools.
“We want to honor Dom’s memory,” Martinelli said. “Here on Long Island, there is a huge boating culture, it’s very popular here. It’s important to teach safety, and hopefully we can continue to do that.”
For more information, check out their website at dominicmemorialfund.org.