Off the field, it was a day to look back on the legacy of Clarke High School football. On the field, the day was about possibly writing the next chapter.
There was an extensive halftime celebration to honor the memory of former coach John Boyle replete with a color guard, a bagpipe troupe and the unveiling of a new life-size bronze statue of the school's mascot, a ram, that will likely look out over the field. Afterward, Clarke put the finishing touches on a 45-16 win over East Rockaway in both teams’ Nassau IV opener at Coach Jack Boyle Memorial Field.
“It felt like more than a regular game,” senior Lucas Abbatiello said. “We got to honor a life of someone who coached at Clarke and taught so many people. We wanted to do our part to make it special.”
Abbatiello certainly did his part. He rushed three times for 93 yards and all went for touchdowns – 25, 43 and 25 yards. He also caught one pass from quarterback Chris Giardino and took it 93 yards for another score and ran in a pair of two-point conversions. Giardino also hooked up with Brian Sullivan on a 47-yard touchdown pass and ran in a pair of two-point conversions.
“We had to hold up our end of the bargain, which was to go out and win the game,” Sullivan said. “We came out and dominated. I can’t even believe how this happened.”
“We didn’t really talk to the team about coach Boyle until [Friday],” Rams coach Tim O’Malley said. “But when we did we tried to explain about the legacy of the Boyles here and that they are now part of that great legacy. I was glad they could play as well and hold up their end of the bargain, but I am even more proud of how we marked John Boyle’s contributions.”
John Boyle became the Clarke coach in 1987 and held the position until 2017, amassing a record of 156-115-2. His best moment on the field may have been in 1997 when the Rams topped Wantagh for a Nassau County championship. But Boyle played a bigger role than just things on the gridiron.
Tony Caiazza, who was a Clarke classmate of Boyle’s and went on to coach football at Oceanside, said, “John led a revival for a Clarke program that had fallen on hard times, but he was also very involved in the coaches association and did a lot to improve football in Nassau County.”
Boyle was a key member of a committee that decided to expand Nassau County’s postseason to eight teams, Caiazza explained. “He became a voice of programs that needed help and the expansion meant more teams would have a tangible thing to strive for,” he said.
“He was one of the four guys on the committee who thought there should be more than four teams in the playoffs,” East Rockaway coach Russ Pajer said. “He saw that for a team that’s been struggling, getting into the playoffs means a lot. It changes that program.”
Caiazza was the architect of the ceremony and led the cadre of alumni that raised the approximately $4,400 to have the statue commissioned and said, “I did this because he was my friend and because he had an impact on so many people.”
Boyle hadn’t planned to coach out of college. He initially enrolled in law school, but returned after one school year when his father – the Jack Boyle who the Clarke field is named for – fell ill. He got into education and eventually coaching. Ultimately when he ended up being named Rams coach, his father joined him as an assistant coach. John Boyle passed away on May 5, 2018 from pancreatic cancer.
“He came back to Clarke and extended and improved the Boyle legacy that his dad started,” Section VIII executive director Pat Pizzarelli said. “He was a difference-maker.”
Numerous former players participated in and attended the festivities where the John Boyle victory bell was also unveiled on Saturday in hopes of creating another Clarke football tradition. Those many faces really brought home the impact John Boyle had for his widow, Gina Trupiano Boyle.
“John would have just been beside himself if he’d seen this – he was a modest man,” she said. “But I think he’d be amazed at the number of people he touched and the way they’ve remembered him today.”