Locust Valley's Michael DiLorenzo celebrates his touchdown from a fumble...

Locust Valley's Michael DiLorenzo celebrates his touchdown from a fumble recovery during the Remembrance Bowl, a Nassau Conference IV football game, against Cold Spring Harbor in Locust Valley on Saturday. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

“The Game That Never Happened” happened Saturday in spirit for the first time in this country, a Remembrance Bowl to remember in a driving rainstorm that swept across Locust Valley’s turf.

The Falcons rallied to beat Cold Spring Harbor, 20-8, in their Homecoming game.

“It’s a very surreal moment,” Locust Valley coach Michael Gilbert said. “People have been coming and talking to us about this game since Aug. 21.”

“It was an honor and a privilege obviously to be a part of a game of this magnitude,” Seahawks coach Jon Mendreski said.

This Nassau IV game was about a French connection. And it was about playing in a honor of soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division.

So let’s start with a little history lesson:

In 1947, Operation Democracy began a goodwill outreach effort in the wake of World War II, matching up U.S. communities with sister cities overseas.

Locust Valley formed a connection with Sainte-Mere-Eglise in Normandy and aided in the rebuilding effort.

“The Game That Never Happened” was supposed to be played in Reims, France, on Christmas 1944. It was dubbed the Champagne Bowl between teams from the 101st Airborne, stationed in France’s Champagne region. But the Battle of the Bulge against Germany happened instead.

Skip ahead to 2017.

Helen Ayer Patton, a resident of Reims and the granddaughter of Gen. George Patton Jr., found an invitation to that Champagne Bowl and had the idea to get the game going again.

She formed Patton Legacy Sports with Michelle Strauss in 2018 to honor the athletic legacy of Gen. Patton, a 1912 Olympian. The game returned in a flag football form that year with the 101st Airborne and expanded last year to include the 82nd Airborne. It’s played in a Sainte-Mere-Eglise suburb.

“The minute I saw the invitation, I said, A., we’ve got to sadly change the name from Champagne Bowl to Remembrance Bowl so we can encompass youth because that’s what I’m all about, and B., it’s got to get to America,” said Ayer Patton, who performed Saturday’s coin toss.

Strauss and Operation Democracy’s honorary president, Cathy Soref, had the idea to have the first one in Locust Valley.

“We are so proud of this school district,” Strauss said.

Lessons about the World War II era were developed in the district and taught to K-12 students this past week.

There was a parade, plus a pregame ceremony in the gym. The teams wore special Remembrance Bowl jerseys.

“I think it’s just provided a newfound source of pride for our community,” athletic director Dr. Danielle Turner said.

Cold Spring Harbor (2-1) led, 8-7, in the third after Alex Bauer rushed for a 3-yard TD and Sam Bruno ran for two.

But Locust Valley (2-1) took the lead for good when Connor Geertgens threw to Michael Hancock for a 22-yard score with 8:26 left.

“Getting the honor to play in this game the first time stateside means a ton to me,” Geertgens said. “… We really fought through the weather and came out on top.”


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