Sal Ciampi and his son Sal J. Ciampi after East...

Sal Ciampi and his son Sal J. Ciampi after East Islip won a county title in football. Credit: Pete Blieberg

They are the royal family of East Islip athletics.

The high school football program connects three generations of the Ciampi family in East Islip.

Sal Ciampi and his son, Sal J. Ciampi, have a combined 48 years of coaching experience at the high school. They’ve produced 329 wins, qualified for the playoffs 35 times, and have a combined winning percentage of .743.

For six decades, the Ciampis have impacted their community in a positive way through the connective tissue of the football program.

The most recent achievement came Friday in Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium when East Islip captured the Suffolk Division III championship with a stunning 17-7 upset victory over previously undefeated Sayville.

The win knocked off the defending Long Island Class III champions and ended their 22-game win streak.

“It was the proudest moment of my coaching career winning the Suffolk title with my father and my son on the sideline with me,” said East Islip head coach Sal J. Ciampi. “It can never get better than that.”

Junior Alex Ciampi, a member of this year’s championship team, immediately jumped into his father’s arms when the final horn sounded.

Ciampi’s father paced the sideline as the outcome of the game hung in the balance through a wild fourth quarter. East Islip scored two touchdowns in the final 7:41 for the comeback victory.

“I’m so proud of him,” said Sal Ciampi, who turned 80 earlier this year. “He’s a hell of a coach. There’s a level of commitment that goes into building a champion. This is a culture and a tradition of winning that only a few get to experience.”

The Ciampi family embodies that culture. The patriarch of this family made his reputation as a rugged player earning the Thorp Award for Lawrence High School in 1961. He then played at Purdue before beginning a Hall of Fame coaching career.

And none of it would have been possible without the matriarch of the family. Sal Ciampi married his high school sweetheart midway through his freshman year at Purdue.

“He couldn’t do it alone, he needed me at Purdue,” said Donna Ciampi, his wife of 60 years. “He was homesick. He worked so hard to get his degree and we were on our way.”


The family forged on football will celebrate an extra special Thanksgiving on Thursday. But the real treat comes Friday when  East Islip travels to Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium to play South Side for the Long Island Class III title at 4:30 p.m.

Sal and Donna, who celebrated her 80th birthday on Tuesday, will be in attendance, cheering on Sal J. and Alex, as they look to win the school’s second LIC crown.

A win would give Sal J. Ciampi his 165th career victory in 23 seasons. His father, inducted into the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2008, had 165 career wins in 25 years at the helm.

A win on Friday would give them the exact same number of wins.

East Islip will hold its final practice early Thanksgiving morning in its preparation for South Side.

The workout will end and a 48-year-old tradition will commence. Every player and coach will receive two homemade brownies baked by Donna Ciampi.

“My mother has been baking brownies for the East Islip football team since my father’s first game as head coach in 1971,” said Sal J. Ciampi. “She’s baked brownies for the last practice before every game for 48 years and attended every game for 48 years.”

She’s been Sal’s inspiration in the East Islip football program.

“I would do it all over again,” Donna Ciampi said. “By my count I’ve baked 57,000 brownies over the years. It’s an East Islip tradition. It’s become a way of life here and really caught on. I love it.”

Sal J. Ciampi said playoff practices would be well attended by alumni – looking for a few brownies.

“We’ve had alumni come back to watch practice and grab a few brownies,” he said, laughing.


Donna Ciampi isn’t just a fantastic baker, she's also quite the matchmaker. She played a significant role in introducing Sal J. to his wife.

“Oh yeah, my mom was getting her hair done, and wanted me to meet the daughter of her hairstylist,” he laughed. “She said it was a perfect match and I should call this girl. I made the call and went on this blind date to make my mom happy.”

He’s happy he did.

Ciampi took Jessica Cerniglia of Islip out on a date in May of 2004. They were married in July of 2005.

“I thank God every day for Jessica and my family,” Sal J. Ciampi said. “Thanksgiving is the perfect time to reflect on all our blessings. Jess has helped me find the right balance for me and our family. She knows how driven I am as a coach but helps me see things more clearly and through a better perspective of what counts and what’s nonsense. I’ve become a better person because of her.”

The Ciampi’s celebrated 18 years of marriage in July. They have four children, Alex (16), Lia (13), Emma (11) and Sal Jr. (4).

East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi and his family after...

East Islip coach Sal J. Ciampi and his family after winning a county football title. His wife, Jessica, is holding son, Sal Jr., and hugging daughter Emma, with son Alex in the middle and daughter Lia on the far right. Credit: Ciampi Family

Jessica Ciampi, a kindergarten teacher in Lindenhurst and member of the East Islip School’s Board of Education, celebrated her 46th birthday on Nov. 19. And like every other year, her birthday celebration was interrupted by playoff football.

In 13 of their 18 years of marriage East Islip has qualified for the Suffolk title game. So, the birthday party always had to wait.

“If Sal won the Suffolk title game, I didn’t want to be around him because he was preoccupied with preparation for the LIC,” she said. “And if he lost, he was miserable, and I didn’t want to be around him. So, I got used to buying my own birthday gifts.

All I wanted for my birthday this year was a Suffolk championship because my son is on the team, and I wanted to see Sal and Alex win one together.”

Jessica Ciampi married into this football family and joked about her younger years and how she watched as Donna Ciampi yelled and screamed during games, standing on the stadium railings, with such vigor and passion for her husband and his team.

“She was so hardcore,” Jessica said. “I was like, ‘Can I take on a similar role as the wife, mother, and coach's wife?' The role of the wife is so important because these coaches need a support system. They also need to balance home life with coach responsibilities.”

In some ways, Jessica and Sal J. have become Donna and Sal. They all have an undying commitment to East Islip football.


The 2023 version of East Islip varsity football holds a special place in Ciampi’s heart. He coached 14 of these players since they were five years old in the Police Athletic League. He co-coached with Thomas Costarelli, the father of the starting quarterback.

“We’re all family,” Sal J. Ciampi said. “We’ve been doing this for so long and to see them come together and win a high school title is incredible.”

Ciampi had a quiet moment with his father after the Suffolk title win last week.

“My father and I have a unique relationship,” Sal J. Ciampi said. “We have a similar mindset. I played for him, and I know how he thinks. He’s the reason I am who I am. We don’t verbalize how proud we are or how much we love each other – it’s done through each other’s actions.”

They both have a lot to be thankful for.

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