Kyle Madden stood at midfield and rolled a red Tootsie Roll pop in his right hand. He stared into the far end zone and enjoyed this solitary moment.
“My dad used to give me a lollipop at halftime of every game since I started coaching 19 years ago,” he said Saturday after his Half Hollow Hills West football team’s 21-10 county championship victory over Westhampton. “He never missed a game. The Tootsie Pop was a pick-me-up and a gesture that he was with me, win or lose. It was our thing.”
Larry Madden will be on Kyle Madden’s mind again Saturday when Hills West faces Plainedge for the Long Island Class III championship at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Hofstra.
“Yep, my dad would have loved this one,” Kyle said. “I wish he was here.”
Larry Madden died suddenly in February. He was 75 years old.
“I miss him every day,” Kyle said. “He was a big part of Hills West football. It was tradition for him to have the team over for dinner for the first game of every season and every playoff game. He would give these speeches that weren’t necessarily the greatest, but they were heartfelt and meant so much to the players and coaches.”
Junior linebacker Joe Venezia said the team dinners and get-togethers helped the players bond and become close off the field.
“We are very close, and that matters in tough times,” he said. “And Kyle and the coaches are always there for us. And Mr. Madden opened his house to everyone and made it feel like family. We dedicated this season to him.”
“My dad always liked to give credit to the guys that fill their roles and don’t necessarily get all the credit,” Madden said. “He embraced the offensive and defensive lines and all the unselfish players that never get into the headlines. Those were his guys.”
Madden said his dad would love the play of the Colts’ defensive front of Keith Slaughter, Cedric Gordon, West Prucha and Brandon Manley.
“Those four guys rotated through the three-man front and basically helped us shut down the Westhampton offense in the second half,” the coach said. “We play assignment football and those guys all do their jobs. Our defensive line guys used their hands like NFL players — it was amazing.”
So where did Saturday night’s Tootsie Pop come from?
“Sal Ciampi gave it to me before the game,” Madden said, referring to the East Islip football and baseball coach. “We’re great friends and he felt it would make me feel like my dad was right there with me. It was a cool thing to do.”
As Madden walked toward the bus, he took the wrapper off the lollipop and celebrated with his team’s biggest fan, wondering if he’ll be celebrating with another one come Saturday evening.