It was a frenzy -- the screams and cheers from a delirious crowd, the hugs and chants from teammates. All of it, a surge of excitement from a rapt Sachem North contingent that barely could fathom what it had witnessed.
This wasn't last Saturday after the Flaming Arrows captured their first Long Island football championship. No, this was the scene Oct. 25, during a regular-season victory over Lindenhurst. And that emotional outpouring was for Michael Slattery.
Slattery is a special education student at Sachem North High School. Nevertheless, the senior has been a member of the varsity football team, participating in practices and even dressing for games. And for a day, he was the star.
Late in that contest, Slattery was inserted on defense and, on his first play, dived on a loose ball for a fumble recovery. On the Arrows' ensuing possession, he was rewarded with his first reception.
"It was awesome," Slattery said after the game. "I have no words to describe this."
Slattery got a reception of another kind Monday night: a rousing ovation after he received Suffolk's 12th Man award. He shares the honor this year with Greenport-Southold defensive end Jared Schenone.
"Michael is a special kid," Arrows coach Dave Falco said. "We are lucky to have had him as part of our program."
The award is presented to players who have overcome disability or serious injury and contributed to their team's success.
Schenone's contributions to the Porters were somewhat unexpected. He helped his team secure its first playoff berth in several years, but did it by rushing the passer rather than being the passer.
The senior missed the 2012 season while undergoing treatment for a bone deformity in both wrists. Schenone worked feverishly to return this season and did, resuming his role as starting quarterback. But a ruptured appendix this summer cost him the first four games, as well as his position.
"We were doing well and didn't want to disrupt things, but Jared was willing to play wherever," coach Jack Martilotta said of the 5-10, 200-pound Schenone. "We had a spot open at defensive end and he jumped at the chance. He's athletic, but we had concerns about how he'd adjust."
Schenone put those to rest, registering five sacks and emerging as "a force" defensively, in addition to becoming a solid running back.
Schenone hopes to play football in college, though he suffered another setback, fracturing his right foot in the last regular-season game.
But as recent history has shown, obstacles often are but steppingstones for those of exceptional character.