Tags Posts tagged with "Homecoming"

Homecoming

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By Bill Landon

The Mount Sinai Mustangs football team scored a homecoming game victory Oct. 13, defeating Center Moriches 42-21. Mount Sinai improved its record to 6-0 with the victory, and will look to make it seven straight to start the season Oct. 19 at home against Elwood John Glenn.

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The Comsewogue Warriors varsity football team steamrolled its way to a homecoming victory Oct. 6, dismantling Rocky Point 55-0. The win moves the Warriors to 4-1 this season. Comsewogue will be back in action Oct. 13 at Miller Place for a 2:30 p.m. game.

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Capping off a week of school-spirited events and a parade complete with floats from each grade level, the Earl L. Vandermeulen High School Royals football team took the homecoming win against Bayport-Blue Point, 34-16, Oct. 6.

Many spectators were in town to celebrate their 40 year high school reunion and joined in the festivities by riding in the parade and cheering on the Royals. Others lined the streets of Port Jefferson Village as the students and Disney-themed floats, student-musicians led by music teacher Mark Abbonizio, families, board of education members, teachers and administrators shared their royal pride.

Port Jeff schools' 2018 Wall of Fame honorees Heather West-Serignese, third from left; Elizabeth Schwartz accepting on behalf of her mother Honor Gracey Kopcienski, fourth from right; and David Okst, second from right, pose with high school principal Christine Austen, left, and the students who introduced them after the Oct. 5 ceremony. Photo by Alex Petroski

Some of Port Jeff’s best and brightest had their day in the sun as part of the school district’s homecoming weekend.

Port Jefferson School District welcomed three new honorees to its Wall of Fame during an Oct. 5 ceremony in the high school library. The 2018 inductees are Heather West-Serignese, a 1999 graduate who became a chef and was the winning contestant on the cooking show “Hell’s Kitchen,” in addition to her work establishing a support group for mothers suffering from postpartum depression; David Okst, a 1985 graduate who excelled in high school and at Penn State University as a student and track & field athlete and has since volunteered his time to coach several high school athletic teams; and Honor Gracey Kopcienski, a Port Jefferson High School graduate who died in September 2016 at 84 years old, and was the organist at Infant Jesus R.C. Church in the village for more than 50 years, known for her compassion, kindness and dedication to serving the community.

The Wall of Fame was created in 1996 with the goal of honoring former students and faculty members for achievements in their chosen field who were part of the school community for at least two years and have been out of the district for at least five. Honorees must be nominated by another member of the school community.

“They all possess a passion for community service and they have all dedicated their lives to helping others, and I think that is a very important point for our graduates and our students that are sitting here,” high school principal Christine Austen said during the ceremony.

Heather West-Serignese

West-Serignese described herself as someone who overcame many challenges growing up, including learning disabilities and battles with depression. She studied at The Culinary Institute of America after graduation and earned an associate’s degree from Suffolk County Community College. She excelled professionally in the kitchen, winning Season 2 of Gordon Ramsey’s “Hell’s Kitchen” in 2007 and later becoming the head chef at a casino in Las Vegas.

Heather West-Serignese. Photo by Alex Petroski

In 2016, she and her husband John had their first child, Jackson, which led to a period suffering from postpartum depression. In June 2017, the couple lost their second child when she was 22 weeks pregnant.

West-Serignese and her friend Emily Ciancarelli, who also suffered from postpartum depression, started East End Play Dates in 2017, a group meant to help moms deal with the condition by getting out of the house and arranging play dates with others sharing the same experience. The organization achieved 501(c)(3) nonprofit status and has helped more than 8,000 moms since its inception.

“It’s kind of awesome because I had severe problems in high school with learning, and a lot of teachers were very supportive, but at the same time there were kids that you knew weren’t going to succeed and I was probably below that line,” she said. “I was told even in college that I wouldn’t amount to much and I got bullied a lot in high school, and I got bullied a lot in college, and then to kind of come back as one of the successful people, it’s kind of like a ‘told you so.’”

She said she struggled through her school years and embraces that she can be held up as an example for people achieving success even when it seems unattainable early in life.

“When I was in high school I was put at risk for almost committing suicide because things were difficult — things were really hard,” she said. “I’ve been there, I’ve been at that low point where I thought that I wasn’t going to accomplish anything, and I thought that anybody would care, but now looking back, I’m looking back at all the things I would’ve missed out on. Nothing was perfect. It was really, really hard — but if you want something it’s completely possible.”

David Okst

David Okst. Photo by Alex Petroski

During high school, Okst was a member of the National Honor Society and a stand out performer on the track. He continued both of those trends while at Penn State University, and upon graduating, returned to the community where he joined the Port Jefferson Fire Department, a role he has filled for more than 20 years. He currently volunteers his time as a coach for boys varsity cross country, winter track and spring track.

Five years ago, Okst made a substantial contribution to Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, which went toward expanding the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

The runner turned firefighter and coach called the induction an incredible honor.

“I think sometimes when we come to school to work or teach or coach we don’t realize sort of the impact we have on kids,” he said. “Every day the things we say and do, even the mood we’re in, you know the kids see all that. I just love being around the kids, seeing them every day, seeing the crazy things they say, the ridiculous things they do, it’s really a lot of fun for me, and I would never trade that for anything.”

Honor Gracey Kopcienski

Kopcienski was awarded with the recognition posthumously, as her daughter Elizabeth Schwartz, pictured below, attended to accept the honor on her behalf. She and her husband Johnny, who also went by Alfred and was also a graduate from the high school, were community members through and through, having married in 1952 and producing eight children and 24 grandchildren.

Her more than five decades at Infant Jesus made her a pillar in the community, contributing her musical talents to hundreds of weddings, funerals and Masses. She was also generous with her gifts, teaching music and accompanying countless children and local performers. She played for the Manhasset Glee Club, Port Jefferson Choral Society, Southold Town Choral Society, Choral Society of Moriches, SUNY Stony Brook, and master classes given by the opera singer Eleanor Steber in her Belle Terre home, according to Schwartz.

Elizabeth Schwartz. Photo by Alex Petroski

Kopcienski was also generous beyond her musical talents, actively supporting the Port Jefferson Rotary Club in charitable efforts, as well as donating a piano to Infant Jesus Parish Center and contributing funds for another at her old high school. She was also a regular contributor and supporter of Hope House Ministries.

“My mother Honor and her husband Al were the kind of people that never said ‘No’ to a need in the community,” Schwartz told the students attending the ceremony. “And when you walk by someone who’s homeless and think, ‘somebody should take care of that;’ or you see somebody who is struggling with mental illness and you say, ‘somebody should take care of that;’ or when you hear about famine in other countries and you say, ‘somebody should take care of that;’ those somebodies were my mother and my father, and I hope today, that being on the Wall of Fame, you’ll walk by that every day and think, ‘I want to be that somebody.’”

She summed up what the day honoring her mother was like.

“Being here is a validation of the importance of people every day giving back to community, and that’s how I feel coming back here,” she said. “This is the way we want to be — this is who we want to be as a society, and I’m hoping that a little bit of that will be left with Honor’s picture behind.”

Residents of the Three Village Central School District rooted the Patriots on to a homecoming win against Walt Whitman High School Oct. 6.

The Patriots varsity football team beat the Walt Whitman High School Wildcats 32-10. Ward Melville now ranks 5-0 in the league, which is the first time since 1974.

Before the big game, students and families enjoyed a parade and carnival where attendees participated in games, crafts and listened to live music.

The Patriots will travel to William Floyd Oct. 13 and Longwood High School Oct. 20. Their next home game is Oct. 26 at 6:30 p.m.

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The Shoreham-Wading River Wildcats destroyed Hampton Bays in its homecoming game Oct. 6, defeating the Baymen 50-0. The win moved the Wildcats to 4-1 this season. They’ll be back in action Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. at Babylon.

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The Rocky Point School District came together under sunny skies to celebrate homecoming 2018 during the last weekend in September. Eagle fans of all ages lined the sidewalk in front of Rocky Point High School to cheer on those marching in the annual homecoming parade Sept. 29.

This year’s event was led by Rocky Point alumni, who were celebrating their 40th anniversary, and featured members of the marching band, cheerleading teams, colorful banners created by Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School and Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School students and homecoming floats fashioned by each high school grade level. The floats and banners each followed this year’s theme of “Rocky Point honors our armed forces.”

Throughout homecoming weekend, members of the high school varsity and junior varsity teams competed in challenging games against some of the region’s top high schools. The celebratory event was capped off with the traditional juniors versus seniors powder puff game, which collected donations for organizations committed to fighting children’s cancer.

In the game, Kings Park defeated Rocky Point 41-14, dropping the Eagles to 1-4 this season.

Smithtown High School East trampled over the Newfield Wolverines, 38-24, to claim victory at their Sept. 29 homecoming.

The Bulls’ offense came in ready to play, picking up 17 points in the first half. The Wolverines countered with three points, putting the score at 17-3 going into halftime. The offense for Smithtown East continued to do well in the second half, scoring another 21 points to put the game away.

The win improved the East Bulls standing to 3-1 as they hit the road to take on Deer Park Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. Newfield falls behind with the loss to 1-3 for the 2018 season and will host the Huntington Blue Devils Oct. 5 at 5:30 p.m.

Rows of cheering friends and family lined Longfellow Drive in Kings Park Wednesday afternoon to welcome home a National Guard airman returning home from Iraq. Nobody was more excited to see him than his children.

Both Ella, 3, and Gavin Brucculeri, 2, screamed with delight when they saw their father, Master Sgt. Jimmy Brucculeri, pull up in the family’s Dodge Ram. Ella bounded over to her dad who immediately picked her up into his arms. Gavin walked down the driveway with tears in his eyes, completely overcome with emotion.

Suffolk County  police department members looking on cheered loudly in welcoming Brucculeri home. It was a surprise.

“It’s a great feeling, all of this, it’s a great feeling to be home.”

— Jimmy Brucculeri

“It’s a great feeling, all of this, it’s a great feeling to be home,” he said. ‘It’s good to see everybody come together.”

Brucculeri works as a Suffolk County police officer in addition to serving as a member of the 106th Air Rescue Wing of New York’s National Guard. In January, his unit was deployed into Iraq to assist Operation Inherent Resolve, a U.S led mission to combat ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

The 106th Air Rescue Unit lost four of its members March 15 when a H-60 Pave Helicopter crashed in Iraq during a mission for Operation Inherent Resolve. The U.S. Department of Defense has said the cause of the crash is still under investigation, but it but did not appear to be the result of enemy activity.

“It’s kind of somber, but half of my unit is still in Iraq,” Brucculeri said. “So until they get home and everyone gets home, it’s just waiting.”

Thousands of mourners traveled to King’s Park to attend funeral services for Commack airman Master Sgt. Christopher Raguso, a member of Brucculeri’s unit, who was killed in the line of duty when the helicopter crashed.

“Gavin’s birthday was yesterday, so it’s a very good birthday present to have him home.”

— Cathyrn Brucculeri

Brucculeri’s family was able to keep in contact with him while he was overseas, but said it was much better to have him home.

“We spoke daily over Facetime or texting, which was good, but it was still obviously hard,” said Cathryn, Brucculeri’s wife. “ The kids definitely felt it. Gavin’s birthday was yesterday, so it’s a very good birthday present to have him home.”

Ernie Kabelka was also there to welcome Brucculeri home.

“He’s a great neighbor, he’s a great friend. He does everything around here,” Kabelka said.

He recalled how during a major snowstorm he and Brucculeri were driving around town together, when they spotted a man whose car was stuck in the snow. Brucculeri pulled over and spent more than a half hour helping dig the man out, according to Kabelka.

“He didn’t think nothing of it, it’s just what he does,” the neighbor said.

Concetta Van Winckel, a friend of the family, helped to organize the homecoming posting messages on Facebook and social media.

“Everyone from the community really came out for this,” Van Winckel said. “It was beautiful. People were really great to come out, even in the rain.”

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Running back Richie LaCalandra scores a touchdown. Photo by Alex Petroski

Despite some tense moments late in the game, a fast start, a huge play on a fourth-and-25, and a key second-half touchdown drive propelled the Comsewogue football team to a victory in its homecoming matchup against Hauppauge Oct. 21. The Warriors move to 3-5 with the 28-21 win, which head coach Sean Tremblay called his team’s most complete performance of the season.

Quarterback Jaden Martinez throws a deep ball. Photo by Alex Petroski

“It was the first time we started and finished a game all year,” Tremblay said after the win.

Presumably riding the adrenaline rush that comes with playing in front of a packed out, electric homecoming crowd, the Warriors jumped out ahead of the Eagles (0-6) in the first half.

Junior running back Reno Molina found the end zone in the first quarter to put Comsewogue up 7-0. The Warriors took to the ground early and often, producing more than 300 yards rushing on the afternoon, though one big pass play might have been the key to the win.

On a third-and-17 from the Hauppauge 22-yard line early in the second quarter, running right on an option play, sophomore quarterback Jaden Martinez kept the ball and eluded several Eagles on his way to what he thought was a score to put his team up two touchdowns. A holding penalty backed Comsewogue up and wiped the touchdown off the scoreboard, and on fourth-and-25 from the Hauppauge 30-yard line, the Warriors went to the air.

“I had seen something in coverage and I knew [Richie LaCalandra] was going to be open — we just needed to protect it and we did, and Richie got in,” Tremblay said of the play, which he called a momentum changer. He said he never considered attempting a long field goal or punting on the fourth-down play.

Richie LaCalandra celebrates after a touchdown. Photo by Alex Petroski

Martinez took the shotgun snap and rolled to his left, uncorking a perfect pass to the wide open senior LaCalandra running a corner route, who made the catch and skipped into the end zone to put the Warriors up 14-0. The play accounted for all of Martinez’s yardage through the air for the game.

“Richie’s just a great athlete,” the quarterback said of his running back. “He got himself open and I rolled out of the pocket, and he was just wide open.”

LaCalandra had 90 yards rushing and a touchdown to go along with two catches for 30 yards and the fourth-down score through the air. His rushing touchdown came on a reverse handoff from the Eagles’ 21-yard line in the final minute of the second quarter, as LaCalandra made a few Eagles’ defenders miss on his way to the goal line, where he lunged in despite having his helmet ripped off.

“We came out and worked hard in practice this week, and it all paid off when it came to the game,” he said.

Reno Molina celebrates in the background as Richie LaCalandra scampers into the end zone. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Warriors took a 21-0 lead into halftime, but a strong third quarter from the Hauppauge offense and two Warriors’ fumbles left the door open for a comeback.

“Defensively they were throwing the ball underneath our coverage,” Tremblay said of Hauppauge’s effective third quarter on offense. “We were so worried about them throwing the ball vertically that at times we were bailing just a little bit too much.”

With less than a minute remaining in the third, Comsewogue got the ball back up 21-14, and with junior quarterback Tom Tommaso under center, the Warriors engineered a drive that ended in a 6-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Mike McGuire to put his team up 28-14.

“After we scored and made it 28, that kind of regenerated our fight,” Tremblay said of the key second-half drive. Molina intercepted a pass with seven minutes remaining in the fourth in Comsewogue territory to ice the game for the Warriors.

Comsewogue’s two turnovers were the fewest the team has had in any game this season, according to the head coach. He said it shouldn’t be a surprise that it led to a win.

The Warriors will be back in action Oct. 27 at East Islip for the final game of the season. Opening kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.

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