Ray Deren’s name in Blue Devil athletic history is etched in stone. The legendary sports administrator’s creativity and foresight helped ignite an explosion in the number of opportunities available to Huntington’s student-athletes, and his planning and commitment to the athletes of the community continues to benefit countless Blue Devils each year.
A trendsetter in the area of sports program innovation, Deren played a leading role in a long list of initiatives that have become an essential part of the district’s cherished traditions.
Although he died more than 15 years ago, Deren’s influence is still widely felt in Huntington’s classrooms and gyms and on its fields.
At this year’s 47th Blue Devils senior athletic awards banquet, which Deren created in 1969 to recognize and honor seniors who have participated in athletics, Binghamton University-bound Tim Mattiace was presented with a $1,000 scholarship and handsome plaque in honor of the longtime district athletic director.
“My dad believed that students who participated in athletics would have the most success in their careers and relationships,” Deren’s daughter, Georgia McCarthy, who now fills the same position her father once did, said. She was joined for the award presentation by her sons, John and Kenny.
The Deren scholarship recognizes athletes who have consistently showed dedication to their academic and athletic programs and are determined to complete a college education while participating in athletes.
Mattiace is headed to Binghamton University on a scholarship to play lacrosse. One of the top members academically of the class of 2015, the student-athlete has been a mainstay of the Blue Devils program for many years. He tallied seven goals and 11 assists and was a member of the team’s strong defense this spring, scooping up dozens of ground balls.
“It’s a true honor coming from Kenny, John and Mrs. McCarthy, to receive this award and everything it stands for,” Mattiace said. “Mr. Deren was an amazing man and I can only hope to accomplish as much as he did some day.”
Mattiace captained the Blue Devils’ football and lacrosse teams, winning post-season recognition in both sports. He was a First Team All-Division player on the gridiron last fall and All-Division and All-County in lacrosse this spring.
The athlete was named Suffolk County League III’s Defensive Player of the Year for his outstanding play as a long stick midfielder, and he earned a spot on the Brine All-American team that won the national championship and went on to beat Canada for the Brogden Cup.
The Huntington Lacrosse Alumni Association presented Mattiace with a large plaque earlier this spring for being a “player who exemplifies the spirit and tradition of Huntington High School lacrosse.”
“I will be working as a junior manager at Lacrosse Unlimited of Huntington; playing in the Shootouts for Soldiers tournament, the Cantiague men’s lacrosse league with kids from around the Island and the Greenport lacrosse tournament; doing plenty of fishing; and working out to prepare for Binghamton University men’s lacrosse,” Mattiace about his summer plan.
During Deren’s tenure, the number of athletic teams sponsored by the district skyrocketed from 28 to 70 and the program was seen as a model by districts across New York. A true visionary, he identified the need for a full-time athletic trainer — a first for a Long Island high school — writing the job description for the position.
Throughout his tenure, he pushed for improvements to the district’s athletic programs and sports facilities.
Deren passed away on Feb. 28, 1999, but his memory lives on through the memorial scholarship presented annually in his honor by his family.
“Our student-athletes are obligated to work well with others on a daily basis in some of the most unique situations,” McCarthy told the crowd at the senior banquet. “You all have a strong work ethic, can problem solve, be unselfish and manage your time wisely because of your experiences in Huntington. These are just a few of the skills that are second nature and will help you live happy and successful lives. This banquet is all about you, who have put so much time and energy into this strong program, rich with traditions.”