The Huntington varsity football team is in the midst of a great season. The Blue Devils have compiled a 5-2 record to date with a game against No. 1 Lindenhurst looming on Saturday. The squad hopes the playoffs will follow.
The fine play of Huntington’s 14 seniors has certainly contributed to the Blue Devils’ success story on the field. Most of the seniors have been in the program since seventh grade at J. Taylor Finley Middle School.
The Blue Devil senior group includes Gary Barash, Jaylen Bush, Vincent Caravetto, Lex Colato, Chas Forte, Andy Garcia, Jack Jamison, Jon Koumas, Pat Langton, Aedan McDonald, RJ Moreno, Aidan Mrotzek, Tazadon Smith and Rahliek Thomason-Jackson.
Wearing a uniform with the name “Huntington” emblazoned across the front has been especially meaningful for each of the seniors. It will be hard to take the jersey off for the last time.
“I always looked up to the kids on the team before I was in the high school and knew I wanted to be like them one day,” Koumas said. “Now I’ve realized with the wearing of this jersey comes responsibility to my team and it has taught me to be accountable.”
The seniors are the backbone of the program and their experience has been vital to Huntington’s success this fall. All of them will be missed.
“It’s been such an honor and pleasure to wear ‘Huntington’ across my chest over the years,” Colato said. “I represent Huntington and Huntington represents me. I’m glad that I’ve been able to be a part of Huntington. The football program and the people that make up the program are my family forever. Bleed blue for life!”
Saturday’s game against Lindenhurst is the regular season finale and it could very well be the last time any of the seniors plays football at Blue Devil Stadium. A playoff berth is not yet clinched and even if Huntington does advance, a home game is also not assured.
“Choosing to play football for Huntington has been one of the best decisions of my life,” McDonald said. “I’ve learned so much and gained so many new friends. It’s one giant family with great memories and I would do a lot just to get one more year of it.”
The Huntington football tradition can be traced to 1895. Those early squads weren’t sponsored by the high school and instead took the shape of community teams. The high school has been fielding an exclusively Huntington student team since 1924.
“To be able to have such an amazing opportunity to wear a Huntington football uniform means a lot to me,” Bush said. “Nothing is a better feeling than putting on a Huntington uniform and being able to play with your brothers. It’s a great honor to wear a special uniform for four years. All the memories, bonds and dedication.”
One thing is for sure, all 14 seniors will miss being on the Blue Devil squad next fall. The program breeds a remarkable degree of loyalty. Players dating back into the 1950s routinely attend games.
“There’s a sense of pride and accomplishment in the wearing of this uniform because of all the hard work that goes into practices and preparation for each season, year in and out,” Moreno said.
The varsity team gathers in the school cafeteria after practice every Friday during the season and is served a meal by parents. The teenagers and coaches sit together at tables like a family, which is exactly at how they look at themselves.
“It’s really nice wearing the uniform, especially having the name ‘Huntington’ in the front and being able to represent the school every Saturday,” Barash said.
The names of each of the 14 seniors will ring out over the public address system at Blue Devil Stadium on Saturday as the team and athletic department recognizes the teenagers for their commitment.
“To wear a Huntington football jersey is an honor because most people don’t understand all the hard work we go through to earn that jersey and the brotherhood we get from playing together,” Jamison said.
Head coach Steve Muller and assistant varsity coaches Todd Jamison and Kevin Graham are all pleased with the work ethic, commitment to the team and pursuit of excellence that the seniors have displayed this fall.
“I am thankful to be a part of something that has been around for generations and will continue to exist long after I leave,” Langton said.
It’s hard to believe that the seniors are nearing their final game in a Huntington uniform. It seems like yesterday that they were suiting up at Finley for the first time.
“It’s been great wearing a Blue Devil uniform,” Caravetto said. “Huntington has the best football staff and program in Suffolk. It’s been fun playing with all my teammates and coaches. To all the underclass men and next year’s seniors; make the best of Huntington football because it goes by fast and there’s nothing like it.”
Some of the seniors have had brothers, uncles, fathers or even grandfathers precede them as Blue Devil football players. For many it has been a family tradition.
“Wearing a Huntington football jersey is a feeling that few have felt and I have been fortunate enough to feel that feeling,” Forte said. “The respect that you receive when you have that jersey on is tremendous because everyone knows that you are a part of one of the best teams in the county. Knowing that my father and grandfather went through the same football program is cool. I’m definitely going to miss playing football for Huntington.”
While the seniors are all wrapped up with their academic classes and daily practices, they all seem to know they are part of something very special and their time in a Blue Devil uniform is growing shorter.
“It’s has really meant a lot to me being able to share the experience of playing with kids I grew up with and played in the pee-wees with and also carrying on a long tradition of what it means to play Huntington football,” Mrotzek said.
The Blue Devil seniors are hoping to wear their uniforms as long as possible as they all strive to advance deep into the Suffolk Division II playoffs.