Aug 30, 2022

Teen Scene

By Lori Draz and Andrew Piscatelli

Each month our young authors write, in their own voice, stories that will educate and inform fellow students and parents. If you are a teen who would like to write your story, contact The Journal. We’ll help you polish it up, so don’t worry, let’s just get to sharing.

This month’s author is Holmdel’s 16-year-old Andrew Piscatelli, a junior and proud Hornet at Holmdel High School. Andrew has learned many lessons of good sportsmanship on the football field, but he learned even greater lessons about the importance of power of community from the people in his own backyard. Inspired by the power of community, Andrew created a way for student-athletes to show their appreciation to the team supporters and the seniors in his neighborhood. Here is Andrew’s story.

The whistle sounds, and Coach tells everyone to line up and head out. With the pre-game speech and any last-minute adjustments complete, the Holmdel High School football team makes the 300-yard march to Bob Roggy Memorial Field, named for a former Hornet who became a world champion javelin thrower. Roggy, who tragically died in a car accident two days before his 30th birthday, was such a strong athlete that the design of the javelin was actually changed for fear he might kill a spectator sitting in an Olympic stadium’s front row. 

As I enter the field, I feel the crisp night air. I hear the band playing in the background as 60 pairs of cleats hit the pavement in an uneven cadence. With each step, the music grows louder and the butterflies I felt are replaced with adrenaline. My teammates call out words of enthusiasm and even a few mild expletives, and everything becomes clear in the bright stadium light. We enter Roggy Field through the crowd of parents, siblings, friends and alumni who pound our helmets and shoulder pads, yelling, “Let’s go blue!” These are my people; this is my community, and it is Friday Night football at Holmdel High School.

Community – for many, it’s a name on a sign, a land area with borders, a place where people live, work and go to school, but for others, it’s much deeper than that. It’s a place where people help one another and support each other. Seven years ago, on Christmas Eve, nine days after our new house burned to the ground in a freak explosion, my father was stricken with Guillain-Barre, an autoimmune disease that rendered him a temporary quadriplegic and from which he has blessedly and fully recovered. I was only 9 years old, and my sister was 6. At the time, I didn’t recognize the severity of my father’s illness, but it was definitely a time of chaos. Our network of grandparents, aunts and close friends jumped in to keep our homelife on an even keel, while my mother spent much of her time at my father’s bedside during his year-long recovery. Every day people stopped by our house, bringing trays of food, flowers, cards and offers of assistance such as money or landscaping services. What was so striking was I didn’t really know many of these people. Several times, in the backseat of someone’s car going to basketball practice, I thought, “How do we know this lady? Why would these people take time from their busy lives to help us?” Was it because my father and grandparents have lived in Holmdel for 50 years? Is it because Holmdel has small town values? Or is it because the people who make up this great community are unique and caring folks?

I decided I needed to be one of those people who jumped in. I needed to pay it back for the help the community gave my family and for what they will do tomorrow. I also wanted to thank them for their support of my football team every Friday night. So, this past summer I started the Community Outreach Squad with the members of my football team. Our first project was assisting Holmdel senior citizens with yardwork and re-engaging them with Friday night football. I wanted them to know that as football players and neighbors, we are there to support them, just as they cheer and support us. I wanted to cultivate and maintain relationships. When my father, the youngest in the family, stopped playing for the Hornets after he graduated, my grandparents stopped going to games and lost touch with the program. It happens with many families who age out of the schools, but I hope I can reverse that trend by the squad’s interaction with the Holmdel population. I hope other teams will follow suit and re-engage the older folks with athletic programs. Reconnecting works.

My grandparents are now “Hornet groupies.” They delay their annual pilgrimage to sunny Florida so they can watch my games and see other families they know. My dad’s friends in the Holmdel Police Department are often at the school for events, and he gets to catch up with them. My sister is a tennis player, and I know they can’t wait to see her take the courts where my aunt led the tennis team to the old C Division Championship in 1982. I want our senior population to be a part of that excitement. I also want to give them the joy and pride of a winning football team, so I am committed to being the best football player I can be. Muhammed Ali once said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses, behind the lines, in the gym and out there on the road.” So I toiled during the summer, running sprints and lifting weights, when I would have preferred to be flirting at the pool. I practice a little extra at home when I feel the need to get better or stronger. I study my playbook and watch the opponents’ game films to be better for my teammates, coaches, family, student body, the senior citizens and for my community.

I invite you all to join the Hornets, under the Friday night lights.