Sandy Didn't Sack High School Football Team

The city of Long Beach, on Long Island's Nassau County was one of the hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy, with entire neighborhoods ravaged by floods and wind. It seemed unlikely that the high school's football team would get to finish its season. But the Long Beach Marines saw action over the weekend.

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When Sandy brought high winds and a massive storm surge, the city of Long Beach on Long Island was among the hardest hit. The loss of the city's high school locker and equipment rooms may not have been the most tragic event, though it did make it unlikely that the school's football team would finish its season. But this weekend, the Long Beach Marines did manage to field a team. NPR's Mike Pesca reports.

MIKE PESCA, BYLINE: The sign welcoming visitors to Long beach used to say civitas ad mare: the city by the sea. Now the signs into town read: do not flush toilets. Power's out at the water purification plant. Houses were burned, flooded, destroyed. So much was lost in Long Beach, including Adam Salvadori thought, the remaining game on the football team's schedule.

ADAM SALVADORI: I didn't think too many people would hear about it, you know. Our season would just be done with, and no one would really, you know, think about it too much.

PESCA: Salvadori is the senior captain and quarterback of the Long Beach Marines. Two displaced teammates are living with him now, but none of their equipment's there. It was all washed away with Sandy, and with it, thought Long Beach head coach Scott Martin, the team's season.

SCOTT MARTIN: I guess I was doubtful. I didn't know how you get that much equipment in the few short days that you get it. I probably thought it was impossible.

PESCA: And yet, sooner than Martin could imagine, he began getting texts from dispersed players insisting they play, from other coaches offering donations, from famous ex-football players gifting equipment.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sixty-three?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: That's open.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Sixty-three's open?

PESCA: This was the scene on Friday, the Marines third day at the indoor practice bubble once used by the New York Jets on the campus of Hofstra University. And these numbers...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Yeah, we got 63?

PESCA: ...were printed on the practice jerseys donated by Under Armour, as coordinated by the foundation run by former NFL quarterback and Long Island native, Boomer Esiason. And this...

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Ooh.

PESCA: ...was the team's reaction to the new game jerseys they would wear in the playoff matchup on Saturday. They got new helmets, mouth guards, shoulder pads. Punter Justin DeGioa was gleefully trying on his new cleats.

JUSTIN DEGIOA: I lost everything.

PESCA: So what has football meant to you in the last few days?

DEGIOA: It's meant a lot. I mean, it's taken my mind off a lot of things, makes me feel like I - like nothing really happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: We resume the season and playoffs today after a delay due to one of the most devastating storms...

PESCA: On Saturday at the Carey High School football field in Franklin Square, pockets of reunions were spontaneously breaking out in the visiting team stands, Long Beach parents seeing teachers, seeing students, seeing each other for the first time in almost two weeks. Minutes before the game, Coach Martin gathered his players.

MARTIN: We're here because of you. We're here because you wanted to play for your teammates, for your town, for your community. Guys, this only happened because of you. I think you've won. You've won already. You've made impossible possible.

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PESCA: Sometimes the script writes itself, and sometimes the team with hope, passion and a community behind it muffs one too many punts and misses a few too many tackles. Long Beach lost 35-13.

It's like the school superintendant David Weiss told me: Long Beach has a lot of people pulling for it. They've collected pallets of donated food and clothes, but what the schools really need are a couple of new boilers. At least the schools - well, three out of the six of them - will be open tomorrow. And the power in Long Beach is slowly coming back on.

Mike Pesca, NPR News, New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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