MARLBORO – The Marlboro High School (MHS) Boys Varsity Soccer team hosted a 9/11 memorial game on Saturday, September 11. The game, which pitted the Dukes against the Onteora Eagles, was attended by local police, firefighters, first responders, military personnel, and frontline workers, who were invited as guests of honor.
Prior to kickoff, Deacon Vincent Porcelli from St. Mary’s Church led a reflection and prayer, and guest vocalist Sergeant Major MaryKay Messenger of the West Point Band sang the National Anthem. “Taps” was played, and all attendees observed a moment of silence. In a moving ceremony led by Town of Marlborough Police Officer Curt Fulton and Lance Corporal Brandon Ocano of the United States Marine Corps, the players paid tribute to the 13 soldiers who were killed in the Kabul airport attack in Afghanistan by placing a rose in each of the pairs of military boots that were placed on the field to commemorate the tragic loss.
It was a well-attended event, with guests in patriotic apparel and uniforms and fire trucks, police cars, and EMT vehicles parked near the field gates. Also in attendance were Marlboro Central School District Superintendent Michael Brooks, members of the Board of Education, Athletic Director Jonnah O’Donnell, and MHS Principal Ryan Lawler. Students handed out American flags, and the overall sentiment of the night was one of respect and pride.
“It was a beautiful and emotional evening,” said Marlboro Soccer Coach James Ventriglia, who organized the event. “The players and young people in attendance, all of whom were not even born before September 11, 2001, got a very good sense of the sadness of the day and the inspiration and heroism that pushed us forward as a country afterward.”
Although the Dukes defeated Onteoraby a final score of 2-0, it was clear that all of the players were united in a display of American patriotism.
“It was great to see our players show their respect for these important community members,” Ventriglia said. “They were able to show compassion and understanding of an event they didn’t witness.”
Ventriglia, who has been coaching the Dukes for eight years and teaching Social Studies at MHS for 14, first proposed the idea for the event last spring.
“When I first scheduled the game for September 11, 2021, I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to honor first responders, military members, and frontline workers,” he said. “These individuals exemplify sacrifice, courage, and service by putting it all on the line every day to help people and make the community stronger. They all contribute so much without asking for anything in return.”
“This was our humble opportunity to show our gratitude to them and their families for their tireless dedication,” he added.
The school district, along with the Marlborough Police Department, immediately showed support and enthusiasm. Officer Fulton was instrumental in getting the word out and assisting in the process of making the event a reality, Ventrigilia said. Team members also visited local businesses and community organizations to help spread the word, and other students took to social media to increase community awareness.
“We wanted to fill the stands with heroes and we did,” Ventriglia summed. “It was a truly memorable evening.”