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You Can Rain on Our Parade But You Cannot Dampen Our Spirit

Ms. Dawn Cerrone has been working for the Oyster Bay East Norwich Schools for over 20 years. Her ever present smile and boundless energy has become synonymous with the spirit of Oyster Bay. When athletic director John Piropato vacated the office and Dawn threw her hat into the ring, it was a clear choice for Ms. Cerrone to take the reins of the Athletic Department.

As the New York Jets recently discovered, rookies can at times find themselves in situations that can be overwhelming. Having been appointed to the position mid-year last year, Ms. Cerrone faced her first Homecoming this fall.

During the summer, while many were enjoying the beach and other relaxing activities, Ms. Cerrone was hard at work preparing for her first fall season as the Athletic Director. With Labor Day approaching in the end of August all was in place.

That’s when the phone call came. Friends Academy decided that they could not run their varsity football program this year and informed the league that they would not be playing this fall. As luck would have it, Friends was scheduled to play the Baymen on October 3, Homecoming.

Even the seasoned professional administrators find the opening of a new school year most challenging. Ms. Cerrone was dealing with her first opening as an administrator and then finds herself with a last minute scramble to save homecoming. It was like being a quarterback in their own end zone with no one open to pass to.

Dawn quickly started calling everyone she knew to try to find a replacement team to fill the gap. Finally after a week of exhaustive phone calls, Ms. Cerrone found a team in New Jersey that was looking to play a game. Thinking that all was well, Ms. Cerrone then learned something about high school sports. Since Friends was not going to play, the non-game was counted as a forfeit and counted in the records as a game. Our team is only allotted eight regular scheduled games in a season whether the game was played or forfeited. Therefore, the game against New Jersey could be played as a “game” but, could be played as a scrimmage. Oyster Bay was fine with that, but the New Jersey team needed another “game” on their schedule and would not play a “scrimmage.”

Ms. Cerrone then petitioned the State to allow the game to be played as a “game.” The State granted the request and Homecoming could happen as scheduled. Ms. Cerrone got on the phone to the school in New Jersey only to find that in the interim the school found another school to play and was no longer available to come to Oyster Bay.

With just two weeks until Homecoming, the traditional football game was rapidly being replaced by a “Bay Fest” celebration to be held under the lights on Memorial Field. Many were on board with this solution. However, many felt that it would not be Homecoming without the traditional game under the lights.

Thinking on her feet, Ms. Cerrone got on the phone to Carle Place, who was scheduled to play at Oyster Bay on October 10, and asked if they would alter their schedule and agree to play an evening game under the lights. With everyone in agreement to make October 10 an evening game the spirit week homecoming 2009 was looking like a two week celebration.

That’s when the phone call came in from just north of New Haven, Connecticut. A prep school had a bye week on Oct. 3 and was looking for a game to keep their team sharp. They called Ms. Cerrone and asked if she still needed a team to play on the 3rd. Homecoming was back on as planned. All was well. Sort of. Turns out that Connecticut would not sanction the game because the prep school had not paid their high school sports association fees. Hmmmm. The fees were paid and the game was finally on.

By this time, the game was a few days away and the weather reports were talking about rain for that Saturday. The floats were being made and the preparations were in place for the parade. Ms. Cerrone was now at the mercy of the weather. When Saturday, Oct. 3 dawned, there was a little rain as predicted. Yet, the weather reports and radar showed that the bulk of the wet weather was off to the east. By early afternoon, the sun was out and shining over Oyster Bay and it looked like the parade could happen at 4:30 p.m. as scheduled.

By 3:30 p.m. the sun had disappeared but there was no rain. Then, at 4 p.m., the skies opened up and there was a downpour over Memorial Field. The weather had predicted that there may be isolated showers of this nature sporadically around the area. It made sense to guess that this shower would clear as quickly as it had come.

The parade was put on hold until 5 p.m. to let this system pass. At around 4:45 p.m., the visiting team bus pulled into the parking lot at the Roosevelt Elementary School where the field is located. The Connecticut players were greeted by loud thunder claps and frightening lightning. The head coach went looking for Ms. Cerrone to discuss the 30-minute rule. There is a rule in place that should there be thunder or lightning of any kind, high school sports teams must get off the field and not return until 30 minutes after the last thunder is heard or lightning is seen. The head coach told Ms. Cerrone that his team would get off the field for one such delay, but if there was a second delay, the team would get on the bus and go home.

It was still raining heavily at five p.m., but the thunder and lightning had stopped. The parade had to be cancelled. By 5:30 p.m. the heavy rain had let up and the clouds started to break up. It was at this time that Ms. Cerrone was informed that the cooler full of ice she had given the visiting team was not enough and they would not play unless they were given more ice. On top of everything else that had already happened, Ms. Cerrone found herself looking for more ice as game time was approaching.

The game did start on time. The stands filled up with spectators. The score quickly became one sided. With the bleachers packed with Baymen supporters sitting in a light drizzle, watching the visitors score touchdown after touchdown, a remarkable thing happened. Fun. The Oyster Bay community had come to have fun and celebrate their homecoming. That is exactly what they did. They would not be deterred by the scoreboard. The crowd demonstrated the sportsmanship that Oyster Bay is known for around the county and state. They found reasons to cheer and have a good time. A lot of credit goes to the Oyster Bay High School cheerleading squad who never stopped involving and engaging the crowd from their soggy spot in front of the bleachers. The cheerleaders are Sarah Albelda, Jillian Boccia, Debra Bracewell, Alexis D’Aversa, Kelsey Gallagher, Samantha Kuhns, Captain Alexa Roland, Sabrina Sandler, Kristalle Sharma, Dance Captain Nicole Testa and Captain Jenelle Victory. The Baymen Cheerleaders are coached by Ms. Lesley Perullo.

Throughout it all, Ms. Dawn Cerrone kept her wits about her and a smile on her face. Clearly, Oyster Bay made the right choice for Athletic Director.