FLORHAM PARK, NJ (AP) – Joe Armental stopped at the Dwight Morrow High School campus the morning after Hurricane Ida flooded the northeast and was stunned by the massive damage.
Englewood, New Jersey’s school and surrounding neighborhoods were hit hard by the September 1 storm that left record-breaking precipitation, a path of destruction and dozens of deaths across the North Gulf Coast. is.
“Our stadium complex was a lake,” said Armental, the school’s sports director. “It actually ruined the first floor of one of the primary schools next to our sports complex. Our tennis courts have imploded, our grass has been rolled up like a cheap carpet, our track has been destroyed.
“I mean, there was only debris everywhere, boulders and boulders just from the force of the water.”
And for Dwight Morrow’s football team about to start their season, that meant the possibility of not being able to play. Over 2 1/2 feet of flood water and mud filled the school grounds and the team lost most of their equipment.
So Armental took to social media and posted photos remains of the school’s sports complex, including Winton White Stadium – where Vince Lombardi once walked behind the scenes at St. Cecilia High School.
Armental has also started asking for help. Fort Lee High School, the Maroon Raiders’ opener, loaned them old road jerseys just so the game could still be played on September 10. Dwight Morrow High School – the alma mater of former Jets running back / kicking returner Bruce Harper – was able to find suitable helmets.
Armental also connected with Eli Hodges, the New York Jets’ youth football and community relations manager – and suddenly there was hope. The Jets have agreed to cover all expenses to replace helmets, protection and school uniforms for the 26 players in the varsity program.
“I’m very proud of Mr. Armental and I think it’s a wonderful relationship,” said Dwight Morrow High School Principal Ben Suro. “He did it and the Jets did too. ”
Jets coach Robert Saleh wore a gray T-shirt with the school logo – a brown bird in the center – during his press conference on Friday.
“They lost all ground to Hurricane Ida,” said Saleh, who will be supporting a different high school team every Friday of the season wearing their t-shirt. “So we wanted to represent them and do good things for this high school.”
The Jets also invited the entire Dwight Morrow High School football team to attend their opener at MetLife Stadium on Sunday against the New England Patriots – the day after the Maroon Raiders faced Pascack Hills.
“As a longtime Jets fan who went through Season 1-15 and the Rich Kotite era, and the ups and downs of the Rex Ryan era, it was just something totally surreal to me.” , said Armental. “And to see a world class organization like the Jets not only supporting them but also supporting them to support young men and everything they did was such a boost.”
Armental called an emergency meeting with the football team on Friday and showed the players the Jets press conference in the school auditorium.
“There have been a lot of low and dark times,” Armental said. “But just as a pick-me-up, getting ready for the game (Saturday), we put it on the big screen to make the announcement and the kids were like, ‘Hey, wait a minute. I have this shirt! ‘ So it was really, really cool to see that. They were all like, ‘I’m a Jets fan this Sunday!’ “
Dwight Morrow High School will play all of its football games on the road or at neutral venues this season as the cleanup continues. Meanwhile, the school will work through insurance and FEMA to rebuild its facilities, including the soccer field, which it hopes will be done by next fall.
“The loss to the community has been the hardest pill to swallow,” said Armental. “But even though I’m sad it happened, I’m excited for the future. And, you know, we’re going to rebuild it. We’re going to be bigger and better and have great things to come. “
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