“Look at the jerseys some of those kids are wearing,” a staffer at White’s of Westport, Ma. said while talking with a fellow server then adding “Some high school football teams don’t have uniforms that nice.”
As the Johnston Youth Football and Cheer organization’s annual awards affair, which attracted 412 people went on, other members of the wait staff echoed those sentiments adding: “Look at the awards those kids are receiving.”
Which was again further proof that the storied youth sports non-profit is in a class of its own when it comes to honoring the boys who represent Johnston in the American Youth Football program’s Blackstone Valley Division and the girls who cheer them on.
“By the time we finish,” Matthew Clements, the Panthers popular president offered, “we will have presented a total of 208 awards and that includes the participation trophies we give to our Flag Division kids.”
Add to that the dinner which was family-style chicken parmesan and pasta, meatballs and corn and as Clements emphasized: “That’s a pretty hefty price tag for any youth sports group to pay.”
Yet as Clements and his predecessor Gary Salzillo, who owns and operates Northeast Auto Body on Hartford Avenue who was honored with a special crystal trophy for “his untiring generosity, hard work and dedication,” the Panthers theme has been in recent years “it’s either we go first class or stay home.”
Few people, if any, would dispute that theory especially after watching head coach Jon Costa’s undefeated 9U Super Bowl champions receive spiffy duffle bags that head each player’s name and number along with a classy trophy.
Likewise, members of two cheerleading squads – that staked claim to the state cheer championships in the Divisions for girls ages 10 and 12 – received custom-made sweatshirts as well as a shiny gold trophy.
“This was the day for all our football players and cheerleaders to shine,” Clements let it be known. “This is a program for our children; we stress championship, team work, fair play and most of all a safe program that serves as a stepping stone for when the kids reach the high school level.”
It was also a day when the efforts of countless parents shared center stage, as their generosity shined brighter than their children’s tall trophies by way of an outpouring of generosity in form of impressive gift baskets they donated for the day’s raffle that also helps boost the Panthers’ coffers. PANTHERS 1 IMG 8308
COSTA’S CHAMPS: Members of the Johnston Panthers undefeated 9-U State Super Bowl Champions are in front from left: Derek Simas, John Rawlinson, Aiden Harrison, Jonny Costa, Noel Gamez and Corey Ogden. Second row: Jordan D’Elia, Joe Laliberte, Evan Perron, Michael Chounlamany, Ian Hernandez, James Rawlinson and Gip Celani. Row three: Brodie Staplins, James Senno, Aiden Neil, Max Pilkington and Diego Mendoza. Back: Ed Harrison, Jen D’Elia, Head Coach Jon Costa, Brian Rawlinson, Sean Senno, Harry Ogden, Stephanie Ogden and Gary Simas.
Sun Rise photos by Pete Fontaine PANTHERS 8325
CLEMENTS’ CLUB: The Panthers 12-U football squad which was under the direction of Head coach Matt Clements, again qualified for the Blackstone Valley Division’s AYF playoffs and was honored during the gridiron group’s annual awards dinner. PANTHERS 3 8330
FLAG FORCE: The Johnston Panthers also honored members of the Flag Division football squad during the recent awards dinner and was under the direction of Head Coach Mike Iafrate who was ably assisted by a group of dedicated parents who volunteered to teach the kids basic fundamentals of football.