The success of Glen Cove's varsity football program this season is the result of the players functioning as a team, but also as a family.
Big Red is 6-1 as it approaches its last game of the regular season - poised to match the historic 7-1 season of 12 years ago, if it beats North Shore on Saturday. The team has already surpassed the regular season record of the 1998 championship team.
Coach Pete Kopecky noted a comparison to another past Glen Cove squad - the undefeated 1943 team, which he said included Polish, Italian, African-American and Hispanic players who proved, well before the civil rights movement, how people of different backgrounds can thrive when in harmony.
The current team's success can be traced to players' activities over the summer, said Kopecky. After ending last season 3-5, the team underwent a transformation - as did the high school's weight room, which athletic director Denise Kiernan said now resembles that of a junior college.
"The weight room wasn't being used to its full potential. With the new rack systems and olympic benches, the entire football program can benefit from the facility," she said.
With group workouts adding to the team's cohesion, more students attended an NFL-sponsored High School Player Development program than in years past, Kiernan said. Kopecky also attributed his players' prowess to their summer efforts.
"These kids turned it around by doing all the things you're supposed to do during the off season," he said.
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Senior Mario Serrano said the team's familial vibe is a deliberate decision by its members.
"We have to be a family. We stated this at the beginning of the season," he said. "One of the worst things that can happen on the field is blaming other people. We actually saw that in a few games. We some some teams putting each other down. When they don't make a tackle they put each other down, and we see that and we don't like that, so we make sure that we pick each other up and we stay together."
Serrano, who was born in El Salvador, noted the team's Friday night dinners, where players and their families get together to eat from an array of cultural dishes brought from a variety of ethnic households.
This year is Anton Seaman's first on the team. Having played other sports, this was a mostly new crowd, he said.
"They basically took me in," he said.
Seaman, who is African-American, said teammates enjoy friendships which extend beyond the game that brought them together, and beyond any cultural divides.
The connection isn't lost on their coach.
"Athletics is always something that has pulled people together," said Kopecky, who has coached at Glen Cove High School for 21 years. "Families go and cheer for the same kids, and they realize that everything is the same. Everyone wants the same things."
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