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East Islip apologizes for marching band fiasco

November 21, 2007 | 04:31 AM
Band directors from the East Islip High School marching band apologized to the Newfield Wolverines football team in writing for the inappropriate playing of Taps by some members of their marching band during East Islip's 51-6 win over the Wolverines in the Suffolk County Division III football semifinal game on November 11.

The incident occurred in the first half after Newfield running back Eugene Horan was hit hard and knocked to the ground. As he was being attended to by the trainers and coaching staff the strains of Taps played on a trumpet were heard coming from the direction of East Islip marching band occupying the north side of the home bleachers. The music continued, stopped then began again much to the disgust of the Newfield parents and fans on the opposite side of the field.

The Wolverines have had to endure more adversity than most teams this year. Early last summer their captain Ray Cuiffo was killed in a car accident in Kings Park. As a result, the Wolverines dedicated their season to Cuiffo, retired his number 41 at a memorial service prior to their first game of the season. They then opened the season to a school record 4-0 mark and qualified for the playoffs with a 5-3 record. Having Horan motionless in the mud before such a formidable foe as East Islip and hearing Taps blown in the background was all but too much for some in attendance.

"I never thought it was directed toward my son," said the father, Eugene Horan. "As a matter of fact I didn't hear the music because my son was the one who was hurt. But what I did hear was the referee's telling the Newfield fans to concentrate on the injured player. I turned to the person next to me and asked what was going on."

Afterward Horan, who is the president of the Wolverines Den Booster Club, was approached by six to eight parents who were furious about the incident and suggested he speak with Newfield Athletic Director Paula Nickerson. "I thought it was just a couple of kids who let things get away," said Horan. "They just got caught up in the emotion of the game. Kids do stupid things and this was an isolated incident. As a parent you never want to see this but I never thought it was directed toward my son and we were appreciative of the letter and the apology."

Two days later a letter from the East Islip's two band directors was sent to the Newfield football team with copies forwarded to East Islip Athletic Director Pete Blieberg, East Islip High School Principal Miriam Flynn, Nickerson and Newfield Principal Alan Bauer.

"My initial reaction upon hearing about the incident was to give Peter Blieberg a call but I never got to do it because I had to go to Cortland last week for the soccer championships," said Nickerson. When I came back on Monday the letter was waiting for me here. I spoke with coach [Joe] Piccinnini about it and he said he didn't even hear it when it happened because he was so distracted by the game and the injury. But I thought it was a heartfelt apology."

According to the letter, the blowing of Taps was not directed at Horan but on the tackle itself. "I think the case is closed," said Nickerson when asked if there would be any carry-over resentment aimed at the Redmen. "The Newfield football team has been through a lot this year. The letter sounds apologetic and I think they realize that they made a mistake."

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