Halftime of Rich Reichert Night went exactly as scripted.
St. Anthony’s football jumped in front of CHSFL rival Stepinac, 21-0, Saturday night. Meanwhile the coach walked from the locker room to the sideline with his 2-year-old grandson, Ben, cradled in his arms.
That’s Friars football: Winning never overshadows family. Not on Reichert's watch.
“That’s what Richie is,” Athletic Director Don Buckley said. “That’s what he’s all about. He’s not just Xs and Os.”
And after St. Anthony’s put the finishing touches on a 35-14 win, former players – some dating to the program’s inaugural season in 1968 – ringed the field. Reichert, 60, infant still in hand, took a moment to hug each and every one who showed up to honor the iconic coach.
“I’m seeing people in their 50s, 40s, 30s and 20s,” Principal Bro. Gary Cregan said. “That just shows the type of feelings they have toward him that they’d come back.”
The Friars beat Iona Prep, 21-0, for Reichert’s first win. That was Set. 18, 1987. The program’s first Catholic League championship came six seasons later.
Reichert became the winningest football coach in Suffolk history two weeks ago. That’s in addition to the 13 CHSFL championships he's earned, including 10 of the last 11 Class AAA titles.
“That’s the nicest part of the whole thing, seeing all the guys come back,” said Reichert, a retired Nassau County Police officer, who owns 214-50-3 won-loss record in his 26th season leading the Friars. “They’re not kids anymore. They’re grown men.”
One of those former players drove with his young son, Alex, from Dutchess County to pay tribute to the man and take part in the night. Alvin Alcera, 42, was a senior in 1987 and a co-captain on Reichert’s first team.
“His era started with us and automatically we were just a different team,” Alcera said. “There was no doubt he was going to put a winning team on the field and we did just that.”
He said it was important for his son to meet his former coach and see the field where Alcera grew from a teenager into a man.
You could see that same connection in the eyes of all former players. You could sense it in their heartfelt hugs.
"People flew to be here," junior quarterback Greg Galligan pointed out. "It's an honor to play for him. I wish I could play here longer."
Reichert, the reluctant honoree, accepted it all with quiet humility.
“You accept it on behalf of everyone who has been part of it,” Reichert said. “A lot of the coaches have been with me a long time. That speaks for itself. It's definitely a big reason behind the success of the program.”
The wins are a byproduct of the bond Reichert and his staff helped create year after year, decade after decade. As current Defensive Coordinator Joe Minucci, 30, pointed out, five assistant coaches are St. Anthony’s graduates.
Perhaps someday this will be Minucci’s team. Or another St. Anthony’s graduate will take the reins. Someday.
Whether Reichert coaches another quarter century or steps down tomorrow, his imprint has been left on the program. Former players lined up at the goal line in the cold Saturday night air to pay their respects to a living football legend.
They brought their sons in hopes that talk of past football glory might ring more true.
"With all the life lessons you learn with football," Alcera said, "you have to pay tribute to the man that actually gave you those lessons."
Catholic League FootballTeams 1 2 3 4 F Stepinac 0 0 14 0 14 St. Anthony's 7 14 7 7 35
SA – Galligan 6 run (Bacon kick)
SA – Galligan 7 run (Musgrove kick)
SA – Anderson 1 run (Bacon kick)
STEP – Lopez fumble recovery in end zone (Pizzuti kick)
SA – Femiano 96 kickoff return (Musgrove kick)
STEP – Miller 20 pass from Hoffer (Pizzuti kick)
SA – Femiano 35 run (Bacon kick)