When it was time for Dick Cerone to present another championship trophy last Friday, the Section V high school football chairman once again had to clear tears from his eyes.
The Class A title was won by Greece Athena, coached by Rob Cerone. Two years ago, the last time Dick Cerone presented a trophy to his son, it was after Athena lost the Class A final in heartbreaking fashion.
“When you have relatives succeed, it’s special,” Dick Cerone, 82, said. “I know how much Rob has put into it.
“Two years ago, when Athena lost to Irondequoit, I had to present a trophy to Rob. He had tears in his eyes and I was emotional. A couple of years later, they bounced back.”
The Greece Athena Trojans actually took 35 years to bounce back to the top of Section V football. Athena’s 35-14 win over Brighton at Rhinos Stadium also completed Rob Cerone’s wait for a sectional football championship, 22 years as a varsity coach, with more than a few competitive Athena teams.
“I used to be on the (Section V football) committee, and I would sit on top and pick the awards. This was when I was a JV coach,” said the younger Cerone, 52. “I would think, ‘Gee, that would be cool someday to get one of those.’ Then I got the head job, and when you first get the job you think, ‘Well, definitely, we’ll win a Section V title.’
“It’s tough. I’ve had some good teams, but Webster was winning state championships, then we dropped down to Class A and Aquinas was in A, and they were a really strong team, a couple of hurdles we couldn’t get over. So to have it happen was really, really something special, for my family definitely, no question about it.”
It was clear there were a few people who were rooting for Rob and Athena, where Dick was the athletic director when the 1981 Trojans won the Class AAA title with Don Hagreen as coach. A two-minute walk from the field with Rob, a physical education teacher at Athena, after the semifinals at Rhinos Stadium, turned into a five-minute stop-and-start full of hugs and pats on the back from well-wishers.
“Going back, I’ve wanted to do this for my coach,” Athena senior quarterback Tavon Granison said. “We’ve all wanted to do this for all of our coaches because (his father) hadn’t been able to hand the block (sectional trophy) to our coaches.
“Last year, I was actually asked, someone asked me, if I could do everything in my power to try and make this happen. So that’s what I tried to do. Just being able to get it done, just to be able to watch the emotional moment between the family, it got me emotional, because we’ve been fighting to do this (since) before me.”
Granison was named the Most Valuable Player of the final after he ran for three touchdowns and passed for two others. He had to leave the game with an injury to his left arm, but is expected to play when the Trojans move on to the state regional, facing Buffalo Bennett at 8 p.m. Friday at New Era Field in Orchard Park, Erie County.
Dick Cerone, who coached the Jefferson varsity football team for 16 years, will be there. He made his way to the Athena sideline with about five minutes remaining in the sectional final, but was told by Rob it was a little early to celebrate. Three game minutes later, early or not, father and son could not wait.
A couple of real-time minutes after that, there was another teary-eyed trophy presentation that involved the pair.
“I hugged him and he couldn’t get anything out,” Rob said. “People captured it. I’ve got video, tons of clips, messages with clips of that moment. I told my wife afterward: the day I got married, we have three kids, that’s like the next one in line, a special moment for me in my life.”