HOPEWELL VALLEY: School board honors the football team

The kudos just keep coming for Hopewell Valley Central High School’s football team.

By John Tredrea, Special Writer
   The kudos just keep coming for Hopewell Valley Central High School’s football team, which won the Group III state championship with a dramatic come-from-behind win over Lawrence before 8,000 fans at The College of New Jersey stadium on Dec. 7.
   That team, all its coaches and cheerleaders attended Monday night’s school board meeting along with hundreds of parents and other boosters of the now-legendary gridiron unit.
   The team was honored at the meeting, at which school board President Lisa Wolff announced that the state Senate and Assembly had jointly passed a formal written resolution honoring the team. A copy of the resolution was given to each member of the team and all the coaches.
   The resolution from the state Legislature, authored by state Sen. Shirley Turner and Reed Gusciora, said the state was “pleased to honor” HoVal’s team, which the document said “played with determiniation and competitive skill.” The names of every player on team are on the resolution, as are the name of all the coaches.
   Four former members of the Hopewell Valley school board, who were on the board when football was brought back to the Valley 10 years ago — the high school program was discontinued in 1932 due to financial pressures — were at the meeting.
   The board members who turned out Monday night were Sally Turner, who was board president when football was brought back, former board vice-president Bill Hills and board members Michael Bruno and Ed Gainsborg. Also attending was Robert Sopko, who was suprintendent of schools here when football got started up again.
   Noting that, counting the band, cheerleaders and the team itself, 200 students were involved with the football program this year. Dr. Sopko congratulated the team and its coaches after saying “the five years I spent in Hopewell Valley were the best years of a 42-year career in education.”
   Like Ms. Wolf and other speakers, he noted that football was brought back to the Valley under a cloud of controversy. The program was started after a referendum seeking for the program was defeated. A local nonprofit, HIKE, then formed and helped finance the program for several years.
   Also honored at the meeting were the high school cheerleaders. As each of them stepped to the podium to shake hands with school officials, they were given a yellow rose by a member of the football team.
   Like Dr. Sopko, Ms. Wolff singled out the team’s head coach, Dave Caldwell, for special praise.
   ”He not only coached a winning team — he always focused on teaching good sportsmanship and developing the character of young men,” she said. “Our football players have been great role models for our community.”
   Parent Ben Davis, whose son Miles Davis is a member of the team, also thanked Coach Caldwell during the meeting. Noting that he and his wife initially were opposed to their son playing football, Mr. Davis said they’ve very glad they let him play.
   ”The more I observed and listened to Coach Caldwell, the more that I said to myself: ‘This is a good man. This is a good coach,’” Mr. Davis said. “We can never thank him and the other coaches enough for all they’ve done for our son.”
   Introduced by Coach Caldwell as “a very special young man,” team member Turner Greunewald, a senior, also spoke the from podium.
   ”There’s no question that Hopewell has become a great football town,” Turner said. “It has truly brought the community together. With this team, I’ve built friendships that will last a lifetime.”
   Saying the team was “a second family” to him, Turner seemed to say it all when he told the crowd that, after evry practice and game, the team voiced two cheers together.
   The cheers were “1-2-3, Hard Work!” and “3-2-1, Family!”