BUENA VISTA TOWNSHIP — Much of the talk leading up to Friday night’s season opener at St. Augustine Prep focused on new football coach Mark Reardon.
The Margate resident and former defensive coordinator at Villanova University, however, was eager to talk about someone else in attendance.
Prep senior baseball player Matt Piratsky watched as the Hermits ushered in the Reardon era with a 43-8 win against Middle Township in a Cape-Atlantic League National Conference game.
Piratsky, an 18-year-old Galloway Township resident, was diagnosed on June 14 with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a form of cancer most often found in children.
Friday night was called HermitFest and acted as a fundraiser for Piratsky’s treatment costs as well as raise awareness.
Prep athletic director Dennis Foreman said that 93 percent of the student body purchased tickets for Friday’s game and almost every one of them wore baby blue T-shirts with “Marrow for Matt” emblazoned across the back.
“That is a million times more important than any football game that I’ll ever coach and that these kids will ever play in,” Reardon said. “Matt is an unbelievable human being. He hit a bump in the road in life and we have to be there to support him. There is no football game even close to as important as that. This was outstanding.”
Piratsky’s classmates and friends spent all day Thursday flooding Twitter with the hashtag “Marrow for Matt.”
At one point early Thursday evening, “Marrow for Matt” was trending on Twitter directly below comedian Kevin Hart and above Katy Perry.
“That gave me strength,” said Piratsky, who went through a chemotherapy session Friday morning before going to the game. “I said I had to be there (Friday). I’ve got to get the treatment and get to the game to show everybody that I’m doing fine and with all the help I’m going to be good.
“If they told me I was going into the hospital today, I would have told them I’d be there at roughly 9:30 p.m. (after the game).”
Piratsky liked what he saw on the field. Calvin Cass rushed for 153 yards on 29 carries and two touchdowns and caught a 29-yard touchdown pass on a key fourth-down conversion in the third quarter.
“I like being that type of workhorse back because I know what the team needs and I feel like I prepared all summer to do that,” Cass said. “I’m just doing what the coach asks me to do.”
Senior quarterback Alex Hughes threw a 54-yard touchdown to Andrew Nelson on his first career throw. Hughes finished with 255 yards passing and two touchdowns. Hughes’ favorite target was Austin Francisco, who finished with eight catches for 134 yards.
The Hermits even gave Reardon a Gatorade bath following the game.
“I think this was a great way to debut coach,” Cass said. “It was great to start off on this foot. Hopefully we can take this momentum and win more games.”
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