Gateway football team celebrates memorable season with championship rings
By: Michael Love
Sunday, February 4, 2018 | 9:57 PM
A couple of weeks after the Gateway football team concluded its 2017 football season in the PIAA 5A state championship game, a plan began to circulate about commemorating the campaign with the purchase of rings.
It immediately was known the endeavor would come at a steep cost to the program for the nearly 60 players, coaches, trainers and managers.
Gators coach Don Holl said he and a couple of others in the program reached out to Gateway alum and former Gators football player Tony Petrocelli for ideas on how to raise money.
“We had an initital meeting right before Christmas,” Holl said. “We wondered if Tony could contact a few people, maybe some football alumni, to see if they could help. We thought maybe they could sponsor a ring for a player, and if 10 or 15 did that, the total cost would be lower. Then we could fundraise from there.”
Holl said another option discussed was any money raised could be applied across the board so each would be cheaper.
When the calendar turned to the new year, Holl said he got some exciting news.
An email was well received by Gateway alumni, who pledged about $13,000 for the purchase of rings. Holl said some helped pay for more than one ring. Others sent in a flat donation.
“Petrocelli had been giving me updates on how amazing it was going,” Holl said. “The boosters were floored.”
Every ring was paid for in full.
“This is an example of what a great extended family we have at Gateway, not just football, but everybody,” Holl said. “I was overwhelmed with how generous everybody was who helped buy the rings. You could tell how excited so many people were about us bringing home a championship.”
The order for the rings was placed last week. Each ring has the words ‘WPIAL Champions' on the top with the Gateway ‘G' in the middle. The sides have additional items specific to the ring's recipient.
For example, the players' rings will have the team slogan ‘One' along with a name, number and position.
Holl said he got emotional when he found out the family of legendary Gateway football coach Walter “Pete” Antimarino wished to purchase his ring.
“I got mine engraved with a message in honor of coach Antimarino,” he said.
Gateway dedicated the 2017 season, which included the program's first WPIAL championship since 1986, to Antimarino, who died in May at age 91.
Antimarino served as coach at Gateway from 1958 to 1989 and guided the program to 236 victories and five WPIAL championships.
Gateway finished the season 14-2, defeated Penn-Trafford for the WPIAL title at Heinz Field and beat Hollidaysburg and Manheim Central in the PIAA playoffs before falling to Archbishop Wood in the state-title game in Hershey.
“There were so many great moments and memories,” Holl said. “We always talked to the guys about going out each game and making new memories that will last a lifetime.”