Former manager Carl Relyea will be honored ahead of the Highlands game

A quick glance might have revealed little more than a gruff exterior, an old school coach with an even older style, seemingly still stern and unwavering.

But for those familiar with Carl Relyea, especially those he shared the pitch with, there was so much more.

“He cared about us as people and you respected him so much, you didn’t want to let him down,” said Kevin Rizzo, a former player describing Relyea’s role as that of a father figure. “He taught young people how to be competitors, but he was also a great role model in our lives.”

Relyea spent three decades leading the Highland High School football team, elevating this program and shaping its players, forging a legacy in the process. Along with his success were the stories of his determination and triumphs over adversity. He coached days after being hospitalized with a concussion in 2015. He coached for more than a decade after being diagnosed with Bell’s palsy.

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It won’t be soon forgotten, said Tom Schlappich, and the former football manager will receive his proverbial flowers at a pre-game ceremony on Friday night at the school as part of the Night of the Years celebration. school champions.

Relyea, who led the program from 1986 to 2015, led the Huskies to 146 wins and six Division 9 championships. His teams twice qualified in regional rounds of the state tournament as Highland came out on top in the 1990s as a local power.

He is still sixth on the section’s all-time coaching wins list.

“He left some great shoes to fill,” said Schlappich, who is in his third season as Huskies head coach. “He is loved in the community, even by people who weren’t involved in football.”

Relyea, a Highland resident and longtime physical education teacher in the district, retired in 2016. The 67-year-old returned to the sidelines this fall, joining the Poughkeepsie High School football team as an assistant for one season when his son, Matt, became the head coach there.

Friday’s event will pay tribute to Highland alumni and celebrate its former football players, with the former manager as guest of honour. The ceremony will begin at 6:45 p.m., before the Huskies welcome Burke Catholic.

Highland will also create the Coach Carl Relyea Football Award, which will be given annually to a school or community member who has a positive impact on the football program.

Head coach Carl Relyea, left, watches his Highland High School football team during practice Wednesday.  The Huskies qualified for the Section 9 Class B playoffs in 2013.

Schlappich grew up in Pennsylvania and joined Highland as a boys’ lacrosse coach, crossing paths with Relyea only as a colleague. But, he said, everyone in that athletic department knows the coach’s resume and “a lot of people I know have nothing but fond memories of him.”

The event, Rizzo said, is part of a goal to better connect the team to its history and strengthen “football culture”.

Relyea could not be reached by the Journal for comment before the deadline. Rizzo said he often spoke to his former mentor.

“He was excited when we told him about it,” said Rizzo, an assistant coach who played for Relyea teams in the early 2000s. “He’s flattered by it and definitely feels honored.”

Stephen Haynes: [email protected]; 845-437-4826; Twitter: @StephenHaynes4