Sports is a small community, especially when it comes to football in a conference such as the Cape-Atlantic League.
CAL coaches and players vow to rally around the Mainland program, which was devastated Saturday when four players were killed in an accident on the Garden State Parkway.
"Our heart is hurting for them," said Egg Harbor Township coach Tony DeRosa, whose team plays an annual Thanksgiving Day game against Mainland. "It's every coach's worst nightmare, every parent's worst nightmare, every teammate's worst nightmare.
"We're going to be here for them. We're going to do whatever we can."
Holy Spirit coach Chalie Roman was at a loss for words to describe his reaction to the news.
"There are no words for it," Roman said. "It's just hard to believe. Everybody is just walking around numb."
Holy Spirit senior linebacker Ethan Gambale said several of his teammates were supposed to hang out with some of the Mainland players, including those who were killed, on Saturday night.
"I guess it shows you can't take life for granted," Gambale said. "Every day is not promised to you. It's going to be so strange when we play those guys because those kids are not going to be there.
"We're going to dedicate our season to those kids."
Absegami coach Dennis Scuderi Jr. said he lives in Somers Point, one of Mainland's sending districts. He said there are so many ties between the alumni, faculty and student populations in Cape-Atlantic League that a tragedy such as this one has a terrible impact on other schools and athletic programs.
"It hits close to home," Scuderi Jr. said. "Our heart goes out to the families and everybody at Mainland."
DeRosa expressed his concern for Mainland coach Bob Coffey.
"You don't find out how to deal with something like this in a coach's handbook," DeRosa said. "There's no manuel. There's no clinic you can attend.
"It's human nature. They need to mourn. They need to find a way to get through this and the way I know the Cape-Atlantic League everybody in this league is going to be there to help them get through it in anyway that we can."
-- Phil Anastasia