Hickory High football coach Frank Antuono.

By Joe Pinchot

Herald Staff Writer

Reacting to criticism of the Hickory High School football program on radio talk shows, Hermitage School Board member Dr. Morren J. Greenburg offered support for the staff led by first-year head coach Frank Antuono.

Superintendent Karen A. Ionta and other school board members also expressed confidence in Antuono and his assistants, despite a 2-8 record.

Referring to the lessons learned in competition beyond wins and losses, Greenburg noted the willingness of Hickory coaches and players to allow Freedom High School senior John Challis, who is dying of cancer, to play three downs in the season-ending Nov. 1 game. Following Challis’ on-field stint — his first action in three years — the Hornets rallied around him, offering encouragement and pledging prayers.

“I think that what our athletes and coaches did that night for that boy was tremendous,” Greenburg said Monday. “When I talk about it, I start to cry.”

Board member Jane Levine Matusick said the armchair quarterbacks airing their grievances on the radio don’t seem to realize that it takes time to build a winning program.

“I happen to think we have the right staff to do that,” she said.

Others agreed.

“I think he did a great job this year,” Mrs. Ionta said.

Board member Laurie Ann Biblis said the team faced a tough schedule.

“Every team that we played was ranked somewhere in the state this year,” she said.

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