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By Brian Fees
Sports Editor
The crowd was pouring into the stadium. The countdown clock was reading 25 minutes until kickoff, and Mike D’Aloisio was back on a football field.

A local legend when it comes to high school football, D’Aloisio retired as Notre Dame football coach in January of 2020 and announced he had been diagnosed with ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

On Friday night Coach D was back on the sidelines, talking to the Horseheads players before their win over Johnson City as they honored and recognized him before the game. And, he’ll return to the sidelines for a second straight week this Friday when Notre Dame honors him and two of his championship teams.

The Crusaders will celebrate coach D’Aloisio and the 1990 and 2018 championship football teams prior to the coin toss at the Homecoming game against Unadilla Valley on Friday.

“It’s awesome,” Notre Dame coach Mike Johnston Sr. said of having his long-time friend back at Notre Dame. “I’m happy for our program he’s able to come back and not only are they recognizing him, but two of his championship teams, the 1990 team and the 2018 eight-man team.

“They (the players) will be excited for sure. They can’t wait to see him, he’s such an inspiration to everyone.”

Coach D is the winningest coach in Notre Dame history, amassing 244 wins and a .703 winning percentage over 38 seasons on the sidelines.

For Horseheads coach Kevin Hillman it meant a lot to have Coach D there on Friday.

“It was awesome,” Hillman said. “Coach D has meant so much to the community on and off the field. To have him there talking to the kids meant the world. He has so much to share and I’m just thankful we had the opportunity to have him talk to the kids.”

The Horseheads players were all ears, listening intently and then going up after to greet the legendary coach.

“They loved having him there and it was great for us coaches to see Coach D and what he does best.”

As he talked to the kids, the coaches, and media, you could see the smile grow and Coach D was back where he belonged on a football sideline.

“Amazing,” Hillman said. “And, I think you could tell he had a little extra pep in his step being there. He’s a natural teacher and motivator and it was great to see him in his element making a positive impact on young athletes.”

Friday was a special moment for everyone at Horseheads.

“We pretty much all have a tie to him in some way or another so it definitely made it special,” Hillman said. “Got to give a lot of credit to coach (John) Malnoske. He was on staff with Coach D years back and came up with the idea to have him come. I thought it was a no brainer. It was just so special to have him there. It’s a moment I think myself and the rest of the coaches will cherish and never forget.”

For Johnston Sr. it’s exciting just to think about having Coach D back on the field at Notre Dame.

“I have got chills right now just thinking about it, it’s just the way it should be,” Johnston Sr. said. “I’m excited for him for sure. I’m sure he’s looking forward to coming back and seeing all of his guys, because there are a lot of them coming back from his 90 team, that’s 30 years ago.”

For today’s Notre Dame players they will get a chance to see the school’s winningest coach ever and talk to him, and many of the players who helped build the history of the program over the years.

“Hopefully they will be able to inspire our guys this year,” Johnston Sr. said.

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