Johnston Youth Football League holds end-of-season banquet

Johnston Sun Rise ·

They honored outgoing Vice President Phil Morin with the special Service Award.

They also paid tribute to Matt Clements, a man people will tell you is a volunteer extraordinaire.

They also gave President Gary Salzillo a standing ovation that created tears of joy – and appreciation – from the surprised youth football leader.

But Saturday’s Johnston Youth Football & Cheerleading Banquet was all about the 156 boys – and 100 girls – who so proudly enjoyed highly-successful seasons on the Blackstone Valley Division’s American Youth Football Association.

Evidence that the Johnston Youth Football & Cheerleading organization is all about providing a competitive program for the town’s young boys and girls was written all over the spacious banquet facility inside famed Wright’s Farm Saturday.

There were some three dozen raffle prizes that adult volunteers secured to help make the annual event an overwhelming success. In fact, from the time Co-Football Commissioner John Paris announced that Allison Benoit was the day’s first raffle winner, a number of kids went home with specially-wrapped gift baskets and other prizes.

“I think there are as many trophies on those tables as there are French fries being served with the chicken dinner,” a man mused while applauding the tireless group of adults who make up the Johnston Youth Football League’s officers and Board of Directors. “This is the way it’s supposed to be…for he kids!”

With Salzillo at the helm, people will tell you it wouldn’t be any other way.

“Gary loves making people of all ages happy,” Clements, the program’s man for all seasons and reasons, wanted it known. “He loves seeing kids smile and have fun.”

During Salzillo’s tenure, the all-adult leadership has provided a model-like program that provides each youth football player with the safest possible equipment and best uniforms money can buy. He also insists on a pressure-free philosophy in hopes of building an annual feeder system for Johnston High School’s football Panthers.

His coaches spend hours and hours of their time, volunteering to help each and every Panther to learn the fundamentals of the game and participating in a healthy sports environment.

Likewise, Salzillo – who gets plenty of help from his wonderful wife Toni-Ann Salzillo – feels the same way about the group’s highly-successful cheerleading program that comes under the watchful and caring eyes of Co-Commissioners Mell Melise and Julie Guamiero.

“We’re like a family,” Clements, who does everything from keep stats to coach and more, offered. “Everyone is always on the same page and always working for the betterment of our players and cheerleaders.”

Perhaps that’s why four Johnston squads captured championships during the 2017 season.

Heading the list was Johnston’s Division 14 cheerleading squad that won the prestigious AYF State Championship. The Division 10 cheerleaders also landed atop all other teams to bring home that group’s state crown.

Two Johnston football teams also landed atop their respective AYF Divisions. Salzillo’s 12-U gridders enjoyed a nearly unbeaten season and won their regular season championship before losing the Super Bowl to the arch-rival Providence 49ers.

There’s even talent at Johnston’s 8-U level, which saw the Panthers stake claim to the regular season division crown.

“We’re already looking forward to next season,” Salzillo noted. “We want to get better and better every year.”

The group charged with operating a successful program, which offers youth football from the Flag Divisions to various age breakdowns of 8-U, 9-U, 10-U, 12-U and 14-U – and cheerleaders in those age groups, includes Salzillo, president; Clements, vice president; Toni-Ann Salzillo, treasurer; Sherry Lyons, secretary; and football commissioners Ed Benoit and John Paris and cheer commissioners Mell Melise and Julie Guamiero.

Sean Senno serves as equipment manager, Tara Abbruzzi is Director of Fundraising and Board of Trustees at Large are: Brian Iafrate, Phil Morin, Anthony Abbruzzi, Ron Dellamorte, Emelio Placella, Josh Small and Peter Marchesseault.