The smoke smell hits you in the face.
The facemasks staring up at you from the black ash-mud, like comedy/tragedy of Greek drama, hit you in the gut.
And some jerk ate the brownie.
“It was kind of funny. There was a brownie in a plastic Tupperware container that’s been there since August . . . Somebody ate it,” Holy Trinity football coach John Barber said, with half of a rueful chuckle.
“But basically everything’s ruined.”
Not everything. Not even close. And the players will be on the field for the biggest game of their lives today.
Two nights ago, somebody trashed the fieldhouse/locker room behind Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons High School, where the combined program of kids from Gibbons and Catholic Central in Troy gathered everyday to get ready for practice. Then these soulless turd-for-brains torched it.
Helmets, pads, cleats . . . gone.
Lockers, hand-built by Barber and his assistant coaches . . . charred junk now.
It’s a black, smelly, sodden mess in there, holes punched through the roof and insulation dangling in twisted strips.
But the empty husk of the fieldhouse stood in stark contrast to the big equipment shed attached to the high school building as it filled up on Friday afternoon. That’s where the school was flooded with donations made by everyone from random strangers to schools from every corner of Section II, including Hoosic Valley, which offered shoes.
[Football team gets outpouring of help after field house fire]
That’s who the Holy Trinity Pride will travel to play at 1:30 this afternoon in the Class C quarterfinals.
Most importantly, University at Albany head coach Greg Gattuso was granted a waiver from the NCAA to give the Pride some of the Great Danes’ extra road uniforms.
Holy Trinity, whose colors are burgundy-and-gold, will have white jerseys, purple pants and white logo-less helmets donated by Stadium System, whose reps drove an hour and a half from Connecticut to deliver them, along with “Holy Trinity Strong” T-shirts they hustled together at the last minute.
It wasn’t exactly Christmas, but much of the Grinch-like behavior performed in the fieldhouse in the early hours of Friday morning was undone by the acts of generosity in the early hours of Friday afternoon.
“My locker is completely ashes,” junior linebacker/running back Cameron Kiser said. “It makes you appreciate what you had more. I never really appreciated the small things.
“We’re very grateful. Honestly, I didn’t even know if we’d be able to play. For the community coming together and helping us out in a time of need is just amazing.”
“It was crazy to see everyone down like that. Everything was burned,” said senior Stefano Petralia, an exchange student from Belgium. “My locker was just gone. It was just all gone.
“But it’s one big family. I was really surprised. I didn’t know that so many people cared.”
This football team has been a collection of parts from the beginning, in 2013, when Barber and assistant Willie Headen oversaw the creation of Holy Trinity with 21 kids from Gibbons and Saratoga Central Catholic.
Catholic Central joined in 2014, then the Spa Catholic supply ran out, so now it’s 46 kids from the Schenectady school and the Troy school 17 miles away.
Their stuff was in that fieldhouse, too.
“These kids lost everything they had,” Catholic Central athletic director Kevin Galuski said. “They’re upset. I met with them at 9 this morning and we told them, ‘Listen, there’s times when you’re going to face adversity, especially in football, and life. But you have to remember, you’ve never been here. You’re in the playoffs, let’s enjoy it and focus on what the coach wants.’
“ ‘Don’t worry about what color helmet or what jersey you’re wearing, just get ready for the game.’ ”
With a playoff game looming the next day, you can’t just go to the store and replace this stuff, as Galuski said. The wide variety of equipment necessary to field a football team is not only expensive, it’s deeply personal. That helmet has to fit. Those pads and shoes have to be comfortable.
Lynn Maloney, the mother of star lineman Liam Maloney, told our Jim Schiltz that she “went in and grabbed his facemask. That’s all that was left. Just the mask.”
“Disbelief. When you hear the news, you kind of ask yourself where is that person at, to do something like that?,” Barber said, his voice cracking. “We try to teach the kids about responsibility, doing the right thing, taking care of each other, having each other’s back.
“It’s been difficult. Then you see this going on, and my heart feels a lot better.”
“This,” as Barber looked around him, was the Stadium System van arriving with helmets and mouth guards.
It was the fresh UAlbany unis laid out on a long table.
It was doughnuts and pizza, cash to “just go spend at Dick’s,” two pairs of cleats a woman walked up with, an equipment tree of shoulder pads with “SHS” — Schenectady High School — written in marker on athletic tape.
It’s a benefit breakfast Katie O’Byrne’s restaurant will hold for the team at 9 Sunday morning in conjunction with the 9:30 a.m. New York Giants broadcast from London.
“I broke down and started crying [Friday morning],” Cameron Kiser said. “It’s been so many memories in that fieldhouse. You can replace equipment, but we’ll never be able to replace the memories and everything else that’s in there.
“This is the biggest game of my life. It won’t really change anything. Just more intensity. A little bit of anger in it. But we’ll be alright.”
“One-thirty on Saturday, we’re going to be there,” coach Barber said.
Kiser took off his black-rimmed eyeglasses and tried on a new helmet. It didn’t seem to quite fit, but the grimace of determination behind the facemask said they’d make it work.