If New York state had established a high school football state championship tournament prior to 1993, there seems little doubt the 1970 Mynderse Academy football team would have extra hardware in their trophy case.

The Blue Devils went undefeated, posting an 8-0 record. Mynderse won five games by over 20 points, including a 44-8 thrashing of an unbeaten, defending champion Waterloo squad. Mynderse amassed a staggering 506 yards in total offense that game.

Head coach George Davis led the Hall of Fame-inducted 1970 Blue Devils to that unforgettable season. One of his assistants, Vince Caraccilo, is the only living member of that coaching staff.

Caraccilo turned 90 on Thanksgiving Day, but spent his birthday and holiday in Huntington Living Center in Waterloo — by himself, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, he wasn’t alone.

Despite the physical isolation, family, friends, and former players made the extraordinary effort to include their former coach in their holiday plans and made sure Caraccilo had a special birthday and holiday.

Former Mynderse quarterback and defensive back Larry Giusti orchestrated a 1970s-esque team effort, coaxing several players from the team to send their former coach well-wishes, cards and flowers for Coach C’s 90th.

“A couple years ago, we had a (Mynderse Athletic) Hall of Fame Award that our football team received,” Giusti said. “Coach C was one of our coaches, so we had a chance to spend some time with him a couple years ago. Then we learned that his 90th birthday was coming up on Thanksgiving, so I just reached out to our teammates, and then, beyond that, family and friends sent deliveries ... there were over 50 birthday cards that he received.”

In addition, roughly 15-20 of Caraccilo’s family and friends gathered outside Huntington to wish him a happy birthday and a happy Thanksgiving.

It’s little surprise he has such a strong support system.

“It’s the person that he is,” Giusti said about his former coach. “Very calm, very kind person … I think he’s a great mentor, someone you want to emulate.”

Fifty years after the undefeated season, the Blue Devils came together in a brief amount of time to honor their former coach.

“About a minute,” Giusti said with a laugh when asked how long it took to organize the effort. “As soon as I sent out a note, everybody responded very quickly.

Not only did Coach C bring out the best in the players on the football field, he brought out the best of them in life — and Giusti relayed a story about one of his teammates to underscore that point.

“Frank Miller said that he did his internship as a teacher under Coach,” Giusti said. “That’s what motivated him to become a teacher. Forty years later, Frank is retiring. He got his encouragement from Coach.”

It’s typical on Thanksgiving to go around the dinner table and list those things for which everyone is thankful. Fifty years after an undefeated season, plenty of people remain thankful for Vince Caraccilo.

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