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Hills East Hosts Ray Enners Day Celebration

Honors Enners, an American hero, and James Metzger, the school's first Enners Award winner.

Lacrosse fans and athletes gathered at Half Hollow Hills East Saturday for the annual Ray Enners Day celebration, where Hills alum James Metzger was honored.

Metzger, who was Hills’ first Enners Award winner in 1977 as Suffolk County’s top lacrosse player, spoke to the crowd about his journey and the meaning of Enners in his life after accepting a plaque from Hills board trustee Eric Geringswald.

“He gave his life for our country,” said Metzger of Enners, a Hills alum who died bravely on Sept. 18, 1968 while saving another solider, who ironically hails from Long Island, during the Vietnam War. “He’s an American hero and one of my heroes.”

Each year the Hills East and West boys lacrosse teams scrimmage one another to honor Enners, who at 22-years old made the ultimate sacrifice.

Nicknamed "The Machine" by teammates, Enners captained the football, basketball and lacrosse teams at Hills. He was an All-County, All-Long Island and Honorable Mention All-America selection his senior year. Enners was a five-year varsity player and played in the first five Suffolk County championship games before going to West Point and having an equally impressive collegiate career.

Bill Martens, his former football and lacrosse coach, who was a legend at Hills from 1959-1973, was on-hand Saturday to remember his fallen athlete. For years he would speak about Enners when giving out the lacrosse award, but still has difficulty talking about a person who meant so much to him, the community and the country.

“When I got the call telling me he had been killed, it was like my son was killed,” Martens recalled.

Metzger remembers the day nearly 35 years ago when his coach Lou DiBlasi told him he won the Enners Award and was named a high school All-American in the same day.

“I still remember the day as if it were yesterday,” he said. “I still remember where I was standing and where my coach was standing. It was one of the most special days of my life and as special as that was 35 years ago, it’s just as special today.”

At Hills East, Metzger set school records for points in a season and assists in a game, season and career and was the only high school athlete selected to both the North-South All-Star football and lacrosse games as a senior.

On the football field, he started every game in his three-year varsity career and led his team in scoring. Metzger attended the Naval Academy Prep School and led the lacrosse team in goals, assists and points. Focusing solely on lacrosse, Metzger decided to come back to Long Island to attend Hofstra University in 1979 and 1980, where he again led the team in assists each of those seasons.

Today, Metzger is the chairman and CEO of The Whitmore Group, a leading insurance brokerage firm on Long Island, and is a generous philanthropist to many organizations and institutions in the area. He also finds time to root for his nephews Rob Pannell, who plays at Cornell, and James Pannell, a Virginia recruit at Smithtown West.

“It’s nice to see him honored, but more importantly it’s nice to see him turn out to be the kind of man that he is,” DiBlasi said. “He’s a tremendous person. He was a great kid and a great athlete, but he’s even better as a human being. I’m proud of that.”

Roger C. Stehlin May 06, 2011 at 01:58 PM
You have devoloped many great qualities over the years . You have a great allegience to your friends and team mates , a great respect for your opponents , admiration for your coaches , and you have a great sense of history and perspective on sports and on life . You appreciate the things that have happened in your life and you learned well from those experiences . You love and take care of your family , and take great pride in them as well . You appreciate the people who have helped shape your life . With regard to sports , you remember and revere the athletes that came before you , you appreciate your contemporaries , and as important , you admire the players who came along after your sports career had ended . Not only do you appreciate those people , but you promote them , you honor them , you raise them up , and you thank them . You offer credit , where credit is due , and you make sure those who deserve recognition get it . You are not afraid of giving praise to others , and that is the sign of a good man with a BIG Heart . You are an astute evaluator of a mans character , and as you know, sports tend to bring ones character [ good or bad ] to the forefront .
Roger C. Stehlin May 06, 2011 at 01:59 PM
[ cont . ]Ray Enners was a American hero who gave his life for his country and for what he believed in, at much to young an age . In the Ray Enners tradition , to your great credit , you have chosen a similar path in life . You give of yourself in the service of others . You have taken the opportunity to give to others with less , and you are making a difference in helping people of all persuations live a better life through your continued philanthropy . I consider you a great friend and an HHH brother ! The Ray Enners Award was well deserved then and even more so today ! Thanks for all you do Jim .. Peace ! sincerely , Roger Stehlin HHHHS 1972
Harry Royle May 06, 2011 at 07:34 PM
Great job on keeping the focus of the day on Ray.....Why do the Handsome guys always stand in the middle of the pictures? ....and Why is Coach Diblasi trying to squeeze into the middle????.....Congratulations.... Harry Royle
james metzger May 07, 2011 at 03:08 AM
Roger, Thank you for the time you invested in the comments, and thank you for all the kind words and support. We all had a special day together: coaches,former players,high school players,youth league players and a fallen military hero in the spirit of Raymond Enners. As I stated in my speech,that you were such an outstanding athlete -football/wrestling -that notwithstanding you didnt play high school lacrosse, you went on to become a North-South College All-Star and a 50 point single season scorer. Thanks again. Jim
james metzger May 07, 2011 at 11:56 AM
Coach Royle Very, very funny Mr.Royle - you made me laugh when I read your remarks. Nice to hear from you and thanks for taking the time to comment. A lot of the guys from Hofstra ask if I speak to you,but I dont think I've seen you since you were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Hope you visit us once in a while,and I hope your enjoying your golf game. Jim

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