Photos and video by Larry Bennet
It was the end of an era at Westlake High School Thursday afternoon.
Westlake’s No. 1 Fan, Chad Dilillo, was given the school’s traditional State Sendoff as he prepared to leave for the next chapter in his life. After a trip to Florida where his family has a home, he will begin a job with Bridges, according to athletic director Tony Cippolone in a press release.
In honor of Chad’s departure, the school conducted a State Sendoff, a longtime Westlake tradition reserved for a team or individual athlete who qualifies for an OHSAA championship. The marching band and the cheerleaders lead the honorees throughout every hallway in the high school, and all the students line the halls and cheer for them as they pass.
“Chad has been at Westlake High School since 2006 and has been a fixture at athletic events,” Cippolone said. “He has led out the football and basketball teams almost every game and leads the cheers frequently. He has been known to even lead the cheers for opposing teams and the students at Westlake High School.
“His support has meant a lot to the athletes and coaches at Westlake High School and he has attended more athletic events than any other person with a season pass in the last two years,” he added.
Here are some quotes from the Westlake coaching staff about Chad:
“Since the day Chad walked into Westlake High School, he has been our number one fan,” said Scott Jones, the girls head soccer coach. “His support and enthusiasm has been a big part of why our athletic teams have been successful. We will definitely miss him.”
Said head boys basketball coach Shawn Hood: “Before I took over as basketball coach, I had come to many games as a spectator. Once I became the coach, there were many things I was uncertain about, except wanting Chad to be a major part of our program. I wanted Chad to be the face of our basketball spirit.
“I look forward to seeing Chad every morning when I enter the high school. I'll miss him in the morning and leading the boys out at our games, he said”
“Chad was our batboy for eight years and loved to be around baseball,” said former head baseball coach Jeff Short. “He even taught me a few things about having passion for something! He truly is Westlake’s number one fan.
“I am happy he was able to share in the run to the state championship last season. Those memories will stay with him forever. He will always be part of the Westlake High School family. I wish him the best as he begins a new chapter in his life,” Short said.
Westlake’s new baseball coach, Brendan Zepp, also had kind words for Chad.
“Chad has been an integral part of our baseball program for the past several years,” Zepp said. “Not only has he been our batboy, but he also has been our biggest cheerleader off the field. You can often see Chad out in the stands during the games getting the fans fired up for a rally.
“No matter the score, Chad always feels like the Demons still have a chance. He will be sorely missed in the dugout this Spring,” he added.
“Chad has taught all of us more then we could have ever taught him,” said Art Daniels, assistant girls basketball coach and longtime teacher at the high school.
“Chad has been our Number 1 Fan for many years and will always be our number one fan!” chimed in head wrestling coach Mike Antonyzyn.
Tom Shiban, the school’s head softball coach: “Chad’s smile and friendly personality will certainly be missed in the hallways at Westlake High School, but I’m sure we’ll continue to see his unbridled enthusiasm and unmatched school spirit at future Demon sporting events.
“He truly exemplifies Demon Pride!” Shiban added.
“Chad is the ultimate Demon,” Cippolone said. “His enthusiasm and love for any sport is unmatched. Demon Pride is alive and well in the form of Chad.”
Westlake superintendent Dr. Daniel Keenan wished the best for Chad in his future endeavors and said his school spirit will remain a fixture at Westlake.
“Chad Dilillo exemplifies Demon Pride and true sportsmanship,” Keenan said. “We are grateful for the enthusiastic support he always has provided for all of our student-athletes and the leadership role he has always taken in seeing the crowd is involved in every game.
“While Chad’s departure means he won’t physically be in the building every day, he will ALWAYS be a part of Westlake High School,” he added.