Howard High School lost an alumnus over the weekend.
“Joey Bonavitacola, a graduate of the class of 2012, died unexpectedly on Sunday,” wrote Gina Massella, principal of Howard High School, in an email to families Monday.
The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said that the cause and manner of Bonavitacola's death were still being investigated Tuesday. The Howard County Police Department said there was nothing to indicate it was criminal in nature.
A crisis intervention team and support staff were available at Howard High School to help people cope, said Massella.
Bonavitacola, from Elkridge, had been a running back for the Howard Lions before graduating.
Lions football coach Bruce Strunk said of Bonavitacola: "...no one had the kind of heart that he did on the field," reported the Howard County Times, which described the 18-year-old player from Elkridge as "popular" and a "star."
The Lions' defensive coordinator Doug Caplan told Ellicott City Patch that Bonavitacola was "quick" after the player, a junior at the time, had a breakout game with two touchdowns, 16 carries and 209 yards rushing against Oakland Mills in fall 2010.
His family was also involved in the sport; Bonavitacola's father, Andy, helped found the Elkridge Hurricanes football league, and his older brother A.J. is on the roster as a running back for Shepherd University in West Virginia.
In his last season with the Lions, Joey Bonavitacola reportedly rushed for 700 yards and made 10 touchdowns; he was also named to the second all-county team, according to the Howard County Times.
The Howard High football team posted on its Facebook page that members were collectively mourning, "talking and coping about this tragic situation."
Viewing will be from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 27, at Gary L. Kaufman Funeral Home at Meadowridge Memorial Park in Elkridge.
St. Augustine Church in Elkridge is hosting a funeral mass on Friday, Sept. 28, at 10 a.m., followed by a luncheon.
In lieu of flowers, the familiy prefers donations to these organizations:
- Elkridge Hurricanes
c/o Mike Lettieri
2712 Water Wheel Court
Ellicott City, MD 21043
- Lions Pride Inc.
c/o Howard High School Football Program
8700 Old Annapolis Road
Ellicott City, MD 21043
Doctor Hawes @HawestinPowers
Prayers for the Bonavitacola family. Joey's personality reflected them. They always would go out of their way to say something kind.
Jasmine Williams @jwilly05
RIP Joey Bonavitacola ♥ prayers go out to the family.
Jake Crisco @cookinwitCrisco
Wish i couldve seen joey one more time RIP #6