The more things change, the more they stay the same.
That was the overall theme of Monday’s season-opening 2-0 victory for host East Hampton over Pierson. The two teams have made it a habit of playing each other in non-league contests to start the “fall” season, which is occurring this spring with an abbreviated schedule due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bonackers typically win the contest over its much smaller neighbors, based solely on enrollment numbers, but this year’s contest — the first for both teams in almost a year and a half — was a much tighter affair than the one played in 2019, when East Hampton won, 7-0.
East Hampton scored its first goal of the season in the 20th minute of Monday’s game when sophomore Eric Armijos went in basically one-on-one with Pierson senior goalie Nick Collage. Armijos rocketed a shot passed Collage that ricocheted from the far post to the inside post and out to a wide open Michael Ortiz. The senior easily tapped the ball in for the score.
Armijos eventually scored his first varsity goal with just over five minutes remaining in the game to make the final tally, 2-0. Christopher Barahona didn’t face too much action in goal for East Hampton but was credited with the shut out.
Pierson coach Marc Schimmer, who is temporarily filling in for longtime varsity head coach Peter Solow, said based on the fact that it was a much tighter game this time around, means much progress has been made. Schimmer noted that Solow has been teaching remotely due to the ongoing pandemic, but plans to be back on the sidelines within the next week or two, in which case Shimmer will slide back down to his assistant varsity and junior varsity head coach roles.
“To be down 1-0 at halftime, 2-0 at the end of the game, yeah, we’ve made a lot of progress as a team,” he said. “I’m really positive about what happened out here. We didn’t have nearly as many chances as they did to score, but we did create some. We did have the ball in their half — it wasn’t like we were on our heels the whole time — so I’m pretty happy with what I saw.”
Collage was tested early and often, with East Hampton gaining a number of corner kicks in the first half, but he was able to get in front of most shots with 10 saves on the day. Schimmer noted that Collage stepped forward to play goalie last season, even though it wasn’t his usual position, and he’s improved since.
East Hampton head coach Don McGovern, who is a teacher within the Sag Harbor School District, liked what he saw overall from his Bonac players on Monday. He would have liked to have see them capitalize on more of their opportunities, but it was a good first test.
Robert Velez, one of 19 seniors for East Hampton this season, agreed with his coach.
“I thought it was a solid performance overall,” he said. “A little underwhelming on the attack, but building up, it looked pretty good for not playing for a few months together. And on the defensive end, we looked pretty solid.
“I think we feel pretty strong because the whole starting 11 is essentially returning,” Velez added. “So I think we feel pretty good and we’re hoping for a really good season.”
McGovern said it was nice just to be out on the field playing after spending much of the fall wondering if a season was ever going to take place. And while the “fall” season is happening, things are still very much far from normal, such as the regular season taking place within a span of basically a month.
“We just want to keep everyone healthy, keep everyone together,” McGovern said. “Obviously, you want to return to the playoffs, but I think with the way everything is so tight, that you have to really manage the players a little bit differently because they’re going to have things. It’s cold, as opposed to playing in September when its still sort of warm, so all of those things come into play that don’t typically happen in a ‘fall’ season. In an early spring season, it changes how you do those things. And then you put into the challenges of playing with a mask, players communicating, how they’re doing that, all those things are different things. But on a positive note, we’re out here, we’re doing it.”
With the condensed schedule, all teams are basically playing every other day, with some extra time off on the weekends. Schedules for both teams can be found at sectionxi.org.