East Hampton/Pierson/Bridgehampton/Ross Football Forges Ahead

East Hampton head coach Joe McKee talks to his team this past Saturday. KYRIL BROMLEY

While the 1-4 record may not necessarily indicate it, the shortened 2020 season was a largely successful one for the East Hampton/Pierson football team.

After two years of not having a varsity program, the Bonackers returned to the field — a feat in and of itself — and were in a number of games, managing to win their season finale, 30-0, over Hampton Bays, the program’s first victory in four-and-a-half years.

East Hampton varsity seniors include, back row, from left; A.J. Gomes, John Nill, Stefano Mirfoglia, Melvin Molina, James Midson, and bottom row, from left; Zachary Vaccaro, Michael Hill and John Marin. KYRIL BROMLEY

At the conclusion of the season, though, the program graduated 17 players, a large number for any team, let alone one that was just rebuilt. Head coach Joe McKee knew years ago, when he first started to build up the program, that losing as many players as he did, and with a light senior class returning, that 2021 was going to be “a tough one.”

Whereas a tough one a few years ago more than likely meant McKee wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to field a team, that’s not the case anymore, which is a big difference from years past. While the roster for this season is slim, with about 25 players, the JV numbers are very good, with 35 players, which bodes well for future seasons.

But, Bonac will have to get through this season as best as it can.

“With such a low senior class, it’s going to be a battle, but to be able to put together both a varsity and junior varsity, that’s good news,” McKee said.

Players such as East Hampton’s Kevin Bunce, Topher Cullen, Bryan Pannasch, Sebastian Sanchez, and Sy Webb and Pierson’s Richard Barranco and Hudson Brindle will be tough to replace. Finn Byrnes got some good playing time throughout last season as a sophomore and showed glimpses of just how good he can be, especially in the victory over Hampton Bays, and he’ll be the focus point of the team for the next two seasons. Melvin Molina is the team’s only returning lineman.

East Hampton hosted Greenport for a scrimmage this past Saturday. KYRIL BROMLEY

After Byrnes and Molina, the team is made up largely of newcomers either up from the JV or playing for the first time. Charlie Corwin is up from JV and will be replacing Cullen as the team’s starting quarterback. McKee likes Corwin’s athletic ability — he is a key player on the South Fork boys lacrosse team.

First-year player Will Darrell looked strong in preseason, McKee said, at the tight end and inside linebacker positions. Aryan Chugh is returning to the sport after not having played since junior high. He’ll be a wide receiver/defensive back. And Mike Moret is returning although he’ll miss the season opener against Hampton Bays this Saturday rehabbing from an injury.

East Hampton/Pierson is also welcoming both the Ross School and Bridgehampton players back into the fold. Ross had always been a part of the equation with East Hampton returning to varsity, but hadn’t sent players until this season. Augustus Gomes headlines one of a handful of players coming over from the East Hampton-based private school.

Very recent news came down that Southampton will not field either a varsity or JV football program this season, and therefore Bridgehampton has opted to send its players back to East Hampton, as it had done in the past before sending them to Southampton the past few seasons. McKee said there are no Bridgehampton student-athletes currently on the varsity squad, but there are on JV and junior high.

Regardless of adding Bridgehampton or not, McKee said that East Hampton would have had to make the move up to Division III next season with its two-year agreement with Section XI of playing down in Division IV expiring after this season.

McKee also admitted that a number of players are ineligible for this weekend’s season opener due to not having enough practices. He said with the season starting as early as it does now, it doesn’t bode well with as many players as he has who are finishing their summer jobs. Still, he expects his team to be competitive against its season-opening opponent, Hampton Bays, which it will host this Saturday, September 11, at 2 p.m. McKee expects most, if not all, of his players to be eligible the following week when it plays at Center Moriches September 17.