By Brett Mauser
Turnovers can greatly improve a team’s chance to win, but when they aren’t turned into points, they are almost rendered moot. The Southampton football team on Thursday night failed to capitalize on the wealth of opportunities its defense created, and instead dropped a 14-7 decision to rival Hampton Bays.
The victory marked the Baymen’s fifth straight in the series and meant the Mayor’s Cup will stay on their sidelines for at least another year.
“Just like the first week [in a 21-14 loss to Mercy], it was a very close game where we were a touchdown away,” said Southampton head coach Bruce Muro, whose team features players from Pierson and Bridgehampton. “It came down to the end, but they made the plays when it counted.”
The Mariner defense did its job, and yet another stop on third down forced a Baymen punt that gave the offense one more shot with 1:55 remaining in the game. It looked like Southampton would even the score when Mariner quarterback Shawn Stelling found a streaking Sincere Faggins across the middle for a 30-plus yard gain to the Hampton Bays 46. However, a sack and two incompletions left Southampton with a fourth-and-15 at its own 49. Stelling’s final attempt sailed high, ending the Mariners’ threat and dropping them to 1-3 on the season.
Stelling was under siege all night with the Baymen’s defense having its way with the Southampton offensive line.
“We had a hard time blocking them,” Muro said. “They were better than us up front. We put in a couple trick plays and they did a great job. With a little more time – a second here, a second there – and maybe some of those plays work.”
Hampton Bays didn’t have much luck itself thanks to a Mariner defense fueled by linebacker Jake Esposito. The Pierson junior wreaked havoc in the Baymen backfield, recovering three fumbles and recording a big sack late in the game to give the ball back to Southampton for its final drive.
The clutch play was no surprise to Muro.
“Espo’s our defensive leader,” he said. “He brings such an intense tenacity to the field, and everybody else feeds off of that. He’s our kid who really wants to hit somebody, and that excites the defense. He’s a player. I love him to death.”
Despite his standout effort, Esposito was disappointed with the result.
“I don’t really care how I do. I just want the team to win,” Esposito said. “This is a really tough loss. I felt like we were in control on defense, but we just couldn’t capitalize on offense.”
When asked about playing at Southampton, he replied, “I don’t go to school with these guys, but I love them. They’re like my family.”
Hampton Bays (2-2 Division IV) jumped out to a 6-0 lead on a 33-yard touchdown run by Nico Antieri with barely six minutes gone in the game, and Southampton answered with a quick scoring drive early in the second quarter. Facing a third-and-6 at the Baymen 49, Stelling’s floater down the right side was hauled in by Micah Snowden for a 44-yard gain. One play later, Aaron Napier rumbled in from 5 yards out, and with the Hudson Brindle point-after, the Mariners were up by one with 11:02 remaining before halftime.
The Hampton Bays offensive and defensive lines began to lean on Southampton, and the offense struck midway through the third quarter on a 10-yard scoring run by Quinn Smith, which staked the visitors to a 14-7 lead. The Mariners’ best scoring chance thereafter came when Stelling hooked up with Bridgehampton’s Elijah White for plays of 20 and 13 yards, taking them down to the Baymen 25. However, the drive went backward from there and eventually stalled.
Despite falling to 1-3, Esposito is confident that the team’s playoff hopes are alive and well.
“I think we can still turn the season around,” he said.