The East Hampton football program got a shot in the arm a few weeks ago when Pierson Athletic Director Eric Bramoff made the decision to send his handful of players to East Hampton instead of Southampton for the 2020 football season.
Pierson — like Bridgehampton, when it had players — had been sending its football players to Southampton for the past couple of seasons, after having sent its players to East Hampton for years before that. East Hampton Athletic Director Joe Vasile-Cozzo asked Pierson to find a different placement when his football team was trying to lower its enrollment numbers so it could play in Division IV instead of Division III, thus Pierson and Bridgehampton started sending players to Southampton.
Bramoff said he appreciated Southampton for taking his players in when it did, but when Southampton Athletic Director Darren Phillips could not guarantee him that there would a varsity team next season, he had to move on, mainly so that his seniors would have a place to play: Seniors are not permitted to play on junior varsity.
“I may very well be right back here in two years. I hate to have to keep switching between schools, and I really wish East Hampton would have combined with Southampton so we didn’t have to keep switching, but the reality is I have some seniors next year that need a place to play, and East Hampton is now the best place to send them.”
Bramoff said Pierson will have about a handful of players next season, around five or six, led by seniors Hudson Brindle and Richard Barranco, two key players for Southampton last season.
Brindle, a linebacker and slot receiver, who can also handle punting duties if need be, said it’s tough bouncing from school to school but that at the end of the day he just wants to play football.
“I’m always happy to play football wherever I can,” he said. “Playing at Southampton was a good time. I love everybody who goes there, and the coaches were very nice. I’ve known the guys at East Hampton for a while now. I play rugby with Kevin Bunce so I’m really excited to play at East Hampton, and they’re really enthusiastic about football. They’ve already started some student-run training for football there. It’s a little bit earlier than I’m used to, but it’s pretty cool.”
“We want to restart a good foundation and get football back in East Hampton, and if we start winning, that would probably help that,” Brindle added. “I’d love to come back here in a decade and see football thriving.”
East Hampton, which hasn’t fielded a varsity team since 2016, announced a few weeks ago that it would have varsity and JV teams strictly from East Hampton, without having to combine with Southampton, although it is petitioning Section XI, the governing body of Suffolk County high school athletics, to play in Division IV instead of Division II, accepting the fact that doing so will make it ineligible for postseason play. Southampton struggled to field a full team last season, having been forced to forfeit its final game of the regular season due to not having enough players. With Pierson pulling its players out of Southampton, the thought was that would be the final straw for Southampton in terms of having a varsity team next season.
But Phillips met with his football coaches, players and parents on January 29, and while chances of fielding both varsity and JV teams are not high at the moment, he’s going to wait until June 1 to form an official, final decision. If Southampton does not field a varsity team this fall it would be the first time in its long history to do so, but for now, Phillips said the plan is to have both varsity and JV teams.
“We want to be fair to our seniors and not make that decision right now and wait until June 1. I think as long we have the time we might as well use it to try and see who would be coming out to play,” he said. “We did have a lot of good discussions at last week’s meeting. There was a lot of discussion about youth football and getting kids to play at the youth level, and everyone seemed to like the flag football route that East Hampton has used to success.
“But it has to be a collective effort and I feel like everybody just needs to buy in,” he added. “There are things we can do to garner more interest in football, but I do I think, at the end of the day, if we’re unable to field two teams, I really do think we’ll have to combine with a neighboring district at some point.”