Calling the Southampton/Pierson/Bridgehampton football team’s season a whirlwind would be putting it very lightly.
With a new head coach and renewed confidence after a 40-8 drubbing of Greenport/Southold/Mattituck on the North Fork to start the season, the Mariners had high hopes of possibly clinching its first postseason berth since 2005. Even after a rough loss it took at the hands of Shoreham/Wading River, Southampton came right back with a hard-fought victory in Wyandanch.
But since its loss at Hampton Bays in which it lost the Mayor’s Cup, things went downhill and fast for Southampton, culminating last week when it had no choice but to forfeit its final game of the regular season to Port Jefferson due to not having enough varsity players. A victory at Port Jeff on Saturday, albeit a tall task, would have secured the eighth and final seed in the Division IV playoffs. Instead, the Mariners (2-6) finished ninth in the division with 87.95 power points, just behind rival Hampton Bays.
Southampton Athletic Director Darren Phillips said on Monday that he got word from his head football coach, Chris Campbell, who is in his first year at the helm, that only 19 players showed up to practice last Thursday, October 31. Of those 19 only five were varsity players, the rest were junior varsity kids.
Part of the problem is that the team had been decimated by injuries ever since its game against Shoreham, losing a number of key players in that game alone. The issue was compounded when three Mariners were ejected during their 40-6 loss to Bayport/Blue Point on October 25. Players are automatically suspended for their next game if they’re ejected.
With such low numbers, Phillips contacted Port Jeff to alert it that his team would be forfeiting the regular-season finale and what was Senior Day for the Royals.
“The last thing we ever want to do is forfeit a game,” he said. “And I realize it was their Senior Game, and I could empathize with Port Jeff on wanting to play the game, but we really couldn’t put a team out there. Even if they had their varsity kids in there for a quarter and a half or whatever, it was a safety and a health risk to put them out there.
“I feel horrible about it, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a game,” Phillips added. “What if something happened to a freshman and he got injured? How do you live with that? When you don’t have a lot of kids to begin with, and with the variety of injuries that we’ve had, it was just an unfortunate series of events.”
Phillips was unsure if the numbers issue will continue into next season, but with low numbers on JV and middle school, and only one PAL youth team left on the South Fork, the issue doesn’t seem to be improving anytime soon. Phillips spoke to the school’s board of education on Tuesday about the future of football in the district and alternatives to the traditional game may need to be looked at, he said.
“Can we get another year out of our current situation? Do we drop JV altogether and jeopardize losing all of those freshmen and sophomores and ask them to stick it out?” Phillips asked. “We’ve kicked around eight-man football. Last year East Hampton discussed the possibility of combining. I just don’t know if the current situation is sustainable, and we may have to look at some of the options.”