For all intents and purposes, the Southampton/Pierson/Bridgehampton football team is starting from scratch this season.
Not only was there a change at the top, with Bruce Muro stepping down as head coach and being replaced by Chris Campbell, but the Mariners graduated quite a few after last season, specifically at one of the key positions in longtime quarterback Shawn Stelling.
Starting anew doesn’t necessarily have to have a negative connotation to it though.
“I think a lot of the coaches have come from successful high school and college programs. We want to get back to that, we’re used to that,” Campbell said. “That’s what we’re trying to get through to [the players].”
Campbell is entering just his second season in Southampton after spending last season as an assistant within the program. He admits he’s going to lean on his coaching staff quite a bit early on, in particular the two returning coaches from Muro’s staff in Sean Smith and Eddie West. Jaron Greenidge, a standout player during his time at Riverhead High School, is also joining the staff, along with Southampton alumni Onajja Browning and Taylor Sanders.
Southampton, which finished 2-6 last season, has six returning players, all seniors who will all play a key role on the team. That includes Billy Hattrick and Sincere Faggins, who are both battling for the starting quarterback job, left vacant by Stelling. Hattrick hasn’t played football the past few seasons, and the last time he did he was a lineman, and his bulky athletic frame would suggest he is still one. But Hattrick showed in practice last week he can sling the ball, which is one of his greatest strengths at the position and he could be a vital part to go along with Southampton’s numerous weapons on the outside. Faggins has been a receiver on offense the past few years, and has shown a great ability to return kickoffs and punts, but his elusiveness could work even more behind center.
Campbell and Smith said it’s a healthy competition at the moment, but one of them will definitively have the job by the time the Mariners walk off the bus at Greenport High School to take on the Porters in the season opener this Friday night at 6:30 p.m.
“They each have good skills, but different skills,” Campbell said. “Sincere is the more quicker guy. Billy is more of the thrower.”
The quarterback position may not be the most important for the Mariners, though. Campbell said he’d like to be a “power-running team” behind returning Pierson senior fullback Dimitrius Barranco, who suffered what ended up being a season-ending knee injury in the Mariners victory over Hampton Bays last year. Prior to the injury though, in the first two games of last season, Barranco had shown glimpses of his game-changing ability on both sides of the ball, and Smith said he could very well be a difference maker this season.
“We were a different team when he left,” he said. “He’s a big presence in the middle, so to have him come back is huge.”
Dimitrius will be joined in the backfield by his younger brother, Richard, who helped lead Southampton’s junior varsity to a 6-2 record last season. Pierson’s Hudson Brindle, who made a number of big plays last season, is also returning this season along with seniors Dakoda Smith, Reginald Morris and Max Tiska, the lone Bridgehampton representative on the team this year. Smith is one of the key deep threats for the Mariners, and Morris is the only senior on the offensive line this season.
For the second year in a row, Southampton was seeded eighth out of 11 in the Division IV preseason rankings, which projects as the final team in the playoffs. While ending a 14-year postseason drought would be ideal, it’s not necessarily at the top of the priority list for the coaching staff. At least not at the moment.
“We just want the kids to work hard and take it each game at a time,” Smith said. “Build some confidence, change some of that mentality that’s been around here, as far as being okay with losing.
“Southampton used to be one of the teams that competed with all of the big boys. We’re trying to get back there.”