October 29, 2016.
That’s the last time East Hampton suited up a varsity football game. The Bonackers defeated Bayport/Blue Point, 36-21, to avoid a winless season that afternoon and then spent the next four-and-a-half years trying to get back on the varsity field.
Finally, this past Saturday afternoon, March 13, Bonac did just that, albeit in a 37-0 home loss at the hands of Suffolk County powerhouse Babylon. While the results of the game were certainly not meaningless, they took a back seat to the fact that the East Hampton players, along with a handful of key Pierson student-athletes, were back on the football field, a feat that head coach Joe McKee agreed could not be forgotten.
“After everything we’ve been through, of course it means a lot to be out here. We just went up against a quality program,” he said. “We are very inexperienced. They are quite highly experienced, great coaching staff. They had a great defense out there that just totally confused us. Our kids were just way out of whack and couldn’t figure out who to block and how to. But we’ll figure that out as we go. We’ve got a lot of work, but Babylon is a very good program.”
East Hampton was a few plays away from keeping it a tight game. Facing 4th and 3 at midfield on its opening drive of the game, the Bonackers tried a fake punt that lost yardage and gave the Panthers a short field to play with. East Hampton’s defense, which was strong for much of the game, forced Babylon into a 4th and 5 situation, which it converted and then some when Babylon’s quarterback ran the ball to the goal line for a first down, setting up the game’s first touchdown.
On the ensuing drive, Babylon jumped a wide receiver screen play and intercepted a pass that it took in for a touchdown to make it a quick 15-0 game. To the credit of East Hampton’s defense, the score remained that way until 17 seconds remaining in the first half when Babylon converted a 4th down conversion into a touchdown pass play to make it 23-0 at halftime.
Babylon then took the opening kickoff for the second half about 75 yards or so deep into East Hampton territory, which led to another Panther touchdown.
Babylon, to its credit, took advantage of just about every Bonac mistake, but East Hampton fought hard throughout, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Pierson senior Richard Barranco led the defense with 12 tackles, while his Sag Harbor classmate Hudson Brindle had seven tackles. East Hampton’s Melvin Molina also had seven tackles, two for a loss, as did Kevin Bunce. And McKee liked what he saw from first-year player Nick Lombardo at defensive end.
The offense on the other hand, as players and coaches noted, is a work in progress. It really only sustained one drive all game long, which was aided in another, this time successful, fake punt run by Bunce.
“We quickly got an offense running, and that’s clearly where we lacked,” Bunce said. “Great defense on Babylon’s part, but with experience, we’re going to polish ourselves up and be good.”
“We have to figure out how to block a little bit better,” McKee added. “We’ll get some game film, which we didn’t have this time, and just watch some of that and hopefully we’ll figure out what opposing defenses are doing, [but] we have to figure out how to block better. They did a lot of blitzing that we just didn’t do a good job of picking up. And it’s on us as coaches too. We have to do a better job of coaching and making them understand what they have to do and who they have to block. We’ll get it.”
The players were excited to get back on the football field, but it was clear that they expected better of themselves and plan to see improvement when they get right back to it against another formidable opponent in Elwood/John Glenn at home this Thursday, March 18, at 4 p.m.
“Feels great to be back,” Barranco said. “We took a hard loss today, but we’re going to learn from it. Next week, we’ll come back stronger.”