Bonac Football Is Back

The spirit was there
Brandon Johnson racked up 100 yards rushing for the Bonackers in their first game in almost two years. Linebackers Axel Alanis and Mikey Perez had the most tackles. Craig Macnaughton

Considering that Saturday’s league-opener with Port Jefferson had been “the first football game that’s been played here in two years,” East Hampton High School’s coach, Joe McKee, told his charges he liked what he’d seen.

“We were right there, it could have gone either way,” McKee said Monday. Inexperience obviously hurt, but the mistakes — missed blocking assignments among them — he thinks can be corrected.

One thing for sure: The spirit was there. No one hung his head, and, despite the 24-6 loss, most of the crowd, estimated at around 200 at gametime, stayed to watch.

Jordan Johnson, who has moved back here from Hampton Bays, showed flashes of brilliance at quarterback, but he could not do it all. As shifty as he is, he often wound up at the bottom of a pile of Port Jeff defenders.

 At times, however, it seemed as if Jordan’s first cousin, Brandon, who gained 100 yards that day and got off booming punts, up to 60 yards, could do it all. But in the end, it takes a team, and Port Jefferson was a very good one, McKee told his charges in the postgame huddle.

The first quarter was scoreless. East Hampton had the ball with fourth down and six to go at the visitors’ 11 when the second began, but couldn’t get it in.

A second-down razzle-dazzle handoff at midfield yielded 20 yards for the Royals, and two plays later Port Jeff was in the end zone as the result of a 20-yard off-tackle run by Garret Hiz, the senior fullback.

The quarterback, Nick Caltagirone, then punched the ball in for 2 extra points.

The visitors were to score once more before the half, Hiz capping a 59-yard, six-play drive with a 5-yard plunge, followed by Michael DiCalogero’s 2-point conversion.

A little more than a minute remained until the break. Jordan Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield, though incomplete passes and penalties resulted in the Bonackers having to punt from their 25 as the clock ran out.

Among the spectators was Dick Cooney, East Hampton’s former athletic director and varsity football coach, who in retirement divides his time between Hampton Bays and Hawaii.

“I’m very impressed, especially considering that there was no football team last year,” he said when questioned as to what he thought. “I’ve seen a lot of good things, things to build on. The mistakes have mostly been the result of inexperience, things that can, and I’m sure will, be corrected by Joey and his staff.”

“They know the fundamentals, on the line and at the skill positions. They need more work, but, frankly, I didn’t expect, because of the long lapse in the program, that they’d be as good as they are.”

Before he left to catch a train back to Hampton Bays, just before the third quarter began, Cooney said to Burke Gonzalez, East Hampton’s center, “You guys can do it.”

“I know, I know,” said Gonzalez.

East Hampton then proceeded, thanks largely to Brandon Johnson’s formidable ball-carrying, to drive following the visitors’ kickoff from the 40 down to a first-and-goal at the 8.

Axel Alanis bulled his way to the 5, but that was as far as the Bonackers were to get. Jordan Johnson was dropped for a 10-yard loss on the next play (he argued for a facemask call, to no avail). And two plays later, East Hampton’s quarterback was overtaken by five Port Jeff defenders at the 25.

The visitors made it 24-0 in the early minutes of the fourth, as the result of a 19-yard reception by Brian Mark, the tight end, and another conversion run by DiCalogero.

With Jordan Johnson having been replaced by Ty Olszewski, Bonac, which benefited initially from a fumbled punt at the visitors’ 20, got on the scoreboard with 2:51 remaining, thanks to a 1-yard plunge by Alanis that capped a five-play drive.

“You guys battled, you never quit,” McKee told his players afterward. “Life is a battle, that’s what football teaches you. . . . You should be proud — you’ve brought football back to East Hampton.”

This Saturday’s opponent, Wyandanch, which is coached by Dwight Singleton, who lives in Sag Harbor, will be dangerous, McKee said. “They lost to the North Fork team 16-12 on Friday, but the only difference was that they couldn’t convert their scores and Greenport-Southold-Mattituck did. Dwight’s done a good job with Wyandanch. They’ve got a lot of speed — they can break it at any time.”

East Hampton’s junior varsity lost 32-14 at Port Jefferson earlier on Saturday. “We need better blocking,” said the jayvee’s coach, Mike Ritsi, “though we were able to move the ball.”