East Hampton High’s varsity football and girls lacrosse teams are to move down a division in the next school year, each having cut ties, at least temporarily, with Pierson High School in Sag Harbor. In addition, next fall’s boys volleyball team will be combined with Bridgehampton.
“We’re still an ‘A’ school,” said East Hampton’s athletic director, Joe Vas, “though, instead of being the smallest A school in Conference III, we’ll be a good-sized one in Conference IV.”
In football, the Bonackers were 0-8 in Division III last fall, and in the past five years East Hampton’s record has been 11-30. “We’ll be playing schools closer to our size, which will be a little more realistic,” Vas said. “Still, there are some very good teams in the conference, including John Glenn, Mount Sinai, Shoreham, and Babylon.”
Babylon used to be a thorn in East Hampton’s side in the ’80s, a role Comsewogue took over in the ’90s, and in recent years it’s been a virtual briar patch. Geographically, the shift could be a plus too, given the fact that a number of the Division IV schools, Stony Brook, Shoreham, Mercy, Greenport, Hampton Bays, and Southampton among them, are closer to home than Huntington, Harborfields, and Kings Park.
“Looking at our enrollment in grades 9 through 11 of the previous year, we found that our population was 662, by ourselves,” said Vas. “Continuing to be combined with Pierson, which had no players on our football varsity this fall, would have put us over. (Forty percent of the feeder schools’ enrollments are applied in reckoning divisional placements.)
“We’ll remain combined in football with Bridgehampton because their numbers don’t put us over, and we’re still combined with Pierson in football at the jayvee and middle school level. We’ve got two Pierson players on the jayvee. . . . I’m aware that there’s been a tradition of being combined with Pierson, so we’ll revisit the numbers question every year.”
East Hampton had moved down a division in girls lacrosse for the same reasons, Vas said. “We’ve got no kids from Pierson, and playing schools more our size ought to be a benefit.”
Dropping into a division with Southampton, whose football team also went 0-8 this past fall, raises the prospect of reviving one of New York State’s oldest rivalries, which dates to 1923. Whether the two teams will play each other in the fall won’t be known until the 2012 schedules come out in May. Vas said he thinks East Hampton “will be in the middle of the pack” in the preseason rankings, “say fifth or sixth among the 14 schools.”
To honor the East Hampton-Southampton rivalry, the Bridgehampton National Bank in 1982 began presenting the winner of the game with a handsome silver Hampton Cup. There have been only two such games played in the past 19 years, with Southampton winning both — in 1993 by a score of 14-8, and in 2006, by a score of 28-13.
That win of Southampton’s in ’06, the year before Bill Barbour Jr. took over from David MacGarva as Bonac’s head coach, was its 49th in the series. East Hampton has only won 13 times — its last victory coming in 1985 — and there have been three ties.
The A.D. said a recent meeting Barbour held with prospective footballers from seventh grade up and their parents was “well attended.”
In the coming month, a group of four seventh and eighth-grade “leaders” picked by Gary Stanis, who brought traveling Police Athletic League football to East Hampton in 2008, and Don Reese, the P.A.L. president, are to embark on a 10-week pilot course in strength, speed, agility, and nutrition training at Rich Decker’s Studio 89 off Clay Pit Road in Sag Harbor.
Stanis and Reese hope the four boys’ progress will persuade about 20 of their peers to join them for a 12-week program at Studio 89 this summer, and further hope that this early training will help to strengthen East Hampton’s football program.
“All the schools up the Island are doing this,” Stanis said in an article on the subject in November. “By the time you get into the weight room at the high school it’s too late.”