Junior High Football Successes Augur Well for Program

"We’ve got a lot of talent"
Brian Pannasch, with the ball above, and his 11-year-old teammates defeated Patchogue-Medford 27-12 in a first-round Police Athletic League playoff game here Sunday. They are to play again here this Sunday at 9:30 a.m. Jack Graves

    There is reason to believe that the East Hampton High School football program, assuming it is not forced to move back up into the black-and-blue third division, is in the process of turning itself around.

    Don Reese of the East Hampton Youth Football and Basketball organization is one of those who is sanguine when it comes to this subject, as is Dave Fioriello, who’s coaching the district’s seventh-and-eighth-grade team, which last week defeated Westhampton Beach, by a score of 20-7, for the first time in “the seven or eight years that I’ve been coaching,” Fioriello said during a conversation Monday.

    “We’re 4-0,” said the coach, who is carrying a roster of 44, about evenly divided between eighth and seventh graders from East Hampton and Springs. There is one player from Bridgehampton and one from Montauk.

    Moreover, on Sunday, Ron White’s 11-year-old Police Athletic League team, which went 6-1 in the regular season (its only loss, by 8 points, having come at the hands of Sayville), defeated Patchogue-Medford 27-12 on the high school’s turf field in the first round of the P.A.L. playoffs.

    Scoring for the young Bonackers were Christian Johnson, Dimitrius Barranco, Jordan Hayes, and Devon Merritt.

    “Christian and Dimitrius are easily the best running back tag team in the league,” said White. “They’ve combined for over 18 touchdowns this season. Hayes and Jackson Baris are our ground-and-pound fullbacks as well as being inside linebackers to be reckoned with. My son, Elijah, has done a stellar job at quarterback.”

    “Our kids come from Montauk, Amagansett, Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton, and East Hampton,” he continued. “We’ve got 19 in all; often our opponents have 25 to 30 on their rosters. Still, we’ve got a lot of talent. Our team wouldn’t be as successful as it is without the players who control the line of scrimmage, a group that includes Nicholas Lavelle, Nicholas Wyche, Merritt, Jeremi Webb, Joe Hren, Jordan Gant, James Barros, and Sy Webb. They’re the reason we do what we do — we wouldn’t be where we are without them. . . . Our defense is ranked number-one countywide.”
    “Our tight end corps includes Damien Metz, Richard Barranco, and Ricky Orellana, all of whom play on both sides of the ball. Skyler Minardi and Brian Pannasch rotate from wing back to tight end. They play cornerback and free safety on defense.”

    White, who’s assisted by Phil Merritt, added that “these kids have been practicing three times a week since July 1st, and we’ve been playing every Sunday for the last eight weeks. They’re very disciplined, they work very hard. Because they play on both sides of the ball, our timeouts are just to give them breathers. . . . Most of our players are sixth graders, though we’ve got three fifth graders, Sy Webb, Jeremi Webb, and Richard Barrancos. They were a little shy at first, but they’ve turned it around.”

    It would be nice if the football program here were strengthened, White said in answer to a question. “I think it will be,” he said, “as long as we have mentors who can articulate the game and make it fun for the kids — coaches who will encourage the kids to do better, to be champions.”

    White and Merritt’s charges are the playoffs’ second seed. They’ll play the Sayville-Lindenhurst winner here at the high school this Sunday at 9:30 a.m.

    Fioriello’s seventh-and-eighth-grade team is to play Southampton on the high school’s field tomorrow at 4:30. The last game of its season is to be played at Center Moriches on Friday, Nov. 8.

Phil Merritt and Ron White posed with their enthusiastic charges before Sunday’s game at East Hampton High School.