East Hampton High School Kicks Off Football Season

Photo credit: Dan Rattiner

Labor Day weekend in the Hamptons is filled with things to do every year and this year was no exception. Bernadette Peters was at the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center. Jaws was screened outdoors at the Southampton Arts Center, Kaylie Jones and Matthew McGevna read from their work at Canio’s, the Spin Doctors were at Guild Hall, there was fireworks at Main Beach in East Hampton, the Dan’s Literary Festival took place with Tom Wolfe and Jules Feiffer at the John Drew. There was the Indian Pow Wow at Shinnecock and there were loads of fundraisers and private parties.

As for me, I went to watch East Hampton High School play their first game of the season at their stadium on Long Lane. One of my sons was the quarterback when he went there. Going back further, high school football was a highlight of my youth. I was in the marching band and when we won, we would strut in formation into the center of town playing John Phillip Sousa songs, the the fans, the cheerleaders and the mud covered players waving behind. The merchants would come out to the sidewalks and smile and wave. Traffic would be at a standstill for the half an hour or so it took us to come through. I loved it.

This was a special season for football in East Hampton.   The reason was that last year, for the first time ever, the school failed to field a team.   Not enough kids signed up.

Walking to the stadium Saturday, someone asked me if last year not enough kids tried out because their parents were afraid they would get hurt.

“Not at all,” I said. “There was no team because you need at least twenty kids to be available to take the place of all those who get knocked out each game.”

I don’t know why I said that.

The East Hampton Bonackers’ opener was against the Port Jefferson Royals. Port Jeff made the playoffs in the Suffolk IV conference in 2014. They would presumably have an easy time with East Hampton, which hadn’t played in two years.

We took our seats up in the stands on the East Hampton side as the game started.   The stands seats about 1,500. On this day, a beautiful early autumn day, there were about 50 people there.

I looked around. There were no cheerleaders. (Port Jeff cheerleaders with their silver pompoms were cheering madly across the way.)   There was no marching band. No food wagon. East Hampton would be on its own, though there was a hand painted cardboard sign somebody had brought which said HIT EM HARD 78.   It was draped over a chain link fence upside down when we got there.   There was an announcer in the booth up top calling the game.   And there was an ambulance alongside the grandstand, ready to roll through the open chain link gate. Oh, and all the coaches wore maroon t-shirts with the words BONAC IS BACK on them.

I’d thought the teams might have taken it easy on each other, (maybe the coaches had called?) but in fact, it was pretty rough and tumble. In the early going the teams played evenly, a good omen for the Bonackers. Neither could score, and the only team seriously threatening in the first quarter was East Hampton, which at one point had the ball on the Port Jeff 10, before fumbling it away.

In the second quarter, though, East Hampton seemed to run out of gas. Offensive blockers swept East Hampton linemen out of the way so Port Jeff runners could come rumbling through.   It was 16 to 0 at the half. In the second half, each team scored once, East Hampton on a 4 yard run by Axel Alanis, and Port Jeff with a 20 yard pass to seal the win at 24 to 6.   It was no runaway. East Hampton learned stuff. They will improve.

So that was the highlight of my Labor Day weekend in the Hamptons. What was yours?

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