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Jul 26, 2018 7:33 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

East Hampton Will Not Field A Varsity Football Team For A Second Straight Fall Season

One of the last games played by an East Hampton varsity football team was October 21, 2016, at Mercy. CAILIN RILEY
Jul 31, 2018 9:31 AM

Citing a lack of participation in its summer program, East Hampton High School will not field a varsity football team for the second straight fall season, according to a statement posted on the Bonac Football Facebook page on Thursday, July 26.

The post attributed the following statement to East Hampton Athletic Director Joe Vasile-Cozzo: “Due to the lack of participation East Hampton will not field a varsity football team this fall season. We are planning on fielding both JV and middle school teams with the hope of having enough kids who are interested in participating. The summer program has had very low participation numbers. The District and I along with Coach McKee will continue to evaluate the status moving forward.”

Two days later on Saturday, another post broke down the days, hours and location of summer practices for incoming seventh to 11th graders for the middle school and JV teams. Incoming seniors are not eligible to play on the JV team.

At a community meeting in East Hampton High School’s gym back on May 2, Vasile-Cozzo and varsity head coach Joe McKee made it crystal clear to those in attendance that the team would need to have 22 players prior to the start of the varsity fall season. When reached on late Thursday afternoon, a somber Vasile-Cozzo confirmed there was very low participation in the summer workouts, which led to the joint decision by himself, McKee and district superintendent Rich Burns to not field a varsity team. The decision was based solely upon participation, or lack thereof, Vasile-Cozzo said, who added he had an obligation to his student athletes to make the decision this early so they would have enough time to participate in another sport, if they choose, and to not cause any scheduling conflicts this fall within varsity football.

While the bare minimum requirement put forth by Section XI, the governing body of Suffolk County high school athletics, to field a team is 16 players, Bonac had between 10 and 15 players showing up to summer workouts, according to McKee.

“I’ve been telling the kids that I knew varsity was going to be tough, that we needed a better showing in the summer and to start getting some commitment here to get a varsity. It just didn’t happen,” he said.

While some may think that not having a varsity team for the second season in a row will put the future of the program in jeopardy, McKee said deciding to go with a JV team this season gives those players hope that one day they could rekindle the varsity.

“Next year’s 10th graders seem to have a very good group of kids who are interested,” he said. “I think this is going to fortify having a JV team and not worry about numbers and if we’re going to have a varsity or not. We should have a solid 25 kids, if not more, on JV, which should have some success this year, and maybe next year we’ll have a varsity with some talented junior and sophomore athletes.”

Back in February, Vasile-Cozzo announced that East Hampton would have a football team this fall, albeit in Division IV and without the possibility of being eligible for the postseason for the following two seasons. Division IV is where the smallest schools in the county play, and East Hampton just by itself, without any other school districts attached to it such as Bridgehampton or Pierson, has a current enrollment size of 731. That’s similar to schools such as Sayville that play in a highly competitive Division III. By agreeing with Section XI to forgo postseason eligibility for the next two seasons, East Hampton was allowed to field a team in Division IV.

But playing in Division IV, or Section XI for that matter, isn’t necessarily what Vasile-Cozzo wanted; in fact, he voted against the move to Division IV back in February. He strongly believes that the East End schools should play in a separate division, or possibly even league, so they can compete on a level playing field. He explained that while the school’s enrollment sizes are equal to those of schools on the other side of the county, the actual number of players coming out for the sport severely differs, and is much closer to that of smaller East End schools.

Vasile-Cozzo has said that ultimately he’d like to pull his football program out of Section XI altogether and, along with a half dozen or so schools mostly from the East End, create a completely separate league that would have its own playoff system. The closing of Bishop McGann Mercy High School in Riverhead, though, severely hurt the chances of that happening, and now with no varsity team once again at East Hampton, it may never happen.

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