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Sep 4, 2018 6:42 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Southampton Football Eyes First Postseason Berth Since 2005

Southampton head coach Bruce Muro is hoping to see a lot of this from his defense this season. DREW BUDD
Sep 4, 2018 9:52 AM

For the first time in his four-plus years as head coach of the Southampton/Pierson/Bridgehampton football team, Bruce Muro feels like his players are finally buying into his philosophy and his program, leading him to think that they have as good an opportunity as ever to end a 12-year playoff drought.

Rankings from the preseason appear to back that up as well. The Mariners were seeded eighth among 12 teams, and if everything plays out accordingly, that would give them the final playoff seed, their first since 2005. At the very least, an improvement over a 1-7 record from last season appears to be in the cards.

“This is year five. We have a nice mix of boys and we feel like they’re following our lead. They’ve bought in for the first time in four years,” Muro said. “It’s been a struggle and it’s been a struggle with numbers. We’re light on numbers again—we’re in the 30s—so sometimes we can’t physically match up with the teams that have numbers ... We’re really excited. We just have to be healthy and have the right mindset.”

It helps that one of the team’s top players is its quarterback, senior Shawn Stelling, who is returning as the team’s signal caller and will be relied upon once again to lead an offense that isn’t short on weapons. Senior Matt Donovan anchors the line on both sides of the ball, and Pierson junior Dimitrius Barranco is returning to the team after taking last year off. At 6-feet-2-inches, 220 pounds, Muro and his coaching staff expect Barranco to turn some heads this season on the field.

Also returning is junior Sincere Faggins, who, in his first two seasons on varsity, returned three kickoffs for touchdowns. He will assume his role as the Mariners’ “specialty player,” returning kicks and punts, lining up as a receiver and possibly in the backfield as well. Faggins’s younger brother, Seven, a sophomore, is new to the team this season and is also a speedster.

Elijah White, a junior from Bridgehampton, grew quite a bit in the offseason, Muro said, and also hit the weight room and will be another dynamic player on both sides of the ball. Because he grew so much, White will move from cornerback to outside linebacker. Also returning is senior Billy Bockhaus, who is a key piece to the defense. He will be the team’s primary ball carrier on offense and another outside linebacker on defense. And junior Dakoda Smith is another returning player who Muro expects to have a strong season as well.

“We feel like we have an edge. People are going to have a hard time getting by and that’s what we need. That’s how our defense really plays,” he said.

Division IV has a changed a bit since last season. Miller Place has moved up to Division III, and with East Hampton not fielding a varsity team once again, teams who were scheduled to play the Bonackers will receive a win by forfeit—Southampton’s season finale on October 27 was scheduled to be at East Hampton and therefore will tack on a win at that time. The closing of Mercy means one less team in the division.

Babylon was seeded first, followed by Shoreham/Wading River, which has a new coaching staff this season, then Mount Sinai, Elwood/John Glenn, Bayport/Blue Point, Center Moriches and Port Jefferson all follow, leading up to the Mariners’ eighth seed, the highest they’ve been ranked in Muro’s tenure as coach.

Southampton hosts Shoreham in the season opener this Friday, September 7, at 6 p.m.

“We’ll start off with a two. Years ago as a player, and as a coach, I’ve been the eight and I’ve beaten a two, and I plan on beating the two,” Muro said. “With what we have coming back with Shawn, and I think being a four-year starting quarterback, this is his time. He has a lot to play for and a lot to prove to us and I think he’s going to. He has some weapons to throw to and some kids around him. Our line’s young and inexperienced, but if we can get the ball off quick and we can get a couple of edge plays, it will change things up.

“If we get into the first round that would be a big accomplishment and it’s on our checklist.”

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