In Division IV football, there are the haves and the have-nots, and the gulf between them is about as wide as it can be.
All things considered, Hampton Bays had another successful season, finishing with a 4-4 record and qualifying for the playoffs for the third straight year. But the Baymen knew that beating their first-round opponent—top-seeded Elwood/John Glenn—on Saturday was a nearly impossible task. When they stared across the field, the Baymen saw a team with significant advantages in nearly every department, including size, physicality and depth. Hampton Bays dressed 36 players for Saturday’s game, while the Knights had more than 50 players on its sideline.
Predictably, Hampton Bays saw its season come to an end, in a 48-8 loss. The Baymen were down 20-0 after the first quarter and 41-0 at the half.
Hampton Bays head coach Mike Oestreicher had mixed emotions following the loss. He said he was proud of what his team had accomplished in keeping its streak of playoff appearances alive, which was the squad’s goal at the beginning of the season. But he expressed frustration with the fact that smaller schools like Hampton Bays seemingly never have a chance to even be competitive with the larger schools in the division like Glenn, Mount Sinai and Amityville. Those three teams were the top teams in the division this year and beat their first-round foes by an average of 33 points. They also have the largest student body populations in the division.
“I thought we came out and we gave them the best we had on that particular day,” Oestreicher said. “Clearly, it was not enough.
“They’re a better football team than we are,” he continued. “We played them in week one, and we thought we’d pose a better challenge in week nine. But sometimes in football, when you line up and the other team is just physically better than you are, there isn’t much you can do.”
Oestreicher said that he was disappointed that his team made things a little too easy for the Knights early on. Hampton Bays fumbled the opening kickoff, giving Glenn the ball on the Hampton Bays 25-yard line to start the game. Glenn capitalized, with quarterback Rich Czeczotka hitting receiver Nick Wagner with a touchdown pass. After going three and out, the Baymen then allowed the Knights to return a punt all the way to the Baymen 31-yard line, giving them great field position again.
“Early on, I thought we did them favors to make it easier for them, and that bothered me,” Oestreicher said. “You can’t do that with a team like Glenn.”
Disappointment aside, Oestreicher had good things to say about his players and what they accomplished this year. “We came into camp and said our goal was to go 4-4 and make the playoffs, and that’s what we did,” he said. “This game doesn’t make a difference as to whether or not our season was successful. For the talent we had on the roster, we had a great year.”
Hampton Bays will lose 12 seniors this year, including captains John Capuano, Andrew Morris and Michael Ponesse as well as Evan Cortese, Joe LaFace, Juan Ramirez, Mike Diffley, Travor Craker, Tim Mati, Zack Kline, Oliver Mendez and Bobby Scanlon. Oestreicher said he expects his team to regroup from the losses and have the same expectations for next season. A senior class of 16 players will be back on the team next year.
“We’ve now had three years in a row where we had 12 or more walk out the door,” he said. “It’s bittersweet, but it’s a good sign, because it means we’re getting senior classes with 12 or more kids. That’s a big part of the reason why we’ve been able to win.”
The returning players will get back to work soon with offseason weightlifting, Oestreicher said, while he and his staff will try to see if they can figure out a way to vault into the upper echelon of the division. The coach admitted it’s not an easy task.
“We have to figure out a way to win a playoff game,” he said. “We haven’t been able to get over that hump. As much as it’s nice to make the playoffs, we want to get over that hump and win one.”