Under the blaze of the late August sun last Wednesday afternoon, Mike Oestreicher had a broad grin on his face as he stood on the Hampton Bays football field, watching bodies file past him on their way to a water break. The more players passed, his smile became bigger, because for a small school like Hampton Bays, the first step in competing with powerhouses like Mount Sinai, Elwood/John Glenn and Babylon is having numbers.
The Hamptons Bays football program officially has more than 70 players between the JV and varsity, a strong number for one of the smallest schools in Division IV. According to Oestreicher, who is in his ninth year at the helm of the program, his team not only has depth but will possess two other key factors as well this season: size and talent. Oestreicher claims that his front five on offense each weighs more than 230 pounds and can bench press more than 275 pounds.
The three elements—depth, size and talent—will be crucial for the Baymen this season, as they plan to continue their trademark style of ground-and-pound offense.
Oestreicher isn’t trying to keep it a secret, what his team is going to do when it gets on the field each week.
“It’s going to be the same as it’s been the last five years,” he stated matter-of-factly, standing in the training room and applying “HB” decals to helmets before heading to the practice field last week. “We’re going to run the ball between the tackles.”
Hampton Bays will be about as run-oriented an offense as there could be, and it’s an approach that worked pretty well last season. The Baymen finished 4-4 and advanced to the postseason for the fourth straight year before being sent home in the first round by a resounding defeat at Elwood/John Glenn.
The Knights will be one of the elite teams in Division IV again this year, and Oestreicher said he expects Babylon and Mount Sinai to be dominant as well, stating that Mount Sinai should be the cream of the crop. All three teams are on the Baymen schedule this year, but it’s a challenge that Oestreicher said his team welcomes and is ready for.
Getting back to the playoffs is not just a goal for Hampton Bays, Oestreicher said, but rather an expectation. And he’s hoping his team can get over the hump and actually win a playoff game rather than being sent home in the first round, which is what has happened for the past three years.
The coach admitted that it’s tough to compete with powerhouse teams, many of which have more than 1,000 more students enrolled in their schools than Hampton Bays, giving them a much larger pool to draw athletes from. But Oestreicher said he doesn’t want that to be an excuse, and pointed out that Babylon has consistently excelled, despite being a small school as well.
The Baymen lost a few key seniors to graduation, most notably fullback/middle linebacker Andrew Morris, who was the focal point of the offense last year. Tailback Juan Ramirez, who had a lot of carries, also graduated, along with guard/linebacker Michael Ponesse and center John Capuano.
But the good news for Hampton Bays is that 17 of 21 starters are back on the squad, and they are a talented bunch. Senior Justin Carbone will return as the starting quarterback, and Oestreicher expects him to improve this year. Senior tailback Tracey Kennedy could be a breakout star this season, and Oestreicher expects big things from him.
“He’s a dude,” Oestreicher said. “He will be one of the best backs in Conference IV. He’s going to carry a big bulk of our load, and he’s a big-play guy.”
Joining Kennedy in the backfield will be junior fullback/middle linebacker Cody Nolan. “He’s a tough, tough kid,” the coach said. “He never wants out.”
Senior tailback/linebacker Sean Sullivan, junior tailback Taylor Katz, and senior wide receiver/cornerback Johann Tran also will be key figures on offense, Oestreicher said, adding that he has a lot of weapons to choose from this year. “I have about seven different backs I can hand the ball to,” he said.
Leading the Baymen on the line will be senior left tackle/defensive tackle Lukasz Sokol, who will be the biggest kid on the field in most games. “He had a great year last year, and he’ll be one of the best linemen in the county,” Oestreicher said. “He’s very physical and very fast for a guy his size.” Senior Eddie Perez will also be key on the line.
Sokol said during practice that he believes this year will be a big one for his team. “We’re pretty well-rounded,” he said. “We really don’t have any weak spots.”