The Southampton football team got off to a great start on Saturday in its season opener at Port Jefferson, but the Royals would have the final say in the outcome, as they defeated the Mariners, 34-12.
Southampton was trailing Port Jefferson, 20-12, with just a little more than eight minutes remaining in the game when everything broke down. The Southampton defense thought a Port Jefferson player was ruled down when he actually wasn’t, which allowed the Port Jeff player to run up the sideline for a score. Then Southampton running back Lyle Smith was hit hard on his already injured hand and fumbled the ball, which the Royals took back 65 yards for a touchdown.
The loss was a bit of a shock to Southampton head coach Edgar “Hikey” Franklin, especially after a dominating opening drive netted his team six points. The Mariners used up 6:30 in the first quarter to run the ball through the Port Jefferson defense. Shaundell Fishburne, with 6:28 remaining in the first, ran the ball left and was untouched to put the Mariners up, 6-0. The extra point was blocked.
“I think it was a combination of the heat and their weight up front that wore us down,” Franklin explained. “At times we looked a little lifeless, and that may have come from the heat, but there are no excuses. We had to play through those conditions like anyone else. As lifeless as we played, we were right there the entire game. The score doesn’t reflect how close we kept it. We just didn’t capitalize when we needed to.”
Franklin was alluding to the play when Smith fumbled the ball late in the game—he looked like he was about to score—and on another pass play late in the game. Quarterback Taylor Sanders threw a nice, 40-yard fade pass to Nitauke Williams, who couldn’t come up with the catch, which could have resulted in another touchdown for the Mariners.
The Mariners scored their second touchdown of the game with 3:00 remaining in the third quarter. Trailing 14-6, Sanders hit Fishburne on a seam pass down the middle of the field and Fishburne took it 65 yards for the touchdown. Port Jeff took the 14-12 lead into the third quarter, where it would score 20 points.
Fishburne finished with five catches for 100 yards on offense, while Smith finished with eight tackles, a forced fumble and a tackle for a loss on defense.
Southampton and Port Jefferson played the only game in Suffolk County on Saturday and Franklin explained that teams had the option of playing either Saturday or Wednesday and Thursday of this week because of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. Franklin said because his team in the past has had a hard time getting ready for weekday games—with getting on the bus in time to arrive in Port Jeff for a 4 or 4:30 p.m. start time—he decided it was best for his team to play on Saturday. And Royals head coach Jeff Koustantanou, according to Franklin, didn’t want to wait to play his team’s first game.
The outcome of playing on Saturday means that the Mariners will now have more than a week to prepare for their next game, which is Saturday, September 21, at Wyandanch at 2 p.m. Franklin said his team, which doesn’t have a lot of players to begin with, will now have time to heal and get over whatever bumps and bruises they accrued against Port Jeff and will have an extended period of time to study film on Wyandanch.
“Every team we play, we’re going to be competitive with,” he said. “Since preseason workouts, I’ve been telling the guys we’re going to have to work for everything we earn. Every first down, every touchdown we’re going to earn with smashmouth football,
“Wyandanch is going to be very competitive,” Franklin continued. “They have a lot of athletes who can turn a 10-yard loss into a 40-yard gain. I think it’s a game we can win.”