Numbers, as the saying goes, don’t lie—but for the Hampton Bays football team last week, the numbers were pretty deceiving.
Playing on a sunny afternoon at Bayport/Blue Point, in what was the Phantoms’ homecoming game, the Baymen gave up only three first downs on the day and made seven fourth-down stops, including four on goal-line stands. It was the type of defensive effort that usually leads to a win.
But inefficiency on offense, combined with a few untimely defensive breakdowns, led to a 17-6 loss for Hampton Bays, dropping its record to 1-2 in Division IV. The Phantoms improved to 2-1.
In the week leading up to the game, Hampton Bays head coach Mike Oestreicher had said it was a match-up his team would need to win to be in good position to make the playoffs. The defeat makes the road to the postseason a little bumpier for the Baymen, who have a brutal schedule, thanks to being ranked fifth out of 14 Division IV teams going into the season.
Hampton Bays will host undefeated top seed Babylon (3-0) on Friday night. The Panthers have beaten their opponents by a combined score of 126-21 so far this season. Hampton Bays still must face Shoreham/Wading River (2-1) and Mount Sinai (3-0), two of the other top teams in the division, and will also have a showdown with a surging Greenport/Southold team (3-0). A battle with Stony Brook is the only game on the schedule that could give the Baymen any kind of break.
“After losing this one, we’re going to have to beat Babylon, Mount Sinai or Shoreham—we’ll have to pull one off we’re not supposed to win,” Oestreicher explained. He added that a failure to win one of those three games wouldn’t necessarily eliminate his team from playoff contention—provided it can beat both Greenport and Stony Brook—but a 3-5 record probably wouldn’t result in anything higher than the eighth seed, which would mean a road game against the top-ranked team in the first round of the playoffs.
Oestreicher said, however, that right now he’s not too concerned with trying to figure out the playoff picture. Instead, he wants to prepare his team for a showdown with Babylon, likely to be its toughest game of the season. “We’re going to rally the troops and try to put it back together,” he said.
The Baymen went toe-to-toe with Bayport in the first half, going into the locker room with the game knotted in a scoreless tie. Bayport put 17 points on the board in the third quarter, however, scoring on two deep tosses from quarterback Brendan Bateman. He hit Matt McKinnon with a 50-yard strike with 9:16 left in the third before connecting with Dan Percival just about a minute later on a 39-yard touchdown pass. McKinnon kicked the extra point on both touchdowns, and then capped the third quarter with a 27-yard field goal to make it 17-0.
Hampton Bays avoided the shutout on a 10-yard scoring run by Taylor Catz in the fourth quarter.
Oestreicher said he wasn’t necessarily disappointed with the way his team played, but said a failure to execute on offense hurt his team’s chances to win.
“We had six first downs on the day,” he said. “We were unable to move the football. On defense, we had two breakdowns in coverage the entire day, and they ended up being touchdowns.”
Bayport had a total of 176 yards on offense, including 123 in the air. The majority of the passing yards came from the two long touchdown strikes. While Bayport didn’t put up particularly impressive numbers on offense either, it took better care of the ball than the Baymen, who lost two fumbles and saw quarterback Ryan Palazzolo throw an interception.
Catz rushed for 79 yards on 19 carries, and, as a team, the Baymen rushed the ball 35 times for 120 yards. Palazzolo was 12 for 23 passing for 74 yards and an interception. Hampton Bays had 194 yards of total offense.
Cody Nolan played well on defense, leading the team with 11 tackles, five for a loss, and a sack. Tommy Tretola had five tackles, three for a loss, all of which came on the goal line. Erik Ramirez had four tackles, three for a loss—two of those on the goal line—and a sack.
The Baymen will kick off their game with Babylon under the lights at 7 p.m.