It may not be the way East Hampton football had envisioned it at the start of the season, but the Bonackers will take it.
They lost, 49-7, to Babylon at home in the regular-season finale on Saturday afternoon—but because of a surprising forfeit by Hampton Bays, East Hampton finished the season in eighth place in Division IV with a 3-5 record (98.75 power points), and will be the eighth seed in the playoffs and play at top-seeded Babylon (8-0 Division IV, 150.00) this Friday at 6 p.m.
Hampton Bays (2-6 Division IV, 93.75) needed to defeat Greenport to get into the postseason.
It’s the first time since 1995-1996 that East Hampton has made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons.
“We’ll take the good with the bad, which is that we’re playing Babylon again,” East Hampton head coach Steve Redlus said. “We have to play the game, we can’t walk away from it.
“It’s an honor and a privilege to be in the playoffs,” he continued. “There’s only 32 teams still playing this week in Suffolk County, teams that are still practicing for something, and we’re one of them.”
Redlus said that East Hampton and Babylon have a mutual respect for each other that was only deepened last year, when East Hampton sent a bus of school supplies to Babylon after it was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy.
“Coach [Rick] Punzone and his staff, they do it the right way,” Redlus said. “They’re a program, quite frankly, I want to model East Hampton after. They only have 300-plus kids in their school. There’s no reason why East Hampton can’t be as good as them one day.”
On Saturday, Babylon controlled the game from the start. After a three-and-out for the Bonackers, the Panthers scored on their first drive of the game when quarterback Nick Santorelli connected with Jake Carlock on a 45-yard pass play. Carlock then caught the 2-point conversion to make it 8-0, but the Panthers were not done. They went on to score all 49 of their points before the start of the fourth quarter.
East Hampton scored its lone touchdown on an option play later in the final quarter. Quarterback Cortland Heneveld ran it in from four yards out and Lucas Escobar added the extra point.
The Bonackers, for the second consecutive week, had limited numbers due to injuries and academically ineligible players, and Redlus doesn’t see that changing for this weekend’s matchup at Babylon. The fact that there is less daylight now makes practices shorter, Redlus added, and the fact that the game is on a Friday gives his team less time to prepare and recover.
Redlus did say that he is looking to change some things, though, so that the game doesn’t get out of hand as quickly as it did last weekend.
“We’ll change some formations, we’ll throw a few wrinkles in,” he said. “We need to get a couple more first downs and make the game clock move. Defensively we’ll change some of our coverages, because they went deep on us a couple of times.
“We’ll make the best of it,” Redlus added. “We don’t want to be disrespectful to the game of football and it’s really an honor that we’re in the playoffs, so we’ll see what happens on Friday. We want to show improvements in our game from last week to this week.”