The East Hampton football team has a new head coach this year in Steve Redlus. Redlus is a 1995 graduate of East Hampton and was a team captain while playing on both sides of the ball as a student. Since 2001 Redlus has been an assistant coach with the team, most recently the offensive coordinator under former coach Bill Barbour. Coach Barbour stepped down to spend more time with his family after six years at the helm of the football program.
One of the first challenges Redlus faces is changing the expectations of the players.
“Our kids need to understand that they have the ability to play against anyone,” he said. “I want the players to feel confident in their abilities.” Redlus stressed the importance of making sure his players understand they are playing against kids who are no different than they are, “kids that are the same age, take the same classes and like the same music,” he said.
Redlus wants the team to get back to the tough, blue collar mentality of what a Bonacker used to be. “Win, lose or draw, I want our opponents to say they played against a tough, physical and relentless team,” he said.
East Hampton moved from Division III to Division IV last year, finishing 3-6 but making the playoffs as the eighth seed. The top eight teams in the division make the playoffs based on a points system where the value of wins is based on the final record of the opposition.
The move to Division IV allowed East Hampton to be more competitive after struggling in years past against the larger Division III schools. Section XI rules dictate that division placement is determined by enrollment and because Bridgehampton and Pierson students have typically been allowed to play football for East Hampton, its enrollment number is increased. Last year East Hampton opted not to share its program with Pierson and so the enrollment was dropped and the Bonackers moved to Division IV.
Each school plays an eight-game schedule, although there are 14 teams in the division. In a preseason poll of the division head coaches, Babylon is favored to win the league, while the other top teams are Mount Sinai, Shoreham/Wading River and Elwood/John Glenn. East Hampton was voted ninth and will oppose three of the top four teams.
The team lost three key players to graduation according to Redlus: running back Pete Vaziri, who earned All County honors, and running backs Andre Cherington and Johnny Pizzo who were All League. However, a solid core of offensive threats are returning from last year including quarterback Cortland Heneveld—who was also voted All County last year—wide receiver Thomas Nelson and running back Colton Kalbacher. The defensive unit also has key players returning in linebackers Brendan Hughes and Ben Newberry as well as defensive linemen Bryan Gamble and Richie Browne. Redlus is also excited about new players coming to varsity from the JV. Wanya Reid is a speedy defensive back who came to East Hampton from the Bronx last winter, and RJ Notel is a running back and linebacker who returns to the team after taking a year off from football. While the team runs a triple option offense and focuses on running the ball, it does have the ability and athleticism to pass the ball as well.
The season opens for East Hampton on Thursday, September 12, with a home game against second-ranked Mount Sinai. The Bonackers will also host cross-town rival Southampton to defend the Hamptons Cup on Saturday, October 12. The team will also play Babylon at home to close out its season on Saturday, November 2.