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Bellport aims for turnaround after 1-7 season

Bellport's Jimmy Morrell looks to pass during football

Bellport's Jimmy Morrell looks to pass during football practice on Thursday August 25, 2016. Credit: Bob Sorensen

For Bellport’s Jimmy Morrell and Ryan Baumann, the 2015 season was like a continuous bad dream.

“It was tough to watch,” recalled Morrell, now a senior quarterback and defensive back, before a recent practice. “Especially the Hills West game [a 48-21 home loss on Oct. 10]. We got torn up.”

Most games for the Clippers followed a predictable pattern: a struggling offense couldn’t help a struggling defense.

“We’d be three-and-out on offense,” Baumann said. “Before you knew it, we were down by three touchdowns.”

Bellport allowed 33 or more points six times last year, including a 52-21 drubbing to end the season at North Babylon. The Clippers (1-7) surrendered a program-worst 303 points. Not what anyone would expect from a storied program that has won 11 county titles and six Long Island Championships, but neither since 2010.

“We lacked physical and mental toughness,” sixth-year head coach Joe Cipp III said. “We came into last season out of shape, so we spent more time doing conditioning than working on instruction.”

That fueled many returning players who endured one of the Clippers’ worst seasons ever.

“I used it as motivation for sure,” said Baumann, a chiseled 6-foot-2, 220 pound junior, who will play offensive tackle and defensive end.

Morrell, a tri-captain, added: “We’re a lot more together as a team this year. We’re ready to work.”

Bellport, seeded 10th in Suffolk Division II, returns three starters on offense and five on defense. The Clippers have 39 players on their roster, including 14 seniors. However, Bellport doesn’t have a running back on its current roster who played a varsity snap last year.

Cipp will look to senior tri-captain Ben Erkan and sophomore D.J. Trent, a track speedster and cousin of Bellport alum William Griffin, an All-American and member of Bellport’s 1997 Long Island championship team. Senior offensive lineman and defensive end Matt Pfisterer, another tri-captain, and junior two-way lineman Sean McGourty hope to provide holes for Bellport’s new backs as well as Morrell, the key to the Clippers’ spread offense.

“Our goal is always to win the LIC,” Baumann said. “We’re going to work hard and take things one week and one day at a time.”

Times have been tough for the Bellport football team and community recently. Three members of the football team have had close family members killed in recent months. But there are few programs that represent family more than Bellport.

“We’ve been dealing with adversity,” Cipp III said. “But we hope to teach these kids and make them better men, better students, better workers, better brothers, better sons and better fathers. Anytime you deal with adversity it can become a teachable moment.”

The Clippers are hoping for better moments this season, especially after the struggles of 2015.

“We’re in this together,” Morrell said. “We want to put Bellport back on the map and right on top where we should be. We want to bring a championship back.”

And make for wonderful memories and dreams, alike.

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