East Hampton High School has canceled the upcoming football season because it doesn’t have enough players to compete, according to the school’s athletic director Joe Vasile-Cozzo.
“We have 14 players on the varsity and we have nine on the junior varsity,” Vasile-Cozzo said. “We’ve tried everything to keep the program going, and our coaches were working extremely hard toward that end. We looked at all of our options and 14 is still 14. You need a minimum of 16 players to field a varsity.”
Vasile-Cozzo said he met with coach Joe McKee, superintendent Rich Burns and assistant superintendent Rob Tymann on Tuesday to discuss options for the program.
“It’s so hard, we hate to let it go, but there’s really no choice,” Vasile-Cozzo said. “People here in East Hampton love their football. But we can’t put kids in harm’s way. We considered moving four sophomores up from the junior varsity but when we assessed the makeup of that group it was not an option.”
The East Hampton football team, which finished 0-8 last year, has bounced between Suffolk III and IV the past six years. This year the Bonackers were to play in the more competitive Division III.
East Hampton began playing football in 1923. In 2014, East Hampton was forced to cancel the remainder of the season after the team got off to an 0-4 start, and suffered a number of injuries, making it impossible to complete the schedule.
“Safety first at all times,” Vasile-Cozzo said. “When Coach McKee came to me and said it’s time to have that discussion I knew we were struggling with our numbers and it was becoming a safety issue. Combining our varsity and JV was not a safe option. It’s very sad but we had no choice.”
Vasile-Cozzo said he offered all of the football players an opportunity to play another fall sport at the school.
“We’ll have a middle school team but our numbers are way down,” Vasile-Cozzo said. “We have 24 kids playing in the middle school and the year before we had 48.”
“Our goal is to build a foundation with this program from the bottom up and build it right,” he said. “We have no youth program anymore. But our coaches won’t give up. They started Friday night flag football with middle school and elementary kids and the numbers are great with over 60 kids playing. We’re hoping that helps us rebuild.”