Section XI, the governing body for high school sports in Suffolk County, has released its pre-season football rankings. The rankings factor into a complicated points system that rewards teams that beat higher ranked schools and helps to determine which teams make the playoffs.
Westhampton, the undefeated Long Island champions and one of the best East End teams of all time, come in ranked second in League III, a bit of a surprise. Yes, running back Dylan Laube, Long Island’s co-player of the year, has graduated, but a talented core of underclassmen return for coach-of-the-year Bill Parry.
Half Hollow Hills West, ranked first in the league, could imperil the Hurricanes’ bid for a second consecutive undefeated season.
Last season the two teams played in the Suffolk County Championship game, and the Hurricanes overcame a determined Half Hollow Hills West squad to win 28-14 before a crowd estimated at 5000 strong.
The Hurricanes dug deep last year to prevail against HHHW, using a punishing defensive effort to augment their strong rushing attack led by Laube.
The victory bore out Coach Bill Parry’s belief that the team is still improving, but Hills was peaking at exactly the right time as well.
There has been a noticeable decline in the quality of play on the East End and in the number of schools even fielding teams. East Hampton, seeded 11th of 12 teams in League VIII, has already announced it will not participate in varsity football this year. Greenport, Mattituck, and Southold will combine forces in order to put a team on the field. Nevertheless, the North Forkers are ranked 12th and last.
Southampton and Pierson will combine forces, and sit eighth in the preseason rankings. Mercy High School closed in June. Hampton Bays, ranked 10th, will once again take on the bigger schools.