By David McCabe
Sag Harbor’s Pierson High School has a history of being too small to field a football team — though up until the 1950s, the Whalers had a six-man squad. In recent years, Pierson students interested in taking the gridiron have been able to do so by playing on the East Hampton High School football team.
But next year, that opportunity will cease to exist — at least at the varsity level.
The East Hampton School District has made the decision to terminate the long-standing agreement between the schools because, when Pierson and East Hampton field a combined team, they are bumped up to a higher class and face much tougher competitors. The class system groups teams based on school enrollment numbers, and the addition of the Pierson students would cause East Hampton to move up this fall from Class B to Class A. With Pierson onboard, East Hampton, which already struggles against Class B competitors, would have had to face teams from much larger schools.
“It’s not a pleasant thing to have happen but I understand the rationale,” Pierson High School Athletics Director Montgomery Granger said, “because they’re [East Hampton] already not very competitive and to put them in a more competitive class would be unhealthy for the kids.”
Pierson students will still be able to play football at the middle school and junior varsity level, Granger said. This academic year, two freshmen played on the junior varsity team. The decision to discontinue the combined team at the varsity level could affect those two students should they try out for the higher-level squad during their junior year. Granger said decisions on what sports teams will be combined between Pierson and East Hampton high schools for the 2013-2014 school year will be made in March 2013.
Granger notes that Pierson students can still play with East Hampton High School athletes on a number of other varsity sports teams next year, including tennis, wrestling, lacrosse and swimming.