By FRANCIS FEDOR
Sumner took advantage of a preseason exhibition game to tune up for its regular season home opener this Friday vs. Bloomingdale. The Stingrays traveled to East Bay to shutout the Indians 28-0 for a game that won’t count in the standings but is a confidence builder for a program that has high expectations. The game may be remembered more for being shortened due to a rumored disturbance midway through the third quarter as the teams took a mid-quarter water break than for the game’s outcome.
As with last year when the teams met for a tune-up game the week before the official opening of the HS football season, the stands were overflowing for what felt like a playoff atmosphere between the two rival South Shore squads. The energy was evident, but the distance between the teams was noticeable. East Bay is rebuilding after seeing a number of key members of their offense graduate. Nathan Carter (QB) and Vincent Ketchup (WR), the duo that created a very dynamic offense that propelled the Indians into the playoffs as a true challenger, are gone, and coach Michael Gottman is working to build new superstars at those key positions. The Stingrays, by comparison, are returning the explosive offensive pieces that pushed them to an 8-3 regular season last year.
The leader of the Sumner offense, Greg Smith III, looked in mid-season form and accounted for three of the Stingrays four scores. Two of the scores were short pushes from near the goal line into the end zone. The third was a sprint of 80 yards on the second play of the second half. Smith now plays a role on defense at the DB position and has taken over kick-off duties as senior kicker Kevin Elsner is out for the season. He brings athleticism to both sides of the football, which will serve coach Ashwood well. Smith connected with his favorite WR target, Tyler Williams, on a 51-yard over the shoulder grab that allowed Williams to coast into the end-zone.
The game was called after the teams broke for a water break around the six-minute mark of the third quarter as chaos broke out in the stands with the crowd rushing from one end of the seating area to the other. The PA announcer requested the spectators remain in their seats for their safety while the game and school officials tried to make sense of the chaos.
Minutes later the PA announcer declared that the game was called, and the teams gathered their equipment and made their way to either the locker room or the team bus (in the case of the Stingrays). It is believed that an altercation just outside of the seating area was the cause of the disturbance. East Bay and Sumner are becoming an intense rivalry and that was apparent with the atmosphere.
The Stingrays will now work on focusing on what will be an exciting home opener against the Bloomingdale Bulls Friday in the “Tank.” It is time for the games to count and Sumner to embark on what is shaping up to be a very promising season.