Jack Martilotta, the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island coach, loves this time of the year, when the football season is just about to kick off. “How can you not?” he asked. “It’s like pizza, you know. [Even if] it’s bad pizza, it’s still pizza.”
The football equivalent of bad pizza for the Porters might have been last season when they managed only one win from eight games, finishing the season with a five-game losing streak. They ended up in 12th place, two places from the bottom of Suffolk County Conference IV.
“We had some issues, and I think we worked through them,” said Martilotta, who brings a 6-11 record with him into his third season as the team’s coach.
Along with footballs, change is in the air these days at Greenport High School. The days of the power-I offense in Greenport are gone — at least for now. The Porters’ offense, under the direction of new offensive coordinator Dale Gross, has switched to the spread formation, which promises surprises and unpredictability. With it, the Porters hope, will come points.
“It’s been running smoothly in practice,” said Eugene Allen, who can play wide receiver, quarterback and defensive back. “I just can’t wait.”
Martilotta said: “So far, so good. There are still some growing pains, but we expect that. It’s impressive how much the kids have been able to pick up so far, it really is.”
The Porters, seeded 11th in the conference by the coaches, have eight returning starters to build around, including two all-league players, senior lineman Marc Proferes and senior linebacker Ray Thilberg. Senior linemen Ben Pileski and Tevin Parrish were also regulars last year along with junior wide receiver/defensive back Jack Volinski, junior offensive lineman/linebacker Connor Andersen, junior running back Frank Sierra and senior wide receiver/defensive back Ed Wright.
Other players offer varsity experience, too, players like running back/defensive back Christian Angelson, linebacker Sal Loverde, and linemen John Bakowski, Chris Manwaring and Codey Fisher.
New additions Eugene Allen and Timmy Stevens should help at wide receiver. Allen can also play defensive back.
“Last year was a tough season as far as wins and losses,” Martilotta said, “but we got a lot of younger kids experience, so a lot of these younger kids coming up as juniors have a full year under their belt so they know what to expect, and that’s really going to help us this year.”
Martilotta said the quarterback position hasn’t been settled, but Loverde was in the mix along with Allen and Jared Shenone.
Gross, who likes flash and excitement in his offense, said the version of the spread that the Porters will run hasn’t been seen on Long Island before. “You can’t pound the ball any more,” he said. “You got to find the way to outscheme teams. We’re going to try it.”
The 4-3 defense overseen by defensive coordinator Mike Miller has looked good, said Martilotta.
“We got some real big boys on that defensive line, and that’s going to be good,” Martilotta said. “Our linebackers have experience. That will be helpful. We’ll be a hard-hitting team, that’s to be sure.”
The Porters go from a brutal 2011 schedule to a more forgiving one that will start Sept. 7 at The Stony Brook School, the only team the Porters gained a win from last year.
Even a losing season like last year’s for the Porters can be a motivational took, Loverde said, “to look back on what happened and make sure that never happens again.” He said, “We’re aiming for a positive season.”
Martilotta said the players are improving, working hard and dedicated. “They’re all about making sure we get as many wins as we can,” he said. “They want to win. Kids always want to win. It’s only eight games [in the regular season]. We have to make the most out of every opportunity. As long as the kids can keep up their intensity and they keep their focus on the field, I think we’ll be O.K.”
It sounded like Martilotta was looking forward to the season, but then again, there is nothing unusual about that. He enjoys the arrival of September, and with it a new high school football season.
“This is an exciting time,” he said. “It’s one of the rare things in life where you get to start anew each year.”