MARINERS 26, PORTERS 20 (2 OT)
Lyle Smith loves playing football so much that his coach joked that Smith saw to it that the final game of the season for both the Southampton and Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island football teams on Saturday went to overtime.
Overtime would have been unnecessary had the Southampton junior held on to a pass in the end zone in the fourth quarter with the score tied at 13-13.
“That’s why he dropped that pass,” Southampton coach Edgar Franklin said. “I just think he wanted the game to go a little longer. He didn’t want it to end, he was having such a good time.”
The drop, which Smith said was his only one of the season, might have been the only thing that Smith didn’t do right. Regardless, it didn’t hurt Southampton in the long run. Alex Halaka scored on a 10-yard run around the left side in the second round of overtime, lifting the Mariners to a 26-20 victory and closing the door on a winless season for Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island.
Southampton, which didn’t post a win last season, finished the season with a 3-5 record in Suffolk County Division IV. The Mariners saw their playoff chances dashed before they took the field, but that didn’t seem to deter their desire.
“Sometimes it isn’t always about making the playoffs,” Franklin said. “It’s about bouncing back from defeat, and that’s how life is sometimes. You got to bounce back when you get knocked down. These guys responded this week. They came out and they said they wanted to go out the right way.”
Halaka’s game-winning run followed a fumble by Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island that was forced by Nitauke Williams and recovered by Danny Claud.
Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime of the rare afternoon game at Greenport High School’s Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field. Southampton snapped a 13-13 tie when Williams broke free and caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Taylor Sanders (9 of 15, 131 yards). Then Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island (0-8) responded with Tyshe Williams banging into the end zone for a four-yard touchdown burst.
The loss was the 13th in a row for the Porters, who dropped three of their games this year by a total of 18 points.
“We really wanted the kids to be able to get one today,” Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island coach Jack Martilotta said. “Last year games weren’t that close. This year they’re heartbreakingly close.”
It looked as if the football gods might finally smile on the Porters when Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island’s Connor Anderson retrieved the short game-opening kick that teammate John Drinkwater lofted high in the air. That set up a one-yard quarterback sneak for a touchdown by Matt Drinkwater.
But Smith, the undoubted player of the game, was on Southampton’s side. By the game’s end, his dirty No. 27 uniform told the tale of how busy he was. The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Smith, a former offensive tackle, played running back and middle linebacker. He ran for touchdowns on two successive second-quarter touches, the second of which was an 85-yarder in which a block by Isaiah Johnson opened a clearing for him up the middle. Smith ended up with 141 rushing yards from 14 carries and made a 24-yard reception. If that wasn’t enough, he had a monster of a game on defense, and was involved in a game-high 22 tackles.
The Porters tied the score at 13-13 with 10 seconds left in the first half. Eugene Allen, who alternated at quarterback with Matt Drinkwater, scrambled before floating a 10-yard pass up for grabs into the end zone. A Southampton player got his hands on the ball while Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island’s Jack Volinski and Christian Angelson contested him for it. The ball trickled down — and into Timmy Stevens’ waiting hands for a touchdown.
Even without running back Frank Sierra, who sat out the game with a knee injury, the Porters still picked up 240 yards on the ground. That was thanks in no small measure to a pair of sophomores, Williams (25 carries, 125 yards) and Billy McAllister (14 carries, 72 yards).
Yet, it was a sad ending for the Porters and their five seniors, who wore their team’s uniform for the last time: Christian Davis, Chris Manwaring, Marc Proferes, Eddie Wright and Richie Wysocki.
“We almost had it,” lineman Codey Fisher said. “It was close.”
Martilotta said: “We’re an 0 and 8 team, and the kids are fighting, clawing and scratching to literally the last second of the last play of the season. We’re very lucky. I’ve been saying all year, we have a great group of kids.”
On the other side of the field, Franklin and his players were ecstatic, posing for a happy team photo.
“Words can’t even express the way I feel right now,” Franklin said. “… I can see no better ending to their season than a double-overtime win with a senior scoring the winning touchdown. It couldn’t have ended better for them.”
Overtime is pressure-packed and intense, but Smith didn’t seem to mind. And why should he? After all, it meant more football.
“It was exciting,” he said. “Most people get nervous, but I was excited. I couldn’t wait to play. I like playing football, so the more football the better. Anything to keep the game going.”