The Greenport/Southold/Mattituck Porters undoubtedly took some other football teams by surprise last season. Now the question is: Can the Porters perhaps surprise themselves this coming season?
Having won only one game from the two preceding years, it wasn’t exactly a shocker that the Porters were seeded 13th among 14 Suffolk County Division IV teams last year. If there were low expectations, though, they weren’t coming from the Porters, who went on to post a 6-3 record. It was the first time they have won six games in a season since 1970, according to coach Jack Martilotta. They lost to Mount Sinai, 20-14, in a Division IV qualifying round game, but won the respect of Mount Sinai coach Vinnie Ammirato and others with their play.
“Last season, it was the most amazing feeling you can ever have in your life,” guard/defensive tackle Willie Riggins said. “That’s all I can say.”
Martilotta said the Porters raised the bar of expectations. “It was a great year,” he said. “We had great kids. It’s the kind of success now that I think the kids are expecting. I think the kids are expecting to be a good team and we should” be.
With 14 seniors having graduated from last year’s team, the Porters will have a new look in faces and form. As the eighth seed in the division, they will face a tougher schedule this coming fall and teams will not likely take them lightly.
“They’re ready for us now,” running back Billy McAllister said. “It’s going to be different.”
Martilotta acknowledged as much. Speaking of opponents, he said: “I think we’re probably on their radar at this point. I think that’s a fair way to put it.”
An early peek at the new-look Porters was seen this week as the team took part in a five-day mini-camp that concluded on a muggy Friday at Mattituck High School. They worked on technique, did some physical conditioning and installed some plays. About 40 players participated in the mini-camp, said Martilotta. Martilotta, who along with offensive coordinator Chris Robinson and defensive coordinator Mike Miller, put the Porters through drills, is hopeful that the team will spend time in a camp this summer at Stony Brook University.
The Porters have lost a lot with the departure of Gene Allen, an All-County selection who played wide receiver and defensive back. Allen will play for Hartwick College in the fall, leaving a void the Porters will be hard-pressed to fill.
Martilotta is expecting seven starters to return when preseason camp opens on Aug. 18. Players like Riggins, Adam Goode, Gabe Sierra, Timmy Stevens, John and Matt Drinkwater, Tyshe Williams and Chris Dwyer will be more important than ever.
What the Porters lost in size with the graduations of Owen Finnegan and Cody Fisher, they believe they can make up for in speed, with speedsters like Dan Fedun and Garrett Malave, and a commitment to the weight room.
“We just got to keep going to the weight room and getting stronger and faster,” said McAllister.
The Porters don’t have to worry about quarterback. They will return last year’s starting QB, Matt Drinkwater, and his backup, Dylan Marlborough.
“Having a returning varsity quarterback, that’s worth something,” said Martilotta.
The Porters have the makings of a line with Finnegan’s younger brother, Liam Finnegan (“He’s a house,” said Martilotta), Riggins and Goode.
“They spent the off-season in the weight room, and it’s obvious,” Martilotta said. “There’s no faking that.”
For players like Riggins, football is more than a game.
“I want to play,” he said. “That’s my passion. I just want kids to come back and have that passion, the same passion as I do.”
The Porters still have a lot to figure out before they open their season at home on Sept. 12 against Long Island champion Babylon.
“It’s not the NFL where you get players that fit your system,” Martilotta said. “We got to make sure that the system fits the kids.”
He added: “The seniors and juniors, I think they know what success looks like now and that’s something that they want to see again. We’re going work at it and see that they get it.”
If there are some surprises along the way, so be it.