When the time period for a National Football League team arrives to make a draft pick, it is said that the team is “on the clock.” High school football coaches know the feeling well. That is how they feel on the first day of preseason practice: They are on the clock, with X number of days to prepare for the season-opening game.
The pressure of pressing time can make coaches feel like students cramming for a big exam.
“Absolutely,” Greenport/Southold/Mattituck’s coach, Jack Martilotta, said. “It’s always a race to prepare for the first game.”
With the significant turnover the Porters (6-3 last year) have had in player personnel, putting all the pieces in place doesn’t happen overnight. The Porters lost all of their offensive starters from last year except for quarterback Matt Drinkwater and linemen Willie Riggins and Gabe Sierra. That’s not all. On the defensive side of the ball, the starters will be new except for the three linebackers (Tyshe Williams, Will Tondo and Drinkwater) and Riggins at defensive tackle.
That’s what happens when a team graduates 14 players.
The Porters made it to the playoffs last year for the second time in four years and gave Mount Sinai a good game in a qualifying-round loss. This year they are seeded eighth in Suffolk County Division IV, which would put them just inside the bubble for another playoff spot.
“I think we have every ability to be a playoff team, and I think the other coaches saw that,” said Martilotta, who has a 12-22 record in five years as the Porters’ coach.
The most glaring change in the Porters is their metamorphosis from a physically big team to a smaller team that is faster. Speedy players like Dan Fedun, Garrett Malave and Billy McAllister provide the Porters with options and a different way of doing things.
“We have more speed,” Martilotta said. “You can’t coach speed. Either kids have it or they don’t, and we have some fast kids out there so we’re going to try and use them.”
Drinkwater, a senior, was an all-league first team player last year. His twin brother, John Drinkwater, made the all-league second team after going 4 for 4 on field-goal attempts and 28 for 28 on extra-point attempts.
Despite all the players the Porters lost, they still have a healthy supply of seniors, including offensive lineman Adam Goode, wide receiver/defensive back Timmy Stevens and wide receiver/defensive back Chris Dwyer.
“Having seniors on your team is huge,” Martilotta said. “They’re just more mentally and physically mature. They’re the ones you expect to lead your team.”
Liam Finnegan and Chris Schwamborn are expected to help on both sides of the line.
The Porters will rely on Matt Drinkwater and his receivers to hook up on the passing game while McAllister, a backup last year, assumes the first-string running back position.
But Martilotta knows the Porters need more than that. “It’s everybody,” he said. “The line has got to block. The receivers have got to catch. The running backs [have] got to run, you know, and the same thing on defense. It’s a team game. As long as everybody’s doing their part, we’re going to be alright.”
The Porters will play in nicer looking surroundings. Greenport High School’s Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field now has new NFL goal posts and irrigation under its field to go with a scoreboard that was installed last year.
So, the scene is set as opening night approaches. The Porters will host defending Long Island champion Babylon on Friday night, and the clock is winding down.
Said Martilotta, “I wish I had more time.”