The ground game is back in Greenport.
This season high school football fans can expect Greenport/Southold/Mattituck to run the ball, and then run some more, and then some more. It’s called playing to your strength.
This could be the best running game the Porters have had in Jack Martilotta’s seven years as the team’s head coach.
“That’s high school football, figuring out what kids you got and building a system that works,” said Martilotta.
Martilotta, who has a 14-28 record, had stepped down as head coach following the 2014 season to work with the team as an assistant coach. But the new head coach, Mike Buck, left the team after not getting a teaching job before last season started, and Martilotta returned to his old post. By then the Porters were already married to the spread system that Buck had installed. They were a passing team, for better or worse.
Although things started out well for them, winning three of their first four games, their offense became stagnant. Not only did they lose their last four games, including the regular-season finale to Bishop McGann-Mercy that cost them a playoff spot, but they failed to score a point in the second half of the season.
This year they are hoping to give their offense a shot in the arm by running the ball more. Last year the Porters were outrushed by opponents, 1,479 yards to 702.
“I believe our strength is going to be our run game,” Martilotta said. “It seems that we have a lot of pieces there that we can use.”
That would include Keegan Syron, an All-League tailback who also excelled at middle linebacker. Syron is the team’s top returning rusher (83 yards from 31 carries, three touchdowns) and receiver (seven catches, 72 yards). The 6-foot, 220-pound senior also led the team with 48 tackles, five for losses.
“He’s that kid that’s going to work considerably harder this year,” Martilotta said. “He’s a lot bigger and stronger.”
Jacob Kollen will also run the ball.
The starting quarterback position hasn’t been settled, with juniors Sean Sepenoski and Jordan Fonseca competing for the spot. The athletic Fonseca can also play running back, wide receiver and defensive back.
Martilotta said the passing game needs work. “Running the ball we’re very strong but, as with any offense, you want to be able to pass it,” he said.
When it comes to strength, the Porters can also count on senior lineman Mike Goodale (5-10, 240), another All-League choice. He made 14 tackles last year, including 2 1/2 sacks.
“He was an animal last year and we’re expecting him to be [one] again this year,” Martilotta said. “To have him on the line and Keegan as the linebacker with a few other of those big boys … I think it will be a challenge for teams to run on us.”
The linebacking corps is fortified with Chance Anderson, Gage Suglia (20 tackles), Tashawn Lawrence and Kollen.
Jake Skrezec, a wide receiver and defensive back, and linemen Chris Schwamborn (5-11, 300) and Kyle Schultz are also among the 11 returning players for the Porters, seeded 10th in Suffolk County Division IV.
“Our goal is to make it back to the playoffs, and the last couple of years …we haven’t been able to close the deal and that’s what we’re aiming for this year,” Martilotta said. “We want these kids to be able to play a playoff game and hopefully more than one.”
That’s why they want to hit the ground running.
Photo caption: Keegan Syron, an All-League tailback, will be featured in Greenport/Southold/Mattituck’s running game this year. (Credit: file, Garret Meade)