Running an option offense in football requires pinpoint timing.
It’s almost like a game of chicken — the quarterback taking off, daring a defender to come toward him. And when he does, the QB quickly pitching the ball back to his halfback just as the hit sends him crashing to the grass.
Most importantly, it requires trust.
“You got to know he’s going to be there,” said Ryan Malone, quarterback of the Greenport/Mattituck/Southold/Shelter Island Porters. “It’s on both of us if we mess up.”
For Malone, his running mate in the Porters’ offense is a 5-foot-10, 180-pound junior halfback named Tomasz Filipkowski.
Through the first two games of the season, the offense never clicked. Both Babylon and Shoreham-Wading River shut down the Greenport offense, holding the Porters scoreless over eight quarters of football.
If the Porters hoped to salvage their season and make a repeat appearance in the Division IV playoffs come November, they needed a victory Friday night against the 2-0 Stony Brook School. And they needed the offense to find a spark.
Malone and Filipkowski were more than willing to light the match.
The duo combined for six touchdowns in a 41-16 rout over the Bears on a rainy night at Greenport High School, injecting new life into the Porters’ season.
Filipkowski torched the Bears’ defense on the ground, eluding defenders and dragging tacklers for 216 yards on 18 carries. He scored four of the Porters’ touchdowns and three of his scores were runs of 30 or more yards. His first touchdown was a 60-yard run.
“It was fun to watch,” Malone said. “He’s really exciting to watch.”
His first touchdown came on an option toss left. Filipkowski took the ball up the left sideline, managed to weave his way through the defense and stay inbounds all the way down to the end zone.
“The chemistry is really working now,” said Malone, who rushed for a pair of touchdowns of his own along with 69 yards on 14 carries.
Greenport coach Jack Martilotta said during the first two weeks some players performed well individually at times. But they weren’t meshing together as a team.
“I think the timing is finally getting there,” he said.
Malone said the threat of a passing game helped open up some holes in the running attack.
“The first two games we couldn’t get much of a passing attack going on,” he said. “Now we’re trying to spread the ball out more and it’s working. There’s more holes for us to run.”
Records were deceiving going into the game. Stony Brook won its first two games while Greenport lost two, but the Bears faced a significantly softer schedule to start. The Porters, as the No. 6 seed in the division, started off the year against the perennial champion Babylon. Week 2 sent them on the road again against a rejuvenated Shoreham team that last year played in Division III.
Facing a team riding that wave of confidence, the Porters knew they needed to get ahead quickly on the Bears.
Malone helped make that happen.
On the first play from scrimmage, Malone intercepted a pass by Stony Brook quarterback Wyatt Piazza that was intended for the speedster Taylor Colucci.
“That was a huge momentum boost for us,” Malone said.
The Porters quickly capitalized after gaining possession at their own 43-yard line. On second-and-7 from the Bears’ 32, Malone raced out to the right and kept it himself all the way for the touchdown. The defense sent Stony Brook backward on its next possession, forcing a three-and-out.
Two plays into Greenport’s next possession Filipkowski busted his 60-yard run and just like that, it was 14-0.
The Porters led 21-0 before Stony Brook got on the board when Colucci returned a kickoff for a touchdown. He returned the opening kickoff back as well but a penalty wiped away the score.
The only miscue defensively for Greenport came on the Bears’ first possession of the third quarter. After the Porters scored to go ahead 34-8, the Bears’ offense mounted its only scoring drive. On fourth-and-5 from his own 45, Piazza threw over the middle to his wide open tight end Jerome Washington. The Porters couldn’t bring him down and scampered all the way to the end zone.
Aside from the one big pass play, the Porters’ defense bottled up Stony Brook’s ground attack. The Bears tried running the option as well, but with no success. The Porters consistently made tackles in the back field and forced Stony Brook into long downs.
“The defense played well last week and played better this week,” Martilotta said. “We got a few things to work on, but we’re getting there.”
Senior Nick Lentini intercepted a pair of passes for Greenport. Overall the Porters’ defense forced five Stony Brook turnovers.
Freshman John Drinkwater connected on five out of six extra point attempts for the Porters.
Greenport faces another tough challenge next week against Mount Sinai.