The summer routine for Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island high school football players took a different turn on Thursday morning with the start of preseason practice. It meant rising out of bed at 5 a.m. for a 7 a.m. practice. That, of course, meant something else.
“It means summer’s over,” said Eugene Allen, a junior who plays quarterback, wide receiver and cornerback.
The sight of the Porters practicing again may herald the end of summer to some, but it also marks a new beginning. At least that is what the Porters hope.
Coming off a rough 1-7 season, the Porters are planning on better days ahead. For one thing, they have a more forgiving schedule than the brutal one they played last year. For another, they lost only four seniors from last year’s team (one of whom, Ryan Malone, now plays cornerback for Sacred Heart University in Connecticut).
To help get back on the winning track, the Porters, in keeping with the trend, are turning to the spread offense under the watchful eyes of head coach Jack Martilotta and his new offensive coordinator, Dale Gross.
“I think we’re going to see some positives out of that,” said Martilotta, who is in his third year as the team’s head coach. “He’s very, very good.”
The question now is: How good will the Porters be?
“I think we’re looking good,” Martilotta said. “We look pretty solid at pretty much every position. We’re going to have to find some more depth, and we will. We’ll see who lines up well where, but we seem to pretty much have all the boxes checked. I’m pretty happy about that.”
The Porters played Malone out of position last year because they needed him at quarterback. “That was the piece that was missing,” Martilotta said. “That was a big piece.”
Now the team has three quarterback candidates: sophomore Jared Shenone, junior Sal Loverde and Allen. Martilotta said Shenone’s wrist has been hurting him.
The first practice had been scheduled for Thursday morning, but because of administrative details, equipment was handed out that day instead, and the first practice was actually pushed back to Friday morning.
A notable absence was Tomasz Filipkowski. Filipkowski, a senior who played running back and linebacker, was arguably the team’s most productive player last year. Martilotta declined to discuss Filipkowski’s absence.
Thirty-three players were counted on the Greenport High School field, but Martilotta said he expects to have about 45 players for the varsity and junior varsity teams.
It’s a relatively young group. By Martilotta’s count, eight of the players are seniors.
“There are a lot of young guys,” Loverde, a third-year varsity player, said after the first practice. “They’re going to step up, for sure, if we want to be successful this year. For some kids, this is a first taste of what football is like.”
All the conditioning drills and hitting of preseason is preparation for the kickoff to the Porters’ season on Sept. 7 at The Stony Brook School.
If lessons can be taken from losses, perhaps some positives can come out of the Porters’ 2011 season. If nothing else, the experience could have made them a more determined group.
“I feel like that’s definitely going to push us to go harder this year because I know [the] coaches and all of us on the team don’t want the same thing that happened to us last year,” said Frank Sierra, a junior running back/linebacker.
“No one wants to go back that route,” Allen agreed. “Everyone wants to go upwards.”
To help towards that end, the Porters have 15 returning varsity players, including two all-league players in lineman Mark Proferes and linebacker Ray Thilberg.
“Last year was a tough season as far as wins and losses, but we got a lot of younger kids experience, so a lot of these younger kids coming up as a juniors have a full year under their belt so they know what to expect, and that’s really going to help us this year,” Martilotta said. “There’s going to be some down years, and last year was a down year. Some positives came from it. Like anything else, it kind of reveals character, a year like that, and it really showed us a lot. Some of the kids didn’t want to be there last year and we allowed them not to be there. This year we have a group of kids that really just want to be here.”