With each preseason practice, the vision of what the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island football team will look like for the team’s Sept. 7 season-opener at The Stony Brook School becomes a little clearer. The question of what the offensive line will look by then remains fuzzy.
The offensive line was the subject of discussion for coach Jack Martilotta and his coaching staff following Thursday morning’s practice at Greenport High School. For good reason, too. As clichéd as it sounds, there is a great deal of truth in the belief that a football team will go only as far as its offensive line takes it. Certainly, no one has to tell Martilotta how vital the offensive line is.
“It can win or lose the game,” he said. “If there’s a breakdown up there, nothing else is going to function. If they’re not blocking, we’re not running. If they’re not blocking, we’re not passing. That’s as important, if not more important, than anything else we do.”
Thus the talk about who will be on the line and who will be playing where. A week since the official start of preseason practice, the Porters are in the process of sorting things out. It seems likely that senior Marc Proferes, an all-league offensive tackle last year, will be moved to guard, junior Codey Fisher and senior Ben Pileski will man the offensive tackle spots, and junior Conner Andersen will play center. Also in the mix are senior Mike Partridge, senior Tevin Parrish, sophomore John Bakowski and sophomore Willie Riggins.
Then again, Martilotta said nothing is set in stone.
One offensive lineman, Joe O’Brien, has been lost temporarily. O’Brien, a junior who participated in the team’s first few practices, has been diagnosed with mononucleosis. He will be out four weeks at the most, said Martilotta.
The offensive line was on the green side last season when the Porters went 1-7.
“Last year we had a lot of younger kids on the offensive line and they made a lot of younger-kid mistakes, so there is room for improvement from last year,” said Martilotta, who expects better things from linemen who have grown wiser and bigger since last year. “They’re all strong, and they spent a lot of time in the weight room in the offseason.”
Fisher has been impressed by what he has seen so far from the offensive linemen. “I think it’s awesome because we’re always on the ball, keep on going, keep on going, wearing down that defense, and they have no time to make a play,” said the third-year varsity player.
The Porters’ transition to the spread offense this year isn’t expected to have too much of an impact on the linemen, aside from not huddling between plays and doing more pass blocking. “Other than that, everything is pretty straightforward,” said Proferes.
Then again, perhaps the more frequent pass blocking shouldn’t be glossed over. “That’s a hard thing for high school kids to do, and we’re going to be spending a lot of time making sure we know how to do it,” said Martilotta.
The line is built around Proferes, who was valued for his run blocking last season. “He’s a very good run blocker,” Martilotta said. “The kids look up to him. He’s also an honor student. He’s a big, strong kid, and he can move people around, and that’s really important to have.”
Proferes, Fisher and perhaps some of their fellow linemen also have something else: bumps and bruises. Proferes, who has been on the varsity team since he was a freshman, said he is dealing with a bad shoulder. “It hurts every once in a while, but I can get through it,” he said. Fisher has eight staples in his knee from a collision he had with a set of bleachers in December. “So far, so good,” Fisher said. “I have no complaints. It’s been fun exercising and getting back with my friends, my fellow teammates I haven’t seen in a while.”
Like their teammates, the linemen are doing a lot of conditioning work under the guidance of the team’s new line coach, Joe Dellaposta, as they prepare for the rigors that come with hitting in a 48-minute game. The school of hard knocks has opened.
“It’s great. I love it. There’s nothing better,” Proferes said of training camp. “This is when it all counts.”
Proferes said work on technique is equally as important as conditioning, though, especially for the younger linemen. “We need to get the little things right before we move on,” he said. “We definitely need some work. We have a lot of young kids. They got to learn from the ground up.”
While their teammates at the skilled positions may look at scoring a touchdown as their biggest thrill in a game, offensive linemen see things differently.
“I like laying a good hit into someone,” said Proferes.
What does Fisher get a charge out of from playing on the line?
“When we make our blocks and the whole crowd is screaming and the running back is just going, it makes me proud,” he said. “It just puts a smile on my face to see him go.”