Football: The spread offense is coming to Greenport

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Sal Loverde is a key player in Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island’s new spread offense.

Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island high school football fans will see something this fall that they have never seen before. At least not from the Porters.

The trendy spread offense has come to Greenport.

A new offensive coordinator, Dale Gross, brings with him a new offense that the Porters hope will light up the scoreboard. High school teams such as Amityville, Elwood/John Glenn, Sayville and William Floyd have made effective use of the spread. The Porters are hoping for similar results.

“It’s fun, exciting, fast-paced football,” Gross said. “It takes advantage of mismatches and you need athletes to use it.”

He added: “This version of it, I don’t think anybody on Long Island has really seen yet. It will be exciting. It will be something new.”

This isn’t your grandfather’s offense. In Greenport, where fans are more accustomed to watching a run-first approach from the power I, the Porters see the spread as the best way to make use of their athleticism and keep opponents guessing.

“It’s the element of surprise,” Gross said. “You really don’t know where the ball is going to go at any time.”

Coaches and players say the spread provides the team with a variety of options from various formations. Because the system is so drastically different than what the Porters have used in the past, they might be unrecognizable, if not for their uniforms.

“We’re going to come out, and people are going to be like, ‘Who is this?’ ” said Eugene Allen, a junior who plays quarterback, wide receiver and cornerback.

In the spread, the quarterback stands in shotgun formation most of the time. A no-huddle approach is often used, and as many as five wide receivers may be on the field. Also, the offensive linemen may be separated by wide splits.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Fast, sure-handed players like Eugene Allen prompted Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island’s conversion to the spread offense.

The purpose of it all is to try to stretch the defense and open up seams.

“You don’t know what’s coming,” said Sal Loverde, a junior who plays quarterback, wide receiver and linebacker. “It’s crazy.”

The spread seems to be popular with players. It may be fun to employ, some say, but it can also be effective.

“I think it’s going to help in a big way because we’ve never done something so complex as this,” Loverde said. “We’re going to come out and do these plays, and teams are just going to be in shock. They’re not going to know how to defend it.”

Gross played for Sayville’s Rutgers Trophy-winning team in 2004 and later at Averett University (Va.). He became a student assistant coach at Averett, working with the offensive linemen and tight ends. Last year he was an assistant at The Apprentice School (Va.). Gross said he has been working on the spread for about two years. He said the spread was tinkered with at The Apprentice School, but not used much because the team didn’t have the sort of athletes needed to make it work.

Porters coaches, on the other hand, say they have the athletes and the time is right for adopting the spread. In addition to having players who can throw and catch the ball, the Porters possess speed in the form of players like Jack Volinski, Eddie Wright, Christian Angelson and Allen.

“It seemed like such a great fit,” head coach Jack Martilotta said. “I feel like with the offense we have we’ll be able to involve a lot more kids in it because there’s a part for everybody in the offense. I think it allows us to play to the kids’ strengths. It’s flexible enough that we can make adjustments. We can pass the ball. We can put kids in a position to be successful.”

That must sound like music to the ears of a team that went 1-7 last year.

“Skill-wise you need athletes,” Gross said. “You need guys who are going to go up and get the ball and be able to make quick cuts, and you need a good, conditioned line. You need a good, conditioned team. You need to be in top shape to be able to run this. If you’re not, it’s not going to work.”

For the players, turning to the spread means studying a new playbook and receiving chalkboard instruction.

“It’s been running smoothly in practice,” Allen said. “Everyone’s comfortable with it already.”

The first big test will come Aug. 31 when the Porters will scrimmage Huntington.

Following Monday morning’s practice, Gross said about half of the playbook had been installed. “We’re taking our time because it’s new to everybody here,” he said. “We’ll take our time and make sure it’s done right.”

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