The mistake was entirely understandable. Jack Martilotta had never seen Owen Finnegan before and didn’t know who he was. So, when on the first day of practice, the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck football coach saw Finnegan, from a distance, wearing shorts and a T-shirt, he naturally assumed that Finnegan was an adult, an extra-large adult.
“I didn’t even realize he was a kid,” Martilotta said. “I’m not used to seeing them that big.”
Finnegan, who has transferred from Bishop McGann-Mercy Diocesan High School to Mattituck High School for his senior year, is no pipsqueak, that’s for sure.
He is 6-foot-5. And his weight? “It’s debated, but we’ll go with 275,” he said.
Finnegan is the biggest player on the team and a big piece of an offensive line that may prove to be the largest among teams in Suffolk County Division IV. “It’s the biggest line I’ve ever been a part of,” he said. “It’s probably 1,500 pounds combined weight.”
Although he is entering 12th grade, Finnegan has yet to make his varsity debut. He had played in the Porters’ program when he was an eighth-grader. The next two years he played for McGann-Mercy’s junior varsity team. He was ready to hit the varsity scene last year for the Monarchs when, a week before the season started, he suffered a concussion during a five-way scrimmage in Mount Sinai.
“I lost a season because of it,” he said. “I didn’t fully recover for like five months. Going to school was rough.”
Finnegan said he also dealt with a concussion when he was a freshman.
Asked if concussions are an occupational hazard for linemen, Finnegan replied: “I think it all comes down to technique, and my technique was not as good as it should have been, and that’s on me. It’s not on my coaching or anything.”
This season the Porters expect to give opponents headaches with Finnegan and the rest of their full-size offensive line.
While the lineup hasn’t been set in stone, Martilotta said, the way things stand now, Finnegan is the projected starting center. Joe O’Brien, a senior who didn’t play last year because he had mononucleosis, and senior Cody Fisher are slotted at the offensive tackle positions, with Willie Riggins, a junior, at guard. Martilotta said there is some good competition for the other guard spot, with seniors Connor Andersen and John Bakowski under consideration along with a few good-looking juniors.
What it all adds up to is the belief that running back Frank Sierra should have some nice holes to run through. “All of a sudden we have pieces in front of him,” said Martilotta.
Riggins has liked what he has seen from the offensive line so far.
“We have good enough linemen this year that we should dominate, hopefully,” he said before the Porters concluded their two-a-day practices on Friday at Greenport High School. “Owen’s looking pretty damn good. I think that all the offensive linemen are stronger than last year, and we got 10 times better.”
Finnegan is the new kid on the block, in a manner of speaking, but he is hardly a stranger. Because of his concussion history, he said, he was initially hesitant about returning to football, but he was encouraged by friends and current teammates like Connor Malone, Gene Allen and Sal Loverde. “It’s the best decision I made so far,” he said.
How has preseason training camp gone for Finnegan?
“I could do better,” he said, “but I’m doing the best that I can and by the season I should be tip-top and ready to go.”
Finnegan’s size alone brings him almost instant credibility at the high school level, especially in Division IV where undersize linemen are fairly common.
Outfitting Finnegan proved to be an issue, though. “Any time you got to order bigger shoulder pads and jerseys than anything you have in the basement, that is a nice problem to have,” said Martilotta.
“He moves well,” the coach continued. “We’ve got some pieces to work on with him as far as his technique goes, but he’s a very good kid. He’s aggressive. He’s just large enough that he’s going to be somebody that all teams are going to have to account for. There aren’t many kids that look like that.”
Finnegan said the Porters and the Monarchs, who will not play each other in the regular season, share a number of similarities, such as the closeness of the players. The personalities of the teams, however, are different, he said, and the Porters are more blue collar. “I like that,” he said.
Meanwhile, concern over Finnegan’s multiple concussions lingers.
“It’s in the back of my mind,” he said, “but if I’m worried about it, it’s going to end up happening, so the best thing to do is just ignore it and see what happens.”