When the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck high school football team unveils its offense for the upcoming season, it will include a new feature back, one with a notably different style than his predecessor.
Last year Frank Sierra, a bruising runner, pounded the ball and was tough to bring down. It seemed like it usually took more than one tackler to get the job done. Sometimes it seemed as if Sierra actually preferred to run straight forward into tacklers rather than try to avoid them. It was a style that worked for him and brought the Porters yardage.
This year, with Sierra having graduated, Matt Drinkwater will be handing the ball off to Billy McAllister instead. McAllister is a different animal. Whereas Sierra would be prone to running through a wall of tacklers, McAllister is more likely to run around them.
“Billy, instead of running a kid over, he’ll be able to make him miss,” said Porters coach Jack Martilotta.
McAllister, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound senior, is entering his fourth varsity season for the Porters along with teammates Willie Riggins, Timmy Stevens and the Drinkwater twins, Matt and John.
As a backup to Sierra last season, McAllister had some carries, mostly early in the season. Martilotta thought McAllister did well in limited action.
“He did really well last year,” the coach said. “You know, it was one of those things where Frank was very good, and that’s not to take anything away from Bill. Bill was very good, but when you’re backing up a senior, that tends to happen, and this year it’s going to be his ball to run.”
That’s an exciting prospect for McAllister, who spent the summer working out and adding muscle. “I’ve only gotten bigger and faster,” he said. “I want people to bounce off me like they bounced off” Sierra.
Comparing his running style to Sierra’s, McAllister said: “He just kept going. Once people were hitting him he didn’t stop. I guess I’m more elusive. If I get hit, I can just spin out of it, but I can still take a hit and keep going.”
Riggins, a senior guard/defensive tackle, can attest to that. He said, “Billy’s looking really good, quick, definitely durable, can take a hit and keep running, just like Frankie, just smaller.”
The Porters began their two-a-day preseason practices at Greenport High School on Monday. A number of things need to be ironed out, including the identification of the fullback who will be in the backfield along with McAllister and Matt Drinkwater.
“Somebody will step up that wants to knock somebody over,” said Martilotta.
Martilotta said the Porters will run a spread offense, with one or two running backs, as well as a pro set.
McAllister, who also plays cornerback, sounded thrilled by the opportunity set before him. “I’m really excited,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
Martilotta likes what he has seen from McAllister. “Billy has clearly spent a lot of time in the off-season working out, and he is a big boy,” the coach said. “He’s very quick. He’s very strong. He’s shifty. I’m looking for really good things from Billy.”
The Porters, seeded eighth in Suffolk County Division IV, are looking for good things from themselves. They are coming off a season in which they might have been the surprise of the county, rebounding from an 0-8 record in 2012 and going 6-3. The Porters reached the playoffs for the second time in four years, falling short to Mount Sinai in a qualifying-round game.
“It was a really good season,” Riggins said. “Especially after coming back 0 and 8, everybody thought: ‘Oh yeah, it’s going to be the same Greenport team. Greenport’s going to lose like usual.’ But then when we came out, we showed [them]. Everybody saw what happened.”
Martilotta said senior leadership and a commitment to off-season training were instrumental in what the Porters did last year. The Porters graduated 14 seniors, but they have 10 seniors this year, including players like linebackers Tyshe Williams and Will Tondo, linemen Adam Goode and Gabe Sierra (Frank’s younger brother), and wide receiver Chris Dwyer.
What the Porters don’t have is the size they had last year. They hope their speed and athleticism can counter that, and that is where McAllister comes in.
Any idea how many times a game McAllister will carry the ball?
Martilotta did not provide a number, simply answering, “He’s going to sleep well on Saturday mornings.”