The mere mention of the Drinkwater twins conjures images of smiling, happy faces. They are a fun-loving pair.
For John and Matt Drinkwater, a good humor is part of the game. It keeps teammates loose. Laughter can be good preparation for taking the field, where those smiles are turned into game faces and they get serious about the job to be done.
“That’s what I love,” John said. “The thing about sports is right before you start, you can joke around, you can have a good time, and I feel like that transfers onto the field in getting everyone amped up, and then once it’s on the field, it’s all business.”
It has proven to be the right mix for the Drinkwaters, both of whom are seniors entering their fourth varsity season with the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck high school football team. The identical twins are separated by 12 minutes (Matt is older). Matt returns as a starting quarterback and linebacker, an all-league first team selection. John, a kicker who can also play a variety of other positions, made the all-league second team last year.
Both will play central roles in what the Porters do on the field, not to mention the team’s morale off the field.
“They have fun and they enjoy it, but they want to win,” said Porters coach Jack Martilotta. He added: “They want to win and they love being here. Stuff like that is contagious.”
Matt has a good arm and played “very well” last season, said Martilotta. Even so, he noted, the coaching staff has even higher expectations of him this year.
“He’s more mature, which is what you’re looking for in a senior,” Martilotta said. “One of the nice things about seniors is after you coach them for three or four years, they know what right looks like.”
Matt recalled catching the attention of coaches two years ago as a sophomore while playing linebacker for the scout team during practices. He said: “I started going crazy and lighting people up, and they said, ‘We got to get this kid on the field.’ That’s kind of where I started.”
He soon won a starting position.
Entering last year’s preseason training camp, Matt didn’t know he was going to wind up as the first-string quarterback, a position that seemed reserved for Jared Schenone. But Schenone’s recovery from a burst appendix over the summer delayed his return to the practice field, and the job went to Matt. He took over an offense installed by Chris Robinson, who was in his first year as the team’s offensive coordinator.
“Pretty much every year I’ve had to win the job, pretty much since I was in eighth grade,” Matt said. “So I’ve always had that mentality that you have to outdo whoever’s trying to take you out of your spot.”
Matt was awfully busy last season, playing offense and defense. His time to catch a breather was during kickoffs, which were handled by his brother, John.
On a team that was loaded with seniors, John, a hybrid of sorts, played some tight end and some fullback, but he was mostly on special teams. That helped his kicking.
“I really got to focus on stuff,” he said. “I really got to perfect my pooch kick and all kinds of kickoff techniques and field goals. I had a lot of time to focus on that. And I would look at [Matt], and he was just huffing and puffing on the sideline.”
That time to focus really helped John, who had what could be called a perfect season kicking. He knocked through all four field goals he attempted, and was 28 for 28 on extra-point attempts.
“For most high school teams, it’s a roll of the dice if you’re going to make that extra point,” Martilotta said. “With John it’s automatic.”
John has leg strength. He recalled practicing one day in “gale-force winds and I was out there and I kicked a 60[-yard field goal], but I can hit about 50 every two out of three.” He said he nailed a 55-yarder during warmups before a game last season.
But kicking in a game is more difficult.
“It’s definitely harder because of the rush,” he said. “The rush is something to deal with. You got to speed it up. … And also, you got to focus more because the crowd’s yelling and the other team’s trying to distract you.”
Timmy Stevens is the snapper for field goals and extra points, and Matt is the holder.
This year John will kick balls toward the brand new goalposts at Greenport High School’s Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field. He called the goalposts “beautiful.”
Martilotta said the Porters will also make use of John as a field player. “At this point we don’t know exactly where, but he’s going to be on the field,” the coach said. “He has to be. We’ll see. It’s going to be where he can fit in. He looks good in any number of places.”
As one might imagine of twins with a disposition to having fun, the Drinkwaters have pulled off a prank or two. Matt said they once switched shirts in school and attended each other’s class. It took a while before classmates finally figured it out, but it sure must have prompted some laughs.
That’s just what the Drinkwaters like.