Small roster sizes are nothing new for the high school football team that plays in Greenport. For decades the Porters have had to make do with what they had in terms of low player numbers.
But when the plug was pulled on the remainder of Greenport/Southold/Mattituck’s season on Tuesday, it sent a shock wave through the North Fork, particularly in Greenport, which has a proud tradition in the sport.
After injuries dropped the number of healthy Porters to 13, Greenport’s athletic director, Jim Caliendo, met with the athletic directors of the other two schools represented on the team, and the decision was made to cancel the rest of the season. The Porters, who were 2-4 following a 19-0 loss at Port Jefferson on Saturday, had games scheduled for Friday night against Elwood/John Glenn and Nov. 1 against Wyandanch.
“It’s shocking,” Porters senior John Drinkwater said. “Of course we’re all stunned and distraught at this time.”
Caliendo said Section XI requires 16 varsity-ready players for a game. He said junior varsity players did not want to be moved up to the varsity team.
The coaching staff met with the players on Wednesday, and later that evening, the three athletic directors held a 44-minute informational meeting that was attended by over 30 people in the Greenport High School auditorium.
Some deep emotions were evident at the meeting.
Angela Drinkwater, the mother of two varsity players, said she believed there must have been a way to save the rest of the season. “I can’t believe we couldn’t have gotten the three or four kids somehow” to field a team, she said.
Mattituck’s athletic director, Gregg Wormuth, who joined Southold’s athletic director, Mike Brostowski, and Caliendo in fielding questions during the meeting, told the parents: “I think we all kind of feel the same way about this season. We’re upset and we’re disappointed in how we had to proceed, but hopefully in the future we can join together as a group and become more united and stronger.”
One of the touchy points seemed to be the loss of Senior Night. Last year the Porters lost their scheduled Senior Night when Hampton Bays forfeited its final game to the Porters. So the Porters recognized their seniors before their playoff game at Mount Sinai.
Friday night’s game was to be Senior Night, the Porters’ final home regular-season game during which its seniors were to be honored. Fourteen seniors were listed on the team’s roster.
Some of the angry voices at Wednesday night’s informational meeting appeared to be soothed by the acceptance of a proposal to hold an event, possibly a flag football game, on Friday night at Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field for the varsity and junior varsity football players and cheerleaders so the seniors can be recognized.
“That’s a great idea,” Caliendo said. “Let’s do it this Friday. I can make it work.”
Parents expressed their concern about the future of the program, but were quickly assured that doing away with the program was never a consideration. Wormuth said, “We’re not cutting programs because we had one bad year.”
Alethia Ford, the mother of a junior high school player, said her concern about the future of the program was alleviated by what she heard.
“As long as I feel that they’re not giving up on Porter football at all, I feel fine,” she said. “I believe that this was a wake-up call for everybody involved, for the parents, the coaches, the districts, for them to realize that we have to do more to instill that drive in our kids to want to play.”
Ford continued: “It is important for us to instill in our students that this is devastating, but don’t let this be the end. Show everybody who’s coming up that this is not the end. We may be down a little bit right now, but we’re going to support you.”
Porters coach Jack Martilotta said the team started the season with about 25 players. A few players quit early on, he said, and grades became an issue for a couple of players. And then there were the injuries. Eight Porters didn’t play Saturday because of season-ending injuries.
“This is like the last thing I could have ever wanted to happen,” Martilotta told the parents, adding, “This is just terrible.”
School officials said the junior varsity team has about 20 players and the junior high school team has over 35.
Jeanine Warns, the mother of a junior high school player, said: “I feel bad for the seniors, I feel bad for the parents who supported [the team], and I feel bad for the schools because this is a big program. It’s a tradition.”
Nobody has to tell that to Chatty Allen, the team’s bus driver and a Greenport High School alum. Allen said she read the news about the season being dropped with disbelief. She said fans went into panic mode when they heard the news. “It’s not just the team; it’s the school, it’s the entire community,” she said.
The Porters’ Friday night home games are about more than the actual game on the field, said Allen. “The entire community comes together,” she said. “I think it’s more camaraderie. You have parents, grandparents, great-grandparents. You have multiple generations that look forward to coming out on Friday night. It don’t matter if you win or lose. Yeah, they love it when you win, but they still come when they’re getting their butt kicked.”
During the meeting one parent asked what the parents can do to help.
“All you parents here are the ones who care,” Caliendo said. “Just keep doing that and we’ll get this thing back on track.”