Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field at Greenport High School was aglow Friday night. Its green field was lined, marked and shining under the lights. The scoreboard was lit and spectators were in the stands. The scene was typical for a Friday night in October in Porterland.
What wasn’t typical, however, was just about everything else about the occasion.
When the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck high school football team’s final two games of the season were canceled last week because the Porters did not have enough players, it caused a sensation in the village where Friday night football is embraced as much for being a social occasion as a sporting event.
“People look forward to those Friday nights,” said Chatty Allen, a Porters fan who drives the team’s bus.
Player numbers have characteristically been low for the Porters. That’s nothing new. Over the years they have rode that fine line between being able to field the minimally required 16 players for a game and having to forfeit. Last week they fell over that line, though, when they had only 13 healthy players after season-ending injuries to eight players. Junior varsity players did not want to be pulled up to the varsity team, said school officials. It sounded as if the administration had little choice in grudgingly making a decision that was both easy (what were the alternatives?) and gut-wrenching at the same time.
“I was devastated,” said senior lineman Willie Riggins III.
The record will show that the Porters will finish the season with a 2-6 record, including the two forfeits. That’s not quite how they had envisioned a season that seemed full of promise. But as things went south for the Porters, the playoffs became a long shot, at best. They almost surely would have needed to win both of their last two games against second-place Elwood/John Glenn (6-1) and last-place Wyandanch (0-7) in order to see the postseason.
But what really seemed to touch a chord for some Porters fans was the loss, for the second year in a row, of Senior Night. Last year the Porters’ Senior Night became a casualty when Hampton Bays forfeit its final game to the Porters. The Porters’ seniors were recognized in a ceremony before their playoff game in Mount Sinai.
This year a flag football game was quickly organized as a stage for the Porters’ senior football players and cheerleaders to have their names announced over the public-address system one more time.
That brought us to this past Friday night for, what? Senior Night Revisited? Senior Night Part II?
“Let’s just call it Senior Night,” said Jim Caliendo, the Greenport athletic director who doubled as the referee on this brisk night for a flag football game between alumni on one side and current Porters players and cheerleaders on the other. A 60-yard field was marked for the game, which consisted of two 10-minute halves.
The game saw a lot of laughing and smiling — not to mention some fantastic plays by the alumni, who came out on top, 36-6.
“It’s something new for everybody, but it was fun,” senior lineman Jarod Tramontana said.
Asked if the flag football game took some of the sting out of a shortened season, Tramontana replied: “Not really. Everybody wishes we could continue. It hurts on the inside.”
Riggins, clutching a football and wearing a Porters football T-shirt, said the resurrected Senior Night did help. “I really enjoyed myself,” he said. “We didn’t get to have our Senior Night, but we had something close to it and I’m actually really happy that everybody came out and supported us at a time when we really needed it.”
This has been an unusual high school football season, to say the least. Babylon — mighty Babylon — has lost three games, believe it or not! When was the last time that happened? A Shoreham-Wading River player, Tom Cutinella, died tragically after a collision in a game, drawing national attention. And now this, a Porters season cut short by a remarkable series of injuries.
The Porters have learned a valuable life lesson. One of their seniors, John Drinkwater, said, “Life moves fast and things change on a dime.”