After the latest round of craziness, Jack Martilotta seemed at a loss over what to call himself. Head coach? Assistant coach? Defensive coordinator?
Interim head coach, really, is the appropriate term, at least until he is officially declared the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck high school football team’s head coach again by the Greenport school board.
Martilotta had been the Porters’ head coach for the past five years, but then stepped aside after last season to become the defensive coordinator so Mike Buck could step in as the new head coach. Just as preseason training camp started, though, Buck stepped down, citing his failure to receive a teaching job in the Greenport School District.
That left the Porters in a lurch, in need of a head coach. Greenport’s athletic director, Jim Caliendo, who himself submitted a resignation letter with the intention of leaving the school district after the fall season, has recommended Martilotta for the head coaching job. All that awaits now is a stamp of approval from the school board. In the meantime, Martilotta is running the show.
The Porters have gone 14-28 under Martilotta, twice reaching the playoffs.
Asked how he feels to be running the team again, Martilotta said: “It’s an honor. I really enjoy it. It’s a challenge.”
Complicating matters further is an unusually early start to the season. The Porters will kick off the 2015 season at home on Friday night against Wyandanch. That will be just 18 days after the team’s first preseason practice — and four days before the first day of school.
“It’s a short run to the season,” Martilotta said. “It’s not like past years. I usually have one more week [of preseason practice]. I’m up against it right now.”
Then again, the Porters are no strangers to adversity. They faced a wall of it last year when their season was cut short after the team ran out of healthy players. The Porters started the season with about 25 players, but with two games remaining on their schedule, they pulled the plug on the remainder of the season when their roster was reduced to 13 players, thanks largely to a rash of injuries. The team suffered eight season-ending injuries. Caliendo said Section XI requires 16 varsity-ready players for a game.
With their last two games forfeits, the Porters finished with a 2-6 record amid concern over the team’s future.
At the start of this week, Martilotta said the Porters had about 20 varsity players and about 16 junior varsity players. He anticipated more players coming out for the junior varsity team, which will start its season on Sept. 8 at Southampton/Ross.
“We will be just fine,” Martilotta said. “If the numbers remain the same, we’ll be fine.”
The Porters, seeded 11th in Suffolk County Division IV, are facing changes. Change is the nature of the game in high school football.
“The only constant we have is change,” Martilotta said. “We have a lot of turnover from last year.”
That means new players at new positions. A new quarterback. Some new linebackers and wide receivers. A lot of new linemen. At the same time, the Porters have a cast of veterans to turn to.
Dominick Panetta, a senior tight end and strong safety, was the team’s second-leading tackler with 30, four for a loss. He also made a team-high four interceptions.
Tristin Ireland, a senior running back/linebacker who ran for 222 yards on 63 carries, will be featured in the running game. When the Porters put the ball in the air, Garrett Malave is a threat. The senior wide receiver/cornerback led the team with 13 receptions last year, good for 127 yards.
Dylan Marlborough, a senior, takes over as quarterback and free safety. Liam Finnegan, a lineman, and wide receiver Zach Holmes are seniors that will be counted on along with juniors like tailback/linebacker Keegan Syron, fullback/linebacker Jacob Kollen and lineman Chris Schwamborn. Martilotta said three other juniors will be starters: lineman Kyle Schultz, cornerback/wide receiver Tyrese McRae and defensive back/wide receiver Jake Skrezek.
“I think we have the right pieces to be successful,” Panetta said. “We just have to execute.”
Panetta added, “We feel like we have something to prove right now … and show everyone that the Porters are still strong.”