Jack Martilotta sees something over the horizon, and it isn’t the sun setting over Peconic Bay.
No, what the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck coach sees are wins for his high school football team. Wins, actual wins.
Those are something the Porters haven’t experienced since they closed out the 2016 season with a 36-6 trouncing of Southampton/Ross. Last year Greenport was one of four Suffolk County teams (joining Brentwood, Copiague and East Hampton/Bridgehampton) to go 0-8. It was Greenport’s first winless season since 2012.
Now, seeded last in 11-team Suffolk Division IV, Greenport is expecting bigger things in 2018.
Are wins coming?
“Absolutely, without a doubt,” said Martilotta, who has a 21-29 career record in his 10th year as Greenport’s coach. “Last year we knew was going to be a rebuilding year and we did our best to teach them how to properly play.”
This year, Martilotta said, the Porters have “so much more experience. The kids know everything from what a play should look like to what a practice should like. Again, we have high expectations for this upcoming season.”
What is the source of that optimism?
Twelve returning starters and 12 seniors help.
Leading the way is senior All-County middle linebacker Tyrus Smiley and a pair of All-Division players in senior offensive tackle/nose tackle Jude Swann (6-3, 295 pounds) and junior quarterback/defensive back Ahkee Anderson.
“Smiley plays aggressive, he plays tough,” Martilotta said. “He’s got natural athletic ability. He loves playing and he loves playing hard, and that’s what you want as a coach.”
In part because of Smiley, Martilotta said, “The defense is going to be more centered on the linebackers. Because of the crop of kids we have, we feel we’re athletic enough to play a slightly different style.”
The linebacker corps also includes seniors Dante Tramontana, Robert Lechner and Jadyn Ford.
Six other seniors were starters as well last year: wide receiver/defensive back Brandon Clark, wide receiver Sean McElroy, running back/defensive back Shane Kollen and linemen Mike Foote and Emmett Moloney. Junior lineman Tyler Marlborough also started.
Greenport can also count on help from linebacker/fullback Colby Suglia, wide receiver/defensive back Matt Warns, lineman Jon Montgomery-Medina and running back Isiah Johnson.
The Porters plan on returning to old-school Greenport football.
“Greenport is committed to running the football,” Martilotta said. “Honestly, I believe that if we can run the ball inside the tackles we will have success. That’s our plan. We’re not going to try to ‘outfancy’ anybody.”
Greenport, seeking its first playoff berth in five years, is already guaranteed one win by forfeit over East Hampton/Ross, which is not fielding a team.
With Greenport’s low seeding comes a forgiving schedule, on paper at least. Greenport will open the season on Saturday at No. 9 Wyandanch. The first half of Greenport’s schedule presents the Porters with a chance to make a dent in the win column. They will play No. 6 Center Moriches, No. 10 Hampton Bays and No. 8 Southampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson. Things get tougher after that, with games against No. 4 Elwood/John Glenn, No. 5 Bayport-Blue Point and No. 7 Port Jefferson.
Martilotta said he has over 40 players for the varsity and junior varsity teams, some of them bouncing back and forth between the teams.
“Greenport football is on strong footing,” Martilotta said. “I think they play well together and I think that they have high expectations of themselves.”
What would make this season a success for Greenport?
“Honestly, the same thing that makes it a success any other year — taking young men and making them better citizens and better adults,” Martilotta said. “Winning games should be part of that.”
Photo caption: All-County senior Tyrus Smiley, running the ball against Amityville last year, is a big part of Greenport/Southold/Mattituck’s plans this season. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)