After witnessing a first half in which it became apparent that things weren’t going to be nearly as easy for his Greenport/Southold/Mattituck football team as they might be, coach Jack Martilotta turned to a sideline observer and shook his head. With each week, he said, he ages 10 years.
Such is the stressful life of a coach.
One can only imagine how many years Martilotta aged over the course of Saturday’s thriller against Bayport-Blue Point.
Take two Suffolk County Division IV teams desperately trying to carve a path for themselves into the playoffs and what do you get?
Answer: The high drama that played out at Bob Sullivan Field in Bayport.
Consider the craziness of this game:
Greenport looked on for most of the first half, forging a 20-0 lead. But Bayport wasn’t done. The Phantoms scored the next 24 points to leapfrog ahead.
On what appeared to be the play to decide the game, Greenport’s Tyrus Smiley took a direct snap from center on fourth-and-goal from the Bayport 1-yard line up the middle and over the goal line for a go-ahead touchdown with 40 seconds left. Ahkee Anderson ran in the two-point conversion, making it 28-24.
Game over, right?
An unlikely ending unfolded. Bayport’s Logan Souto returned the ensuing kickoff all the way to the Greenport 35. With no timeouts left for either side, Luke Schartner threw incomplete passes on the first two downs. Then, he pulled off some magic. Logan Jones gained a step on a slant and go toward the right corner of the end zone and Schartner hit him for the game-winning TD with nine seconds left.
Greenport had only one offensive play after that, an incomplete pass that was followed by Bayport players happily charging onto the field in an extended Senior Day celebration.
Bayport won, 31-28.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said Martilotta.
The Porters (3-4), who face a must-win game at home in their regular-season finale Friday night against Port Jefferson (3-4) in order to have any chance of a playoff place, looked devastated as they sat or stood on the field in silence, trying to digest what had just happened.
Martilotta called it the toughest loss he has experienced in a long time. “Had it and lost it,” he said.
Bayport coach Mike Zafonte said he had never experienced as thrilling a win as this in his 20 years coaching the Phantoms.
“It was definitely an emotional roller coaster,” he said in his office afterward. “I’m almost in shock right now.”
As were the Porters.
It could be said that Greenport fumbled this game away. The Porters lost four fumbles, including one which cost them an almost certain TD on the final play of the second quarter. On that play, Anderson found Jadyn Ford for a 44-yard completion up the middle. Ford was headed for the end zone when Bayport’s Zach Silver stripped him of the ball around the Bayport 5 and Souto scooped the ball up before returning it to midfield as time expired. Bayport had no turnovers.
“It’s a game with a funny-shaped ball,” Martilotta said. “Nothing’s ever going to go your way all the time, and today fumbles were our challenge.”
It also didn’t help Greenport that it was whistled 14 times for 118 yards worth of penalties and one of its leading tacklers, Rob Lechner, was ejected 4:28 into the second quarter for a personal foul.
With exceptional performances by Anderson (25 carries, 171 yards, one TD) and Smiley (24 carries, 153 yards, two TDs), Greenport outgained Bayport (3-4) in total offensive yardage, 444-267.
Anderson also threw a 39-yard TD pass to Sean McElroy, who leaped over a defender and showed good hands holding onto the ball for a 20-0 lead 2:00 into the second quarter.
Francesco Geraci (14 carries, 78 yards) ran for Bayport’s first two TDs to close the gap by halftime.
Bayport, wearing pink jerseys in observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, whittled away at that lead in the third quarter, with a 28-yard field goal by Connor Nilan. Schartner (8-for-15, 118 yards, two TDs) darted an 8-yard pass to Silver that helped Bayport to a 24-20 lead with 7:36 left in the fourth quarter.
“There were a lot of emotional swings,” Zafonte said. “We were down and they were up; when we were up, they were down. Really, neither team gave up and it was just a matter of when the clock was going to go out.”
And when the clock finally reached 0:00, Bayport had received a big boost to its playoff chances. “Hopefully, the way the power points work, it’s our ticket into the playoffs,” said Jones (four catches, 91 yards).
Martilotta called it “the finest performance we’ve had from a football team in Greenport in many years.” He said: “Unfortunately, it didn’t work out for us. I feel sick about how it ended, but that’s how it ended.”
Smiles abounded on the Bayport side, though.
“This is one I’m going to remember,” said Jones.
And one the Porters will try hard to forget.
Photo caption: Ahkee Anderson broke free for Greenport/Southold/Mattituck’s first touchdown, a 31-yarder in the first quarter. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)