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Football: Irish kicker gives Porters leg up

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08/28/2019 5:45 AM |

Within seconds, aggravation turned into disbelief and then joy.

Jack Martilotta might have been more annoyed than anything else when he saw where the ball landed the first time his Greenport/Southold/Mattituck football team executed a kickoff during this current training camp. Upon seeing the pigskin sail through the uprights, the coach automatically assumed it had been kicked from the wrong spot. He then made sure the ball was spotted correctly and made his kickoff team do it again. This time kicker Danny Breen sent another booming kick just to the outside of one of the uprights.

The ball had traveled over 70 yards in the air!

“I was shocked,” said Martilotta.

Has Martilotta ever seen a high school kicker boot a ball that far?

“Nope,” he answered. “I’ve never seen anything even close.”

Believe it or not, Greenport has a kicker, and boy does he have a leg.

Breen, a sophomore from the Republic of Ireland who moved to Orient in July of 2016, is in his second year on the team. His 2018 season was cut short to three games after he injured his right knee (his kicking leg). Before the injury, though, Breen showed his potential, pounding five straight touchbacks in a 52-0 win over Hampton Bays.

This year Breen seems poised to raise his kicking game further. He has been consistently nailing field goals from 45 yards, said Martilotta. Breen estimates his longest field goal to have been a 50-yarder. In addition to that, Breen said he can punt the ball 50-55 yards.

“That’s a D-I kicker right there, for sure,” said center Ronald Gonzalez, who snaps the ball on field-goal and extra-point attempts.

Breen’s kicking ability can be traced to Ireland, where he played Gaelic football, soccer and a little rugby. He said he never held a football in his hands until he arrived in the United States.

Breen’s introduction to football (the American version) came when he was an eighth-grader on the junior high school team. “I wasn’t kicking much on the junior high, just a few punts here and there,” he said. The next year, though, he delved deeper into placekicking for the junior varsity team.

Greenport quarterback Nick DeNicola, the holder for Breen’s placekicks, was asked when was the first time his jaw dropped after seeing one of Breen’s kicks.

“I think it was last year,” DeNicola said. “We were on this field. We were putting in special teams and no one really knew what he could do yet. And he’s like, ‘I can kick.’ He came up — bam!”

With that power, though, comes accuracy.

Field-goal attempts in high school football are relatively unusual because many teams don’t have consistent kickers, if they have a genuine kicker at all. So, having Breen doing what he does is a big plus for the Porters.

“We’ve already talked about it,” Martilotta said. “If we’re close and we’re not sure, we’re kicking. In the practices we’ve done so far — it’s still early in the season — it’s got to be nine to one, made to miss. So, that’s some pretty good odds.”

DeNicola said, “It’s going to be good because like, normally instead of going for it like on a fourth-and-long or something, when we’re in scoring range, we have faith in our kicker to get us three points.”

Breen didn’t get to kick any field goals last season, just extra points. He would like to try something else in a game this season: a dropkick. Dropkicks are virtually unheard of in modern football, but Breen said he has been practicing them.

“It’s a little bit more difficult,” he said. “Maybe I could kick one this year. Yeah, I’d love to do that.”

Breen could be Greenport’s secret weapon.

“If you actually look at him kick, it looks like he’s not even trying,” Gonzalez said. “I can’t wait to see him kick [in games]. He’s going to be no risk at all. Everyone’s going to be shocked, the other team. I’m going to be shocked. I’m still shocked.”

Photo caption: Kicker Danny Breen and holder Nick DeNicola follow the path of one of Breen’s successful field goals during practice. (Credit: Bob Liepa)

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