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Football: Opportunity knocks, DeNicola answers

One player’s transfer is another player’s opportunity.

When a rumor circulated that Ahkee Anderson would transfer from Greenport High School to Center Moriches for his senior year (something that has since evolved into a reality), Greenport/Southold/Mattituck football coach Jack Martilotta knew what that meant: He likely needed a new starting quarterback.

Martilotta didn’t waste any time. He alerted his No. 2 quarterback, Nick DeNicola, that he needed to be ready for training camp, which began Monday.

“I told him when I first heard the rumblings that [Anderson’s transfer] might happen, I said, ‘You need to come to summer practice and you need to work,’ and he just showed up,” Martilotta said. “You know, he wanted the opportunity and he’s going to have it.”

Martilotta said DeNicola, a junior from Southold High School, was going to be a part of the offense, regardless, but now that role has been enhanced by Anderson’s departure. It means that DeNicola, a junior varsity player last season who has a few varsity snaps under his belt, will probably be the one calling signals behind center when the Porters open their season at home Sept. 6 against Southampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson.

That’s certainly an exciting prospect for DeNicola, who could also be a two-way starter as a cornerback.

“I kind of thought it was coming and I was trying to get ready for it,” DeNicola said after practice Tuesday morning. “I think I’m ready, and we’re going to do what we can do.”

Asked for his reaction to the Anderson news, DeNicola said: “There was speculation for a while. I heard it was bound to happen, but good for him. I wish him all the luck. He’s a great athlete. He’s going to do big things and he did what’s best for him, and that’s what he needs to do.

“He was a great player for us and just helped motivate the team with all the varsity guys, but coming up, just looking after what he did, I’m just trying to fill that role and win some games.”

Greenport’s final regular-season game is scheduled for Nov. 1 at Center Moriches, but Anderson isn’t expected to play football for the Red Devils, instead opting to focus on basketball.

DeNicola looked in great shape during Tuesday morning’s practice when he was often the first to complete sprinting drills. While Anderson brought great value in his ability as a running quarterback, DeNicola can tuck the ball under his arm and take off when he has to, but may be better known for his arm.

“I’m not the fastest guy, but I’m not the slowest,” he said. “I’ll definitely run if I have it and I’ll take the yards, but I like to pass more.” He said he wants to improve his deep ball, “get those on the money.”

Asked for his take on DeNicola, Martilotta said: “He’s a runner as well, but he’s got a really nice arm, he really does. He looks like a baseball player with the way he releases it. He’s got some good form, he’s got some good feet, and we’re going to make sure that’s part of the game. His first thing is going to be running and properly calling the offense, which sounds very simple — it’s not.”

DeNicola apparently also has the mental toughness required of the position. Matt Warns, a senior receiver/defensive back, said DeNicola “knows what he’s doing. He might mess up at times, but he just shrugs it off and he doesn’t get down on it. He just has that next-play mentality.”

DeNicola already has the sort of coach-quarterback relationship with Martilotta that teams like to see.

“We’re kind of on the same page,” DeNicola said. “I know what he expects from me; I know what he wants from me. I’m just going to do my best.”

The Porters graduated 12 players from last season’s 3-5 team and are seeded 11th among Suffolk County Division IV’s 12 teams. Among the team’s returners are third-year varsity player Tyler Marlborough, Danny Breen, Diego Giron, Devin Toman, Ronald Gonzalez and Jorge Torrento.

“This is the season of optimism,” Martilotta said. “At the beginning of the year, everything is good. We’ll see how it all plays out, but I think we’re positioned right now to find some success. I can’t wait. Let’s go.”

DeNicola seems ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

“He’s a very coachable kid,” Martilotta said. “He’s a smart kid. He works real hard and he loves the game. He absolutely loves the game, so I think he’s going to do just fine for us. I really do.”

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Photo caption: Nick DeNicola is expected to ascend to Greenport/Southold/Mattituck’s starting quarterback position, with the transfer of Ahkee Anderson to Center Moriches. (Credit: Bob Liepa)