As Jack Martilotta sees it, his Greenport/Southold/Mattituck football team missed reaching the playoffs last year by a measly nine seconds.
That’s how much time was left to play when Greenport saw its 28-24 lead over Bayport-Blue Point suddenly dissolve into thin air. Logan Jones gained a step on his defender on a slant and darted toward the right corner of the end zone, catching Luke Schartner’s pass for a game-winning 35-yard touchdown with nine seconds to go. The game ended 31-28 in Bayport’s favor.
Had the Porters won, Martilotta said, they would have made it into the playoffs. Instead, they finished out of the postseason with a 3-5 record.
“The ball bounces just a little different in two of those games and we’re 5 and 3 instead of 3 and 5,” Martilotta said. “I feel like a lot of these kids learned a lot from last year, what it takes to win.”
The Porters last reached the playoffs in 2013, when they lost to Mount Sinai in a Suffolk County Division IV qualifying-round game. That year the Porters went 6-3, their first six-win season since 1977, when they went 6-1-1, according to records maintained by Newsday’s Andy Slawson.
So, what are Greenport’s playoff chances this year?
“I think we got a good shot,” Martilotta said. “We got to play the game. We got to win. It’s kind of early to talk about playoffs, but that’s what we’ve been preaching to the kids. That’s our goal.”
Greenport is seeded 11th among Division IV’s 12 teams. What that seeding probably doesn’t take into account, however, is attitude. Martilotta has been raving about the attitude of his players.
“From top to bottom, we got very coachable kids,” he said. “Everybody is working harder than we have the last few years. When we look at the progress we made from [the first day of practice] to today, it’s nothing less than incredible.”
With the transfer of senior Ahkee Anderson to Center Moriches, where he’s not expected to play football, the Porters lost a starting quarterback and defensive back in one fell swoop. The new QB is junior Nick DeNicola. He played for the junior varsity team last season, but did get some varsity snaps.
DeNicola can hand off to speedy senior running back Jorge Torrento, who is also an accomplished track sprinter in the spring.
“He’s scary fast. He really is,” Martilotta said. “The kid’s lighting.
“We’re going to try to get him the ball often and with some space. He’s going to be tough to catch.”
Greenport lost 12 players to graduation. That places greater importance on the contributions of veterans like senior lineman Tyler Marlborough, senior running back/wide receiver/cornerback Matt Warns, junior center Ronald Gonzalez and sophomore kicker/punter/linebacker Danny Breen. Marlborough is the only third-year player on the team.
Sophomore offensive lineman/linebacker Diego Giron and bruising junior fullback/defensive lineman Devin Toman should also make an impact along with senior lineman Nick Smith. Martilotta likes what he sees from seniors James Asip and Josh Starzee, both of whom have never played before. Martilotta is not sure what position Asip will play yet. Starzee is a wide receiver and the backup quarterback.
Greenport has a new offensive coordinator in Dawhite Hines. “We’re going to have a couple of looks,” Martilotta said of the offense. “We’re going to have an open spread, and we’re going to do some double-wing this year. We think that it fits the kids well.”
“As it stands now … it looks like we’re going to be able to run the ball well and our line seems to be solid right now,” he continued. “That and our special teams should be strong.”
It’s a shorter preseason this year, meaning the Porters will play their first game only 19 days after practice started. That could affect the defense overseen by defensive coordinator Tim McArdle.
“The offense takes more time, so we spent a lot of time making sure the offense is prepared,” Martilotta said. “The defense, we have some question marks. Defense is a different animal.”
The first true test for that defense will come in the season opener Friday night at home against Southampton/Bridgehampton/Pierson.
“We say it every year, pal, this is the time for optimism,” Martilotta said. “Everything’s good right now. I just can’t wait to get playing games.”
Photo caption: Greenport/Southold/Mattituck kicker Danny Breen attempts an extra point against Center Moriches last season while Brandon Clark holds the ball in place. (Credit: Daniel De Mato, file)