Athleticism, academics and attitude are what make Ahkee Anderson a triple-A high school football player. They are why coaches adore him, teammates like him and opponents respect him.
The line between teammates and opponents was blurred a bit Friday night when Anderson, a transfer from Greenport to Center Moriches this year, played against his former team.
“It was fun, you know, playing against the old friends and everything,” Anderson said after Center Moriches beat Greenport/Southold/Mattituck, 32-18, in a Suffolk County Division IV game. “It was a little weird, of course, at first … but it was definitely a fun game. I was definitely looking forward to this one, just to see everybody. A lot of my friends and family from Greenport came out to watch me play, so that was probably the best thing.”
The visiting Greenport fans might have felt a bit conflicted, seeing Anderson wearing the red and white Center Moriches uniform instead of Greenport purple and gold.
“I know tonight is pretty big for him,” Center Moriches coach Leonard Wright said. “I know personally he’s done a lot for that town and he grew up in that town and he still gets respect. I still get comments from the Greenport people about how good and how great he is. They wish the best for him, and he’s just that type of kid.”
It didn’t take the Red Devils (5-3) long to get Anderson, a senior who primarily plays wide receiver and defensive back for them, involved in the game. On the game’s third play from scrimmage he caught a 29-yard pass. Three plays later, he made it into the end zone after Hunter Hassett scrambled to his left before flipping the ball to him for a 15-yard touchdown reception.
Anderson ended up with three catches for 70 yards. He also made three tackles, including a hard hit on James Asip, who was slammed to the ground.
It was the final regular-season game for both teams. The only difference was it appears likely that Center Moriches, which entered the game in sixth place, is headed to the playoffs. Winless Greenport (0-8) is not.
This has been a brutal season, statistically, for the last-place Porters. They were shut out five times, lost four games by 54 points or more, and were outscored, 379-38.
But the Porters, with a sophomore-heavy roster, can take solace in that they ended their season on a hopeful note, turning in their best performance of the season in their closest game.
“The team has gotten so much better,” coach Jack Martilotta said. “The sophomores have gotten so much better. They’ve gotten so much playing experience that when they come back next year, we’re essentially bringing back the whole line.”
Martilotta said, win-loss record aside, the team’s spirits were up. “It’s funny, we’re on the bus ride over here and everybody’s in great spirits and ready to play,” he said.
What has kept the Porters motivated through all the adversity?
“Our coaches,” said senior running back/outside linebacker Isaiah Johnson, who made an interception, recovered a fumble and recorded a game-high seven tackles. “Our coaches telling us not to give up, and just the fact that we keep each other up. We might get mad at each other, but we give each other inspiration.”
Greenport fell behind, 26-0, by halftime. After a scoreless third quarter, Porters quarterback Nick Denicola threw three touchdown passes — a 15-yarder to Matt Warns (five catches, 72 yards), a 68-yarder to Alex Maysonet and a 15-yarder to Asip. Denicola, a sophomore, connected on 12 of 21 passes for 238 yards.
But Center Moriches brought too much game. Hassett (8 of 12, 181 yards) threw for two TDs, including a 33-yard pass to Danny Hromada. Brett Fuhrmann rushed for two TDs and 135 yards. Shane Kelly ran for a TD, too.
The unquestioned story line, though, was Anderson. Wright offered fulsome praise of the player.
“I wish I had eleven Ahkees,” the coach said, adding: “He’s every coach’s dream. He does anything that you ask of him and he does it at 100 percent.”
After the game, Anderson posed for a photo with Warns and met with Greenport’s Tyler Marlborough and Johnson before speaking with Martilotta. Johnson said, “I was telling him, ‘Good game,’ and I love him.”
Anderson’s cousin, sophomore cornerback/wide receiver Jahmeek Freeman, also plays for Greenport.
“Just another game,” Anderson said. “With all the love and everything, that was probably the only thing different about it.”
Photo caption: Ahkee Anderson with some of his Center Moriches teammates before playing against his former Greenport/Southold/Mattituck team. (Credit: Bob Liepa)