Spring football will take on a whole new meaning. At least for this year.
Typically, spring football means practices. Not in 2021. Suffolk County high school football teams will play games. Actual games.
Not Greenport/Southold/Mattituck, mind you. At least on the varsity level.
Although high-risk sports such as football have been given the green light from New York State and Suffolk County to proceed, Greenport has opted not to field a varsity football team for the shortened season that is to run from March 1 through April 25. Player numbers and a lack of returning varsity experience were cited as reasons by athletic director Chris Golden.
“For us, it was the right, ethical decision to make,” Golden told The Suffolk Times. He said, “From a competitive level, the kids would have really struggled” playing varsity ball.
The Porters struggled mightily in their last season in 2019, going 0-8. Paper thin in numbers and experience, they were shut out five times and lost four games by 54 points or more. Altogether, they were outscored, 379-38.
It also didn’t help the Porters that their best player, quarterback Ahkee Anderson, transferred to Center Moriches before the season.
“We we took our lumps,” said Golden.
Golden said this isn’t the first time Greenport has taken a varsity football season off. He recollects the school stepping away from football for a couple of years because of low player numbers around the late 1980s/early 1990s. However, Newsday’s Andy Slawson, a sports historian, has team records with game scores for the Porters dating back to 1926.
Greenport’s junior varsity team will play this spring. The team’s schedule hadn’t been posted by Section XI Tuesday afternoon — an “oversight,” said Golden — but it’s expected the Porters will play anywhere from five to eight games. Seniors are ineligible to play JV sports.
Golden said about 14 returning varsity players are anticipated, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into actual varsity playing experience. Greenport didn’t have a JV team in 2019.
The JV team will be coached by Tim McArdle, Greg Tulley and Joe Corrado. Jack Martilotta had coached the varsity team for 11 years, but is now working full-time for the Army.
McArdle, 35, who has the most seniority among the JV coaches, seems to be the heir apparent for the varsity head coaching job. He has been involved in the program since 2013, spending the past two seasons as the varsity defensive coordinator.
McArdle sounded excited in an interview about the prospect of using this spring JV season as a springboard for the offseason and the fall when Greenport hopes to trot out a varsity team again. “We’ll almost be playing two football seasons almost back to back, which is going to be great, especially for a young team to develop more,” he said.
Operating with a small roster is nothing new for small school Greenport.
In 2019 “we really were riding that line and we decided to go with a varsity team and we knew we were going to have a very young, inexperienced varsity team where we had a lot of ninth- and 10th-graders on that varsity team where they really weren’t prepared to play varsity football, but that’s what made up our team [that] year,” McArdle said. “We knew we were going to struggle.”
Martilotta coached the last Greenport football team to reach the playoffs in 2013, when the Porters lost to Mount Sinai in a Suffolk Division IV qualifying-round game. The team went 24-42 under him, but the fact that there was a team at all can be credited in good measure to Martilotta.
“Jack was instrumental in helping kids definitely come out for the program,” Golden said. “You know, the fact that we were able to run a varsity and JV for years, that’s a testament to his ability to get the kids to play.”
The JV team will not have any scrimmages before its first game.
“Really, our first outing as a team playing live football is going to be that first game,” McArdle said. “So, I think a lot of teams are going to be scrambling, A) to figure out, you know, their best offense and their simplest playbook they could put forward, and defenses are going to have no idea what they are preparing for. Who can establish the simplest, most effective playbook and who’s built to survive?”