Port Jefferson was in a big hurry to win, and that can tire out a football team — the opposing team.
“The opposing team” Friday night was Greenport/Southold/Mattituck, and the Porters were tired, weakened and, for the first time this season, beaten.
A blocked Greenport field-goal attempt that turned into a Port Jefferson touchdown, the loss of a two-way starting lineman for Greenport and some stellar play by Port Jefferson’s Luke Filippi factored into the Porters’ 21-6 defeat Friday night at Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field in Greenport. And Port Jefferson’s hurry-up, no-huddle offense was a big factor, giving the Porters’ defense little time to catch its breath.
“That killed us,” said Greenport senior Rudy Bruer.
As if the physical toll wasn’t rough enough on the Porters, they suffered a psychological blow at the end of the first half. Port Jefferson (1-1 Suffolk County Division IV) muffed a punt and Ev Corwin came up with the ball, giving Greenport (1-1) possession deep in the Royals’ territory with 2.3 seconds left in the half. Greenport trotted out one of the best kickers in the division in Danny Breen for a 35-yard attempt.
Instead of picking up three points on the deal, Greenport gave up seven. Port Jefferson not only blocked the kick, but the loose ball was collected by Liam Rogers, who ran it all the way back for a touchdown. Kyle Yannucci’s extra point made it 21-6 with an exclamation mark going into halftime.
“Once I saw the field goal get blocked, I was just distraught,” said Jay Tramontana, whose second touchdown of the season, a 12-yard run, had given Greenport a 6-0 lead. “I was like, ‘This can’t be happening.’ ”
Greenport coach Tim McArdle might have had trouble processing what he was seeing as well. “It was surreal watching it unfold,” he said.
McArdle called it “an unacceptable play. That’s all it is. We had six guys come through the line completely unblocked, and that’s, you know, we work on it every day in practice. Maybe you chalk it up to tired guys. We had guys that are exhausted all game, guys asking for breaks and we had nobody to replace them with.”
It didn’t help matters that Greenport lost the services of left guard/defensive tackle Dom Giovanniello, who McArdle said is the team’s best lineman. Giovanniello left the game during the first series with what McArdle called “head issues.”
“As [of] right now, you know, we’re gonna wait and see and get it checked out,” the coach said. “He’s a huge loss. He’s the driver of our offense. The ball goes behind him and we lose him. It was a game changer.”
Port Jefferson outgained Greenport, 344-107, in total offense. “They came out and worked harder than us,” said Corwin.
Filippi was another game changer — on both sides of the ball. As a quarterback, the 6-foot-2 senior passed for 203 yards (all in the first half) and two touchdowns. He also combined with Brady DeWitt (16 carries, 84 yards) for all 141 of Port Jefferson’s rushing yards. As an outside linebacker, Filippi was involved in seven tackles.
Port Jefferson, blasted by Shoreham-Wading River, 42-7, in its first game, scored on similar passing plays in the second quarter. First, Filippi floated a pass to a wide open John Sheils along the right sideline for an 85-yard connection. Port Jefferson’s next play from scrimmage was like an instant replay, this time Yannucci gaining separation along the right sideline for an 89-yard TD.
“We were prepared for the no-huddle, like we knew it was coming,” McArdle said. “You know, there’s some times that we just got caught, you know, with the wrong guy on the fast receiver and, you know, their athletes beat us.”
Greenport nearly fell into a first-quarter hole when Port Jefferson advanced the ball to the Porters’ 3. But Bruer corralled a deflected pass in the end zone for an interception that may have saved seven points. Corwin also intercepted a Filippi pass and Danny Breen made eight tackles for the Porters.
Though it was only the second game of the season for both teams, it was seen as a vital one for their playoff chances. Port Jefferson is seeded eighth and Greenport 10th in the power-ranked, 12-team division that will send eight teams into the postseason.
“It was a very big game for both teams,” McArdle said. “You know, you don’t want to see it that early in the season, but when I looked at the schedule earlier in the year, this was one of those games that we wanted to win.”
After coming off a 20-6 season-opening win over Wyandanch that snapped a 10-game losing streak covering two seasons over three years, the Porters were feeling good about themselves. Maybe too good.
“I think Port Jeff was very organized,” Tramontana said. “We haven’t played any team this organized in a while. And during practice we were slacking a little bit. We were going a little slow on the sprints. We weren’t putting in a hundred percent. I believe that the [season-opening] win got to us. I believe we got cocky and thought we were the best. And I think that’s really what made us lose.”