Football: Porters kick off new era with a ‘W’

A new head coach. A new quarterback. A new beginning.

A new era.

And with all of that newness came an end — an end to a dreadful 10-game losing streak that spanned two seasons over three years. Now that streak is nothing but a bad memory for the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck football team.

The Porters put those bad memories in the rearview mirror Friday night when they christened their season — and Tim McArdle’s debut as a varsity head coach — with a sound 20-6 defeat of Wyandanch that delighted the home fans on a picture-perfect weather day at Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field in Greenport.

When it was over, the Greenport coaching staff turned toward the Porters and applauded them.

“This is our turnaround,” said Gavin Richards, a transfer junior quarterback from Riverhead who was steady in his varsity debut. “We’re putting the Porters back on the map.”

Greenport’s previous recorded win was a forfeit over East Hampton/Ross on Oct. 13, 2018. Its last win on the field was Sept. 29, 2018, against Southampton/Pierson.

Yeah, it’s been a long time — a really long time.

Greenport didn’t dress a varsity football team this past spring, fielding only a junior varsity team, coached by McArdle, that went 4-0.

McArdle said he told his players before the game, “That cloud over Greenport passed yesterday, and you felt the wind change and it’s a new era.”

“I’m not gonna lie. I was nervous all day,” McArdle said. “I didn’t sleep last night. All day I was nervous at work. All I could think about [was] this game.”

Danny Breen booted three of his four kickoffs for touchbacks in addition to making five tackles. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Wyandanch, meanwhile, entered the season with a heavy heart, dealing with the sad news that one of its former players, Alonte Shipp, 20, was shot and killed during an altercation last month.

This is the year of the coaching change in Long Island football. Fourteen new head coaches are slated to enter the season this week, the biggest coaching turnover in the past 25 years, according to Newsday. Among those new head coaches are Wyandanch’s William Harrison and McArdle.

The Suffolk County Division IV game didn’t produce gaudy statistics, but the Porters were aided a good deal by Danny Breen. The senior from Ireland is the team’s kicker and punter, but Breen brings much more to the field than just a powerful right leg. He also plays strong side linebacker and he loves to hit. What’s more, he’s very good at it.

“The only kickers I’ve seen ever like him, they’re [in] the NFL right now — and none of them could tackle,” said Greenport lineman Dom Giovanniello.

Breen tied Hunter Anderson and Giovanniello for the team lead with five tackles. In the first quarter he boomed a 50-yard punt that was caught at the Wyandanch 1-yard line and returned. Breen made the tackle on the play. Three of his four kickoffs resulted in touchbacks. After Wyandanch scored its only points on Antoine Ruddock’s 60-yard touchdown reception from DeAndre Smith in the third quarter, Smith tried to run in a two-point conversion, but was stopped dead in his tracks by a big hit from Breen.

“Our kicker is a beast,” said Kaiden Fisher, who was on the receiving end of all three of Richards’ completions for 64 yards, including a 35-yard TD connection in the first quarter.

The game was only 3 minutes, 27 seconds old by the time Richards, on a keeper, cut and weaved his way around the left for a 39-yard scoring run, followed by Jay Tramontana’s two-point run.

On the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter, Greenport’s Aimen Tabor intercepted a pass at the Wyandanch 32 and returned it to the 1. Tramontana blew through a hole on the next play for a 20-0 lead.

Wyandanch threatened on its final series of the game when it had first-and-goal at the Greenport 9. The Porters’ defense stiffened, though, and Rudy Bruer picked off a fourth-down pass in the end zone, allowing the Porters to run out the final 8:54.

“Tonight I feel like we all played together,” Anderson said. “It wasn’t one person making the tackle. It was group tackles and everyone was working together.”

Giovanniello said: “I think the team really played as a team. Like in practice, I was honestly a little bit shaky, but they really stepped it up. We had a lot of guys stand out, everyone doing [the] jobs they needed to do. Some plays were like hit and miss, but the rest of them — perfect.”

McArdle was smiling afterward, and why not? He had a good deal to smile about.

He said, “We’re hoping that we’re moving in an uphill direction now.”

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