Greenport/Southold/Mattituck knew it had a bear of a schedule, perhaps the toughest the football team has ever had. It’s season opener Friday night at Center Moriches was one of only two games the Porters appeared to have a realistic chance of coming away from with a win.
By halftime, that prospect was all but out the window.
The difference between the two bottom-seeded teams in Suffolk County Division IV became painfully clear as Center Moriches rolled to a 35-0 shutout.
Center Moriches, bigger and speedier, held GSM to a mere 28 yards of total offense and did not pick up a first down. Six GSM plays went for negative yardage. Sophomore quarterback Michael DeNicola absorbed some hard hits in his varsity debut.
GSM had 10 possessions. Four ended on punts, two on downs, one on an interception, one on a fumble returned for a touchdown, one on a safety and one when the game ended.
Brady Woods, who played right tackle and defensive guard (and also had a sack for the Porters), didn’t expect Center Moriches to be as formidable as it was.
“We saw what can happen and we need to be learning to be better,” he said. “We need to be stronger. We need to be faster. We need to be up. We just have to improve.”
The first quarter exhibited more than enough to show the Porters what they were up against as Center Moriches put up three touchdowns. A punt on GSM’s second possession was returned 75 yards for a TD by Nasir Carroll. An interception set up Gavin Kleine’s floated 13-yard pass to Carroll in the end zone. Moments later, Noah Reed scooped up a fumble and ran it back 24 yards for another score.
Brayden Hromada tacked on a 3-yard TD run in the second quarter, making it 26-0 by the half.
Meanwhile, DeNicola found himself under pressure and his receivers well-covered. He showed his arm strength in the first quarter when he zipped a pass up the middle to Luke Newman for a 9-yard gain, GSM’s longest play from scrimmage. But the passing game went 4-for-13 for 16 yards. On defense, DeNicola made an interception.
“I think he did OK,” coach Tim McArdle said. “I think that, you know, he’s got a ways to go. I think that, you know, he aired out the ball when he had to, you know. Unfortunately, Center was good, you know. Our wide receivers weren’t open. There wasn’t a lot of places to go with the ball.”
“Football is a team sport,” he continued. “It takes more than one guy, you know. The quarterback can do what he can, you know. If he makes a mistake, it’s on him. If someone else makes a mistake, it can be on the quarterback still. It’s a team game.”
Matthew Albino (15 carries, 72 yards) ran for a 7-yard TD in the third quarter and Newman, in punt formation, collected a high snap, only to step out of the back of the end zone for a safety in the fourth.
“We saw them on film,” McArdle said. “We knew that they were returning a lot of guys and we knew they had a lot of speed. Did I think they were gonna be as good as they are? No, but they were good and hats off to them. They’re a good football team.”
McArdle said he was proud of his players for playing hard to the end. “They fought the entire game,” he said. “Even though we were down, things looked ugly, they kept playing, so I appreciate their effort. So I learned that, you know, they’re tough kids.”
DeNicola said: “This experience has taught us that we gotta go into every practice strong, a hundred percent on every play, every snap, everything that we do, every drill.”
Now here’s a daunting thought for the Porters: The rest of the way should be even more challenging. The schedule shows GSM’s six remaining opponents being Babylon, Elwood/John Glenn, Shoreham-Wading River, Mount Sinai, Miller Place and Port Jefferson.
“Me, I’m just keeping optimistic,” Woods said. “I feel like we can or we should try to beat them. No matter what, we should just have our heads held high and try as hard as we can no matter what.”
Said McArdle: “The mindset has got to be we love playing football. That’s what the mindset has got to be. We love playing. Whether we win, lose, draw, we’re here to play and we’re here to enjoy it and we’re here to learn from it.”