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Porters off to solid start with dominating home opener

Minutes after polishing off Wyandanch High School in Greenport/Southold/Mattituck’s season opener Friday night, an exuberant Tim McArdle congratulated his team on a job well done.

“A magical first win,” the head coach exclaimed. “A deserved win.”

The Porters players whooped and cheered.

There was much to be cheerful about the team’s play in their 28-0 home triumph. It was their first win in nearly two years, snapping an eight-game losing streak.

The last time they celebrated a victory was following a 22-0 home-win over East Hampton/Pierson on Oct. 23, 2021.

And what a difference a year makes: the Porters scored only 18 points and three touchdowns through the entire 2022 season en route to an 0-7 record. The team had tallied as many TDs — and more points — by halftime Friday.

“Last year was just a really tough year for the program,” said senior linebacker Dylan Spooner, who enjoyed an outstanding game. “Last year we didn’t score that many touchdowns in any games. So just to be able to come out, be able to put points on the board and be able to shut down their offense was just great for the morale.”

Not to mention the team’s confidence.

“It gives us a little bit more of an edge, taking a W and then playing on this field again in less than a week against Center Moriches,” said junior QB/safety Michael DeNicola, who scored an offensive and a defensive touchdown. “It has got to feel great for our team coming back on this field again, and hopefully taking that W.”

McArdle agreed. “The confidence is through the roof right now,” he said.

“These guys played their hearts out. They were soaking wet, dripping sweat, and they fought to the end,” the coach added. “They earned every second, every point, every hit. I’m really proud of them.”

Especially the defense. Greenport held the visitors to just 21 yards of offense in the first half on route to 78 total yards allowed for the game.

“Our defense played lights out,” McArdle said.

“We did think that we were going to play hard and close with them. But we didn’t expect the defense to be what it was today,” Spooner said. “Right from the first drive of the game, the defense just gave momentum to the offense.”

The Porters set the tone early, holding the Warriors to minus nine yards on their opening drive. They then went 39 yards in only five plays to score.

Sophomore running back/linebacker Matt McGunnigle, who finished with 82 yards on 10 carries, put the Porters on the board with a 9-yard TD run with 7:56 remaining in the first quarter. He then plowed in for the first of his two 2-point conversions for an 8-0 lead.

The offensive line made plenty of room for the run game.

“It was great,” said McGunnigle, who tallied five runs of nine or more yards. “I had an open hole on every single play. I didn’t get crushed up the middle. I always had room to make a move and do something good.”

McArdle said his offensive scheme was built around six basic plays.

“Our game plan was run the ball in the middle, run the ball in the middle, run the ball in the middle,” he said. “We knew it was a boring game. That’s what we wanted to do.”

None of the faithful in the stands complained.

Greenport held the visitors to six yards on the first two plays of the next drive before Leon Creighton intercepted quarterback Derrick Henry’s pass and returned it to the 9-yard line. That set up DeNicola’s first TD on the next play for a 14-0 margin.

When Wyandanch reached the Porters’ 35-yard line late in the second quarter, DeNicola squelched their momentum by returning an interception on a spectacular 80-yard run with 53.8 seconds remaining in the half. McGunnigle ran in the two-point conversion for a 22-0 advantage.

“I was just following the QB’s eyes,” DeNicola said. “He let that ball go and I just I knew it was mine.”

Creighton closed out the scoring with an eight-yard run late in the fourth quarter.

Before he ended his postgame talk, McArdle told his players to “Live in the moment. Enjoy it.”

After a nearly two-year wait for a win, savoring the moment was well deserved.