RED DEVILS 21, PORTERS 14
When the game started, Center Moriches was the only football team that was lower than Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island in the Suffolk County Division IV standings. But after the two winless teams played on Friday night, it was hard to imagine anyone feeling lower than the Porters.
In the matchup between two 0-6 teams, one team had to win, and that team was Center Moriches. Tyrell Thomas threw two touchdown passes in addition to running for another touchdown and a two-point conversion as Center Moriches secured a 21-14 victory at Greenport High School’s Dorrie Jackson Memorial Field. It was the 12th straight loss for the Porters, and possibly the toughest of them all.
“It’s an awful feeling,” Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island’s doleful coach, Jack Martilotta, said. “I’m sure the kids feel awful. It’s hard. Losing is hard.”
Nobody has to tell Center Moriches that. The Red Devils can relate to Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island’s woes. They also had their hearts set on putting a marker in the “W” column.
Center Moriches, which was a playoff team the last three years, underwent a major overhaul, returning only two players from last year’s squad. The Red Devils have more juniors and sophomores (16) than seniors (six), but that didn’t keep them from rising to the occasion on Friday night.
“Emotionally, it’s been really tough going week after week and losing close games because we never really got blown out, and to finally taste a victory, it’s just unreal,” Center Moriches inside linebacker Ryan Lewis said. “First one of the year. It feels great. We didn’t even know what to do because we just won. We never celebrated before so we were like in shock.”
Thomas (15 of 23, 227 yards), a sophomore quarterback/safety, knew what to do during the game. He scored on a six-yard run in between scoring tosses of 64 yards to Zachary Brady and 25 yards to Michael Speed. The pass to Speed on the first play of the fourth quarter gave Center Moriches a 21-7 lead.
The Porters pulled themselves back in the game when Eugene Allen found John Drinkwater in the corner of the end zone with a five-yard pass on fourth down, capping a 13-play, 70-yard scoring drive with 6 minutes 52 seconds to go in the contest. It was Allen’s second touchdown pass of the game.
Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island had an opportunity to score again when a bad snap on a fourth-down punt play gave the Porters the ball at the Center Moriches 34-yard line with 3:40 remaining. The Porters moved the ball to the 15 before losing possession on downs.
The final dagger came when an offsides penalty by the Porters on a fourth-down play gave Center Moriches a first down with 1:16 to go. That allowed the Red Devils to run out the clock.
“I wanted this for them so bad because they didn’t deserve to go 0 and 7,” Center Moriches coach Steve Failla said of his players. “To be honest with you, they all inspire me.”
Things had started off promisingly for the Porters when they scored first for the first time in a game this season thanks to Allen’s 37-yard pass to a wide open Christian Angelson, who waited for the ball to arrive before turning and charging into the end zone with 37 seconds left in the first quarter.
But an ill-timed timeout and three personal fouls that amounted to 45 yards hurt the Porters.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was stunned,” Martilotta said of the personal fouls. “Everything’s a habit. Losing’s a habit and winning’s a habit. I felt like we kind of defeated ourselves today.”
A timeout by the Porters led to Center Moriches’ first touchdown late in the second quarter. The timeout was called on a fourth-and-two situation on the Porters’ 36 with 32 seconds to go in the half. Martilotta said the timeout was called because his punt team was not ready and he didn’t want to give up a blocked punt or a delay-of-game penalty.
“It was a little confusion,” Martilotta said. “That was not at the best time, either.”
On the next play after Matt Drinkwater’s punt, Center Moriches scored on Thomas’ 64-yard pass to Brady. Thomas ran in the ensuing two-point conversion for an 8-7 lead for the Red Devils.
Most of the damage Center Moriches inflicted came through the air. John Cerverizzo caught seven of the 10 passes in which he was targeted for 96 yards.
Lewis played an inspired game. He was in on 16 tackles, including a sack, and recovered a fumble.
Allen had a productive game for the Porters, throwing for 110 yards on 8-of-12 passing and running the ball 19 times for 104 yards.
Connor Anderson had a hand in 10 tackles for the Porters, and Angelson made an acrobatic interception, tipping the ball up in the air to himself.
“We’re not an 0 and 7 team,” Allen said. “That’s what it is on paper, I know. All our guys work hard, practice hard. It’s just a bunch of mental stuff.”
With its win, Center Moriches received a boost to its mental well-being.
“I wanted to win this game bad,” Lewis said. “I just want to go home and celebrate right now and have a great time.”