BEARS 38, PORTERS 21
The high humidity was taking its toll, particularly on The Stony Brook School players, who were going down, one by one, their leg muscles cramping up as a long football game dragged on. But the press-box view through binoculars provided an especially disconcerting image with 3 minutes 15 seconds left in the third quarter. Don Liotine, who had been having a super game for the Bears, was lying on his back in obvious pain, and it clearly wasn’t cramps. No, it was something more serious than that.
After a while, Liotine made it to his feet and slowly hobbled off the field. It looked like his night was clearly over. What Liotine was dealing with — and has been since preseason practice started last month — was painful shin splints.
Imagine the surprise of some, then, when just a couple of plays later, Liotine was back on the field, making a tackle for no gain, no less. It takes a lot more than shin splints to keep a determined player like Liotine on the sideline.
“I only go down if I break something,” he said. “I got to stay out there. I got to keep the team up.”
Liotine gave Stony Brook a big boost with his inspired play. The senior played with shin splints, but it was Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island that felt the pain on opening night of the 2012 high school football season in Suffolk County.
Shin splints didn’t prevent Liotine from playing in the season opener or from running for four touchdowns and 243 yards in a 38-21 defeat of the visiting Porters on Friday night. It was quite a performance by the player who, aside from the work he did as a running back, made eight tackles and defended three passes as a free safety in addition to blocking a punt. He even kicked a couple of extra points, to boot.
“He’s a great high school football player, man, probably one of the best we’ve had at this school,” said Stony Brook coach Kris Ryan.
The Porters, seeded 11th in Conference IV, unveiled their brand new spread offense with mixed results. Under the direction of sophomore quarterback Matt Drinkwater, who made his first varsity start, the Porters totaled 315 yards of offense and gained 17 first downs. But the Porters completed only 10 of 33 passes for 147 yards. Their first nine passes were incomplete.
“As the game went on it got better, and I think it will continue to improve,” Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island coach Jack Martilotta said. “It takes practice. It takes time.”
Meanwhile, No. 10 seed Stony Brook managed to overcome 15 penalties and three turnovers with 463 yards of offense. The Bears have quick-strike, big-play ability.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Liotine showed his vision, balance and speed on one play when he scored the game’s final touchdown on a dazzling 91-yard run with 2:41 left to play. He also had a pair of 38-yard touchdown runs and seven-yard score in the first half, when the Bears forged a 32-14 lead.
“He’s an amazing kid, and he works hard,” Ryan said. “He’s a workout warrior. His dream is to play college football, and I’m hoping that this season gets it going for him.”
Liotine’s first touchdown run came after he received a direct snap from the Wildcat formation, something Stony Brook turned to last year after losing its top two quarterbacks to injuries. “It’s a way to mix things up,” said Ryan.
Liotine didn’t run like he was hurting, but he was. “You feel it on every cut,” he said.
A passer, Marco Masakayan, and a receiver, Tyler Hoegsberg, also figured prominently in Stony Brook’s victory. Masakayan, the senior quarterback, had missed most of last season with an injury. Playing in his first game since Week 2 of last year, Masakayan accounted for 172 yards on 6-for-15 passing. He threw a pair of touchdown passes to Hoegsberg (three catches, 140 yards). Hoegsberg was wide open behind the Porters’ secondary for both of those scores, covering distances of 51 and 62 yards.
“We believe in our players,” Ryan said. “I learned that they are much better football players than they were last year. They worked hard in the offseason. They bought into what we’re doing here. They believe in the coaches, and they executed, and because of that they are head and shoulders above where they were last year.”
Stony Brook surged to a 25-0 lead before the Porters struck for two touchdowns within a span of 92 seconds late in the second quarter. Frank Sierra (30 carries, 135 yards) carried the ball in untouched from three yards out for the first score. Then, after Jack Volinski recovered a fumble, giving the Porters possession in Stony Brook territory, Drinkwater fired a 20-yard strike to Gene Allen in the end zone.
Sierra picked up a second touchdown for himself, thanks to some alert play on his part. When the ball was jarred loose from a teammate’s hands, Sierra scooped up the fumble and dashed 55 yards to the end zone in the fourth quarter. John Drinkwater’s extra point made it an 11-point game at 32-21, but that was as close as the Porters got. It wasn’t enough for the Porters to avoid losing their sixth straight game, a stretch that goes back to last season.
“There’s a lot of things that we can fix going forward, and we’re going to,” Martilotta said. “We’re going to be successful.”
Speaking of his players, the coach said: “I think they have a lot of heart. I thought that the effort was great. They fought to the very end. They kept their heads up. They have something to be proud of. They didn’t win today. You don’t win every game, but they came out and they played very hard.”
Stony Brook’s defense was bolstered by Ed Kim (11 tackles, one fumble recovery, two passes defended, one sack), Benjamin Fye (nine tackles) and David Jensen (five tackles, three sacks).
“We’re tough,” Liotine said. “We don’t have a lot of size, we don’t have a lot of depth, but we’ll fight. We’re fighters.”
Before the euphoria of victory had worn off, Liotine was asked how he felt and whether he could still feel the pain that comes with the game.
He said, “I’m so exhausted that everything hurts.”