08/20/13 2:39pm
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Gene Allen said coming off an 0-8 season has given the Porters more motivation for the coming campaign.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Gene Allen said coming off an 0-8 season has given the Porters more motivation for the coming campaign.

Perhaps nothing fosters team bonding better than going away to camp like the Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island high school football team did last month.

For three days, the Porters got away from distractions and focused on football at a team camp at Stony Brook University. They roomed together, practiced three times a day, scrimmaged against Amityville and Syosset, and clicked the fast forward button on their development.

“It was one of the best experiences of my football career,” said Gene Allen, a versatile senior who plays cornerback, rover, wide receiver and quarterback.

It still may be premature to say just how much of a benefit the camp was, but the Porters claim they are already seeing positive results from it. If there was one drawback to camp life, it was the heat they had to deal with on the roasting field turf at Stony Brook’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium.

“It got up to 120” degrees, said Connor Andersen, a senior guard/middle linebacker. “Some kids’ cleats were melting.”

By comparison, the two-a-day preseason practices that the Porters started on Monday at Greenport High School are no problem.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Assistant coach Chris Robinson working with Willie Riggins while assistant coach Mike Miller watches in the background.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Assistant coach Chris Robinson working with Willie Riggins while assistant coach Mike Miller watches in the background.

“It was a great experience,” coach Jack Martilotta said of the camp. “The heat was a little much. We had a couple of shoes start melting apart. All the kids who went to the camp, they’re breezing through this. A lot of kids spent a lot of time in the off-season making sure they were in shape, and I think it’s showing right now.”

Off-season training, fueled in part by the determination to turn things around after an 0-8 season last year, can work wonders. The 2012 season was hardly kind to the Porters. A double-overtime, season-ending loss to Southampton put an end to their pain. It was the 13th consecutive loss for the Porters, who dropped three games last year by a total of 18 points.

“It was rough because no one expects going into a season and being 0 and 8,” Allen said. “That just killed me, and now it’s just extra motivation.”

Andersen said motivation is the only thing he takes away from last season. “Hopefully that motivation will turn into wins,” he said. “We’ve been looking phenomenal. The Stony Brook camp helped a lot. We’re running plays really smooth, and we’re all close as a family and as a team.”

All the way around, the Porters appear to be in a better situation than they were a year ago. As the No. 13 seed among the 14 teams in Suffolk County Division IV, they have a more forgiving schedule. They lost five players to graduation, but have more than a dozen seniors this year.

“They play like seniors,” Martilotta said. “They’re young men and they lead, and young kids look up to it.”

An example of that leadership was seen near the end of Tuesday morning’s practice when a number of varsity players ran alongside a junior varsity player, Chris Schwamborn, and encouraged him as he completed a conditioning run.

In addition to returning veterans like Allen, Andersen, running back Frank Sierra and lineman Cody Fisher, the Porters have a transfer from Bishop McGann-Mercy, senior lineman Owen Finnigan, who should help. The Porters didn’t have a junior varsity team last season and barely had enough players to field a JV team two years ago, but numbers are up, and Martilotta said there will be a JV team this year.

Jared Schenone, a senior quarterback, has been a bystander during these first practices. He had an emergency appendectomy two weeks ago after having been told that his appendix had burst without him knowing it two weeks earlier while he was at the Stony Brook camp. Schenone, who sat out the entire 2012 season with a wrist injury, is awaiting medical clearance to practice. In the meantime, the Porters still have Allen and Matt Drinkwater, who threw most of the team’s passes last season.

But what is past is past. The Porters are looking forward to better days ahead.

“We are a different team this year, I’ll tell you that, a hundred percent different team,” Allen said. “We have a bigger line. Everyone’s bigger … faster, stronger.”

If the Porters produce a season worth remembering, they may want to trace its beginnings to the camp in Stony Brook.

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06/07/13 9:27pm
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Frank Sierra was Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island's leading risher last season with 540 yards from 155 carries.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Frank Sierra was Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island’s leading rusher last season with 540 yards from 155 carries.

The Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island football team has had enough of losing. Losing is something the Porters have known only too well over the past two years, and now they’re doing something about it.

A winless 2012 season that ended with a 26-20 double-overtime defeat to Southampton did not sit well with the Porters, who have lost 13 straight games dating back to 2011. Many of them, like Frank Sierra, have resolved to do all they can to see that next season brings the Porters some wins.

“It’s just something I never want to feel again,” said Sierra, who led the Porters with 540 rushing yards from 155 carries last year. “It was a horrible feeling.”

Borne from all those losses was a spirit of determination and motivation. A stronger Sierra said that ever since the football season ended, he has worked out in the weight room five days a week and ran on weekends with teammate Jared Schenone.

“Everyone’s determined,” said Gene Allen, who ran for three touchdowns, passed for three touchdowns and caught a touchdown pass in 2012. “We’re focused on working hard. We know what we have to do to win games.”

Players say they have noticed a changed attitude during the team’s weeklong mini-camp that concluded on Friday at Mattituck High School.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Connor Andersen, who made 19 tackles last season, working on his agility Friday, the final day of the weeklong mini-camp.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Connor Andersen, who made 19 tackles last season, working on his agility Friday, the final day of the weeklong mini-camp.

“Everyone’s hungry for some wins,” said Connor Andersen, who plays fullback and middle linebacker. “We have people pushing each other.”

Last year’s 0-8 record was something the Porters did not expect. Coming off a 1-7 season and a brutal schedule the year before, the Porters thought 2012 would be kinder to them. They were in for a rude surprise.

“I was shocked,” said Andersen.

Allen said: “Honestly, I thought we were going to win a handful of games. I thought we were going to go to the playoffs.”

The bulk of the team will return in August. In fact, the Porters have said goodbye to nine seniors over the past two years, and coach Jack Martilotta is expecting to have about 15 seniors on his roster in the fall.

That, along with a more forgiving schedule, provides the Porters with cause for optimism.

“We’ve got high hopes,” Martilotta said. “Last year, even though we didn’t win, we had a lot of close games — heartbreakingly close games — and we feel that this year it should tip in our favor.”

Martilotta said 55 players attended the mini-camp. One of the benefits of the mini-camp is that it gives players an idea of what to expect when preseason practice starts on Aug. 19. Before then, though, the Porters plan to attend a team camp at Stony Brook University in mid-July.

“They’re very motivated,” Martilotta said. “They really are. It shows the character of these young men.”

Among the players who participated in the mini-camp was Schenone, who sat out last season because of problems with his wrists, but is said to be looking forward to his senior season as the leading quarterback candidate. Schenone was brought up to the varsity team as a freshman three years ago along with Allen, Andersen and Sierra. They all witnessed firsthand what playoff football is about, and they would like to experience it again this coming fall as seniors.

“This year, it’s like, everyone is always talking about football 24/7,” Sierra said. “We’re always talking about what we can do to improve. This is our last year. We want to go out with a bang.”

Allen was already looking forward to the team’s season-opening game, which will be at home on Sept. 12 against Wyandanch.

“We’re going to be ready,” he said. “We know what it felt like to lose. Now we just want to win.”

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09/21/12 9:25pm

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island quarterback Matt Drinkwater tries to shake off Babylon’s Alec Zamet.

PANTHERS 38, PORTERS 0

After the debacle was over and the damage was done, Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island coach Jack Martilotta went about the business of trying to restore flagging spirits. He reminded his players that the sun was going to rise the following morning. It was not the end of the world.

What it was, though, was as unusual a blowout as one will see in high school football.

Traditionally known as a power-running team operating out of the power I, Babylon has undergone a rather dramatic change. Like many other teams — including Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island — Babylon has turned to the spread offense. With athletes like Jake Carlock, Eric Schweitzer and Ray Wardell, it made sense.

“We’re playing to our strength,” Babylon coach Rick Punzone said. “We got to get these kids the ball in space. That’s what’s going to put us over the top.”

Oh, and by the way, Babylon’s defense isn’t too bad, either.

The Panthers showed that when they’re on defense, they not only have the ability to stop the opposing team from scoring, but can score points themselves. Babylon’s defense was responsible for three touchdowns Friday night when the Panthers burst out for 38 points in the opening 8 minutes 30 seconds in a 38-0 romp over Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island.

Fans at Babylon High School saw an interception return for a touchdown, a punt return for a touchdown, a safety off a bad snap, a touchdown pass, another interception return for a touchdown and a fumble return for a touchdown, all within that 8:30 span to break the Suffolk County Division IV game open early.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Martilotta said. “Everything that could have gone wrong in the first quarter did.”

Punzone, who is in his 10th year as Babylon’s coach, said he cannot recall the Panthers having scored that many points in a single quarter before.

It was something Carlock had never seen before. “I don’t remember scoring that much that fast,” he said.

Babylon took starters out of the game during the first quarter. All of the Panthers played, and most of Babylon’s second- and third-string players played two or three quarters, said Punzone.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | The look on Gene Allen’s face told the story as Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island endured a rough night in Babylon.

Carlock said he played only about five minutes before being pulled from the game. He could appreciate what he saw from his teammates on the field as he became a spectator. “We had fun out there,” he said. “We played great.”

Another oddity was the sight of some fans, already assured of the result, leaving Coach Walt Williams Field while the first half was still being played.

Surely, the Porters themselves had seen enough by the time the first quarter finally came to an end. Three Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island turnovers helped fuel the stunning first quarter (the Porters had five turnovers for the game). Babylon (3-0), justifying its No. 3 seeding in the division, held a 17-0 lead before its offense had a chance to snap the ball for the first time.

Carlock already had two touchdowns to his credit by the time 2:51 had elapsed. On the game’s third play from scrimmage, the junior picked off a pass and dashed 25 yards to the end zone. Then, after the Babylon defense held the Porters (0-3) to a three-and-out series, Carlock took a punt back 59 yards for another score.

Things went from bad to worse for the Porters. Their next possession ended when a fourth-down snap flew over punter Matt Drinkwater’s head and through the end zone for a safety.

Before the quarter ended, Alec Zamet tacked on two touchdowns himself. He caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Nick Santorelli and, three plays from scrimmage later, he returned an interception 25 yards for a touchdown.

Babylon’s defense came through with more points just two plays from scrimmage after that. Joey Mankiewicz collected a fumble and ran it back 24 yards for the score.

“We heard they were a hard-hitting team and we knew what to expect, but we didn’t expect this,” Greenport/Southold/Mattituck/Shelter Island middle linebacker Connor Andersen said. “I couldn’t believe it was happening, but at that point you can’t put your head down. You got to keep pushing, hit as hard as you can.”

Babylon surely could have added to its scoreboard total, but held off. The Panthers had the ball at the Porters’ 5-yard line in the game’s dying moments. Instead of trying to score, Santorelli took two knees in a sportsmanlike gesture to end the game.

The Porters managed a meager 26 yards of offense — all on the ground. The only first down they earned came late in the third quarter.

It didn’t help that the Porters were missing two players, lineman Tevin Parrish and running back/linebacker Ray Thilberg, to injuries.

On a positive note, the Porters’ defense, led by Sal Loverde’s game-leading 10 tackles, allowed a modest 166 yards.

“It’s hard to stand here after you get mashed in the first quarter like that and say that we’re improving, but the defense looks good,” Martilotta said. “The line played well, I thought. You make that many turnovers in the first quarter, it’s very difficult to come back from” that.

On a humbling night for the Porters, at least one of them could take a degree of consolation in how the players handled themselves under adversity.

“We got a good bunch of kids,” Andersen said. “We weren’t yelling at each other. We kept our heads up and walked off the field with our heads high. I’m proud of our team for that.”

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